Self help and varying mental states


How To Get Results with People (1987) is a four hour lecture by Jeff Salzman, teaching people in businesses how to better manage their working relationships to get results, success and higher productivity. And, at the core of all these aims, money.

My basis for the work How To Get Results With People - although looking at the business and success side of self help - has hugely autobiographical undertones, in that the idea of self help has always eluded me. It feels an impossibilty. A course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which largely teaches you to help yourself, made me more aware of my anxieties, and essentially less able to help myself. This may just come down to my nature, the ever-present desire to deconstruct, to understand, and to be aware. However, the constant overstimulation of our minds leaves us wanting, needing more, seeking answers, and where possible, quickly and easily. Hence the understandably popular genre self help.

The industry, which when you walk into a bookshop now is ever expanding in its content, is absorbed by the majority of western society. Just take your pick of the subgenres; business, money, weightloss, finding inner peace, sex, relationships. Yet what do we gain from this deconstruction and step by step instruction? How does what sits on paper actually translate in our daily lives?

Renata Salecl looks at exactly this in The Tyranny of Choice. In the Guardian's review of her book, Killian Fox says,

"Several years ago, an American magazine editor named Jennifer Niesslein decided to iron out all the imperfections in her life. Using only the advice contained in a stack of self-help books, she set about cleaning her home, losing weight, becoming a better partner and parent and generally cultivating a more serene approach to existence. After two years of trying, she found that she was less contented, not more, and started suffering from panic attacks."

Salecl mentions that "The idea of choosing who we want to be and the imperative to 'become yourself' have begun to work against us, making us more anxious and more acquisitive rather than giving us more freedom". This feeds very much back into my own observations about myself - this heightened awareness of the self, the pressures to conform to many contradictary and opposing models.

Self help will be something I explore for many years in my practice. For How To Get Results With People I am very much looking at the human desire for success, and how 'success' is largely related to money, growth, yet is not necessarily imperative to happiness or fulfillment. On the flipside to this, the consequences (anxiety, depression, other more severe mental states) are of a huge interest to me. Many of these states are the hangovers from the under/overstimulated mind. The mind that evolved instead of the body, full of ideas, evoking change and invention. The increasing degradation of mental health in western society is something I explore as a tangent, something which loosely connects to this strand, but is more about the scientific and physical actions that take place when undergoing stress and in more extreme cases, psychosis.

I wish to use the model within HTGRWP to forge my own success, through artwork and through my interactions with students, staff and fellow artists in the residency. The work, while ultimately becoming a body of video, performance and writing, is also embodied in all the interactions I have in between.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.