Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

An ancient guide to self-help books

 Having been tipped off by The Guardian to a BBC Radio 4 program on the history of self-help - so far only one of three episodes has gone to air - I couldn't resist tuning in via iPlayer. It's a fascinating, and highly amusing exploration of something that has been around for two thousand years.

It seems, in fact, that the entire genre largely draws on the ancient Greeks ... to the extent that you can get quite a lot of useful advice by exploring the main tenets of Stoicism, or  reading Homer's Iliad.

In fact, one of the contributors, stand-up comic and Classics nut Natalie Haynes, tells us the stories of the Greek gods represented aspects of psychology.

By the Middle Ages, popular theology had packaged up most of the themes of the modern self-help book: our thoughts change our emotions, Aphorisms and Maxims convey a point, narratives can inform and educate us on how to live a better life.

I can scarcely wait for the next episode, which will reveal how those ideas were refined by the Renaissance.