true." We like having a grandiose view of ourselves. For instance, one
of the last sciences to develop was psychology; that was only 100
years ago. About 450 years ago, Copernicus almost lost his head for
suggesting that man and earth were not at the center of the universe.
About 150 years ago, Darwin suggested humans evolved along with
other living things. That idea is still bitterly opposed by some religions.
About 100 years ago, Freud suggested that we humans aren't even in
conscious control of ourselves, unconscious forces really determine
what we do. Unconscious factors are still denied by many people.
Humans are prone to oppose anything that lessens their greatness,
superiority, power, or importance. Thus, we as a species may even
resist the idea that anyone (or anything less than God) is needed to
help us cope better with our lives.
Most of us don't like the idea that living optimally requires work.
Look at it this way. If each one of us is attempting to mentally cope
with some concern or task almost every moment of our life, in the
course of a lifetime every person will deal with millions of unique
situations and thousands of different kinds of problems. Every day
there are probably several situations in which you think: "I'd like to do
that better." That's real life. Sometime during your life you will
probably face almost every kind of human difficulty. In this sense,
intelligent living is complex and a lot of trouble. On the other hand,
many, many other people before you have faced the same concerns.
Therefore, given the right flow of information, you could benefit
greatly from the experience of others and from some advanced
preparation to face a wide variety of predicaments. As a species, we
seem more inclined to say "Oh, it won't happen to me" than to do our
Ideally, each of us would have in our heads a readily available,
comprehensive self-help system for solving many kinds of problems.
Such a system would be based on a sound general understanding of
behavior and relationships, i.e. a science of coping. Much knowledge is
already available. Wise people have gathered wisdom for thousands of
years. In addition, during the last 100 years, psychology has learned
much that is new as well as confirmed many of the beliefs of wise
people. There is a rough consensus about how to best handle many
situations. Self-change methods (which are essentially the same as
therapy techniques) have been shown to be effective with a very wide
variety of problems. We have many such methods. We don't need to
invent the wheel every time an ordinary problem comes up. But we
haven't yet learned how to systematically pass this information along
Twenty-five years ago, I thought self-help books, informative TV
talk shows, and personally useful Psychology classes taught in schools
would have "given psychology away" by now. I assumed that by the
year 2000 almost everyone in this country would be a skillful self-
helper (in terms of understanding and managing their own lives) . The
truth is the general public, I suspect, has made very little progress in
acquiring useful psychology. Let's see if we can understand why self-