And pop psychology

Authored by: Jan De Vos

Handbook of Critical Psychology

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781848722187
eBook ISBN: 9781315726526
Adobe ISBN: 9781317537182


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A central trope in self-help is that within you there is concealed an other and better Self that you can and need to unearth. ‘Dare to be yourself’ amounts to ‘Being your best self’, or so we read on the Psychology Today website ( However, this Self is not just the old familiar Self you have lost along the way: self-help promises you an extra gain. In Psychology Today’s five-step guide to self-help (a guide to the guides which of course reads itself as a self-help guide – the claim is that with this meta-guide you will become ‘a far wiser consumer’ [sic] of self-help), it says: ‘you want to learn something that you didn’t already know’, and so you need an expert: ‘the chances are that you’ll learn more from people who have gained respectability in their field’. (Whitbourne 2012). You are moreover advised to google the author of the self-help guide for his academic ‘credentials’. A guarantee of good scholarship should allow you to separate serious, research-based self-help guides from the ‘watered down’ versions written by ghost writers for the popular press (Whitbourne 2012).

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