Self-help  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Self-help or self-improvement is a self-guided improvement—economically, intellectually, or emotionally—often with a substantial psychological basis. Many different self-help group programs exist, each with its own focus, techniques, associated beliefs, proponents and in some cases, leaders. Concepts and terms originating in self-help culture and Twelve-Step culture, such as recovery, dysfunctional families, and codependency have become firmly integrated in mainstream language.

Self-help often utilizes publicly available information or support groups, on the Internet as well as in person, where people in similar situations join together. From early examples in self-driven legal practice and home-spun advice, the connotations of the word have spread and often apply particularly to education, business, psychology and psychotherapy, commonly distributed through the popular genre of self-help books. According to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, potential benefits of self-help groups that professionals may not be able to provide include friendship, emotional support, experiential knowledge, identity, meaningful roles, and a sense of belonging.

Groups associated with health conditions may consist of patients and caregivers. As well as featuring long-time members sharing experiences, these health groups can become support groups and clearing-houses for educational material. Those who help themselves by learning and identifying about health problems can be said to exemplify self-help, while self-help groups can be seen more as peer-to-peer support.

Parodies and fictional analogies

The self-help world has become the target of parodies. Walker Percy's odd genre-busting Lost in the Cosmos has been described as "a parody of self-help books, a philosophy textbook, and a collection of short stories, quizzes, diagrams, thought experiments, mathematical formulas, made-up dialogue". In their 2006 book Secrets of The Superoptimist, authors W.R. Morton and Nathanel Whitten revealed the concept of "superoptimism" as a humorous antidote to the overblown self-help book category. In his comedy special Complaints and Grievances (2001), George Carlin observes that there is "no such thing" as self-help: anyone looking for help from someone else doesn't technically get "self" help; and one who accomplishes something without help, didn't need help to begin with. In Margaret Atwood's semi-satiric dystopia Oryx and Crake, university literary studies have declined to the point that the protagonist, Snowman, is instructed to write his thesis on self-help books as literature; more revealing of the authors and of the society that produced them than genuinely helpful.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Self-help" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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