Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: psychology

A Reader’s Bridge To Their True Self . . .


Did you know the best-selling book genre is “Self-Help”?

Do you know the roots of the genre?

Think it’s Psychology?

Eastern Mystics?

Philosophers?

The Prophets of Religion?

I’ll leave the True Beginning of Self-Help as an exploration for your inner self to appreciate…

What I give you today is the latest best-seller in the genre: Jessica Lamb-Shapiro’s Promise Land.

First a very curious bit of a review of the book:

“Jessica Lamb-Shapiro has an unusual relationship to the self-help industry: her father is a child psychologist who has authored numerous books on the subject. Lamb-Shapiro’s inherent ambivalence is at the heart of Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture, in which the author immerses herself in the world of seminars, mantras, and self-improvement, all the while exploring the nation’s enduring fascination with perfection. By turns funny and sad, the book is, ultimately, a deeply personal story—and a really good read.”
ParisReview.org

Apparently, her father’s books of self-help never sold well.

The NPR site has an interview with Jessica—audio and written. Here are a few excerpts:

“Lamb-Shapiro writes that even though she ‘had recoiled from self-help’ her entire life, she wanted to know ‘why people liked self-help so much, what it meant to them, whether it worked; and if it didn’t work, why people still craved it.’ It’s a funny and observant book that takes an emotional turn when she starts writing about a tragedy in her own family.”

Jessica: “You know, there’s a way in which philosophy tells us how to live our lives and self-help books tell us how to live our lives. So, you know, we tend to think of philosophy as this really lofty territory and self-help books as this ridiculous low-brow territory and I think that the language that they use and some of the ideas reflect that. There’s some base level where they’re trying to do the same thing, which is why something like ancient Greek philosophy can be sold in the self-help section.”

“People seem to be interested in self-improvement and so much of self-help is about buying things, so it makes sense that infomercials and reality shows, which tend to sell things, are part of that. And I think that that’s one of the ways that it just seeps into our lives. Because you can be exposed to an infomercial in passing or watch a reality TV show and you might not think that you’re engaging in self-help but you’re still being exposed to a lot of the ideas and values of it.”

So, where did self-help begin?

Reading the Words of a Prophet.

Reading what the Philosophers borrowed from the Prophets?

Reading what the Psychologists borrowed from the Philosophers?

Reading what the Self-Help Gurus borrowed from the Psychologists?

And, perhaps most importantly, why do you think Self-Help is the World’s Best-Selling Genre?
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Setting A Few Things Straight About The Universe . . .


Writers do all kinds of research; especially, for their characters, plot, theme, and setting.

Some even create alternate universes so they can craft special situations.

But, what if we’re stuck in this universe?

I’ve always tried to keep up with scientific findings but, over the last 15 years, I’ve taken the time to study an alternative approach to understanding our universe that bids fair to completely overturn the standard theories of mainstream science.

How would something like this affect me if all I wanted to do was write a love story, or a thrilling mystery?

One would think that if I stayed away from hard science, this new knowledge wouldn’t much matter.

The thing is that my study of this new field of human understanding is also overturning most of what passes for knowledge about the vast treasure of Mythology.

So, if I’m writing something that goes deep into human motivation and I want it to strike the right chords in the reader, I should consider the new Paradigm

Ultimately, because psychology shows that the deepest, not-conscious information and motivation have profound effects on conscious action, the closer I can get to the Truth about the Universe and my place in it, the better I should be able to write works that relate well with my readers.

Naturally, there are writers who skim the surface of life, write about it, and sell thousands of books to readers who gobble up the result

I ain’t built that way.

Also, I feel the most sensitive writers have already been tapping into this new Mythological, Scientific Paradigm.

Psychological sensitivity has a way of reaching deep into the soil of human understanding and bringing up what appears to others as amazingly powerful insights.

So, there could well be folks reading this post who don’t need the rest of the information I want to share………

Apparently, humanity has three Main Stories:

First is the rich heritage of Myth which has powered some of the most profound philosophy and psychology.

Then came the Story that Science attempts to tell.

The Third Story is just now being written—a Story with More Honest Science which incorporates New Appreciations of Myth—a Story for Humanity’s Future

Let’s be imaginative for a moment:

If you truly believed the Earth was the center of the Universe, the stories you wrote couldn’t help but somehow reflect that belief, right?

By the way, some writers are still crafting stories in that universe

I want to give you two resources to explore that might change your mind and feelings in profoundly deep ways.

The first is a Synopsis of the New Paradigm of Our Universe. It begins with a quote from H. P. Lovecraft:

“The most merciful thing in the world … is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents… The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but someday the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality… That we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

Believe me, that quote was clearly used for Effect. The information at that link has little chance of driving you mad or back to a personal dark age :-)

The second resource is the following video.

Even if you think you have little stomach for science (or even mythology), if you’re a serious writer, I urge you to watch it.


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This Page Intentionally Blank


This Page Intentionally Blank is the name of a blog that has a recent post called, Making Characters Real. I saw the title and immediately thought of two posts I’d written: Very Special CharactersVery Special Characters ~ Revisited. I touched on minor, significant, major, very special, and meta characters. But, all characters need a rationale for their being–some underlying psychology that helps the author create them and justifies their actions in the story.

So, up steps Bill Jones, with his blog post on making characters real

Ever feel surprised by something that immediately reminds you of a pleasurable time in your life? Kind of like being swept up and back at the same time.

Bill did that for me by bringing up a personality test I’d studied and used extensively back in the 90s–the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators. That’s the “official page” but you can find a use-it-right-now version by checking out Bill’s blog post.

He sketches-out the way he uses the personality types in the Myers-Briggs system to give substance to his characters as well as find fascinating personality combinations for character interactions.

Bill gives a hint of the usefulness of the personality types by showing his own profile:

“ENTJs are natural born leaders. They live in a world of possibilities where they see all sorts of challenges to be surmounted, and they want to be the ones responsible for surmounting them. They have a drive for leadership, which is well-served by their quickness to grasp complexities, their ability to absorb a large amount of impersonal information, and their quick and decisive judgments. They are ‘take charge’ people.”

I hadn’t answered the profile questions in quite awhile (yes, your profile can change over time) so I took the test again. Here’s my profile:

“To outsiders, INTJs may appear to project an aura of ‘definiteness’, of self-confidence. This self-confidence, sometimes mistaken for simple arrogance by the less decisive, is actually of a very specific rather than a general nature; its source lies in the specialized knowledge systems that most INTJs start building at an early age. When it comes to their own areas of expertise — and INTJs can have several — they will be able to tell you almost immediately whether or not they can help you, and if so, how. INTJs know what they know, and perhaps still more importantly, they know what they don’t  know.”

So, I hadn’t changed from the last time I took the test but then I’m 65 and rather settled in my ways :-)

Do check out Bill’s post and, if you take the personality test (it’s relative short), it would be great if you came back and let me know how well it captured your basic nature.

I’d also be intensely interested if you shared how you think this method of sketching out personality could be used in character creation!
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