Max Banner

I got a book last year for my birthday called “Finding the ‘Why’ In You,” only the word “why” was spelled “Y.” According to the author, Dr. somebody, the “Y” in “You” is really “why” and explains the way you act. If you have trouble showing your emotions, there’s a “why” or “Y” to explain you (or “whyou” as we’re supposed to spell it now). Same if you have a bad temper, or withhold love from your kids, or have a compulsion to fall off moving buses while singing the theme to the Partridge Family.

I’m pretty sure the real reason, though, is that the doctor was too lazy to spell the word out! This is a self-help book author, after all. The whole point of a self-help book is that if they give you the book, you have to do all the therapy sessions on your own. They can go play Nintendo or whatever, because they don’t have to be there at all! This doctor is probably the laziest one in the whole lazy bunch – not only is he too lazy to treat his own damn patients, he won’t even spell out the words in the title of the book he gives the patients he’s too lazy to treat. He probably charges them double if they want the two extra letters in “why” spelled out. “Whyou have control issues,” he’s say as he jacked up the price.

Shel Wilburn, the doctor who invented self-help books and self-help treatment, actually invented it as a joke. He was really trying to get people to start using drive-thru help. He bought an old Burger King and then had people tell him their secrets through the intercom. The problem was, he didn’t change any of the signs so people would pull up and say “I want a Whopper, hold the lettuce” and he’d say “does lettuce remind you of your fear of success?” No one knew he was a therapist, they all thought he was just a lonely burger guy.

After a while a few people started going for therapy, but the intercom was scratchy and they couldn’t always understand his advice. One guy kept going back because he had a fear of peanuts. According to Wilburn’s own notes:

Wilburn: Maybe you could eat one nut tomorrow and see how it goes, and then maybe try two nuts the next day.

“M”: I should clean what tomorrow?

Wilburn: Eat one nut tomorrow. Don’t clean the nut. Eat – tomorrow.

“M”: Gut meat tomorrow?

Wilburn: Eat the nut. Not meat gut.

“M”: Meat hut? F__k, did I go to the wrong restaurant again?

Eventually Wilburn realized drive-thru therapy wasn’t going to catch on, so he tried buffet-style therapy next. He’d sit in a steam tray and discuss your inner life. But this was before sneeze guards so it didn’t work out. Finally Wilburn got sick of therapy altogether and wrote a rambling op-ed called “Just treat yourselves if you’re so smart.” It was the best-selling issue of the Free Weekly Shopper ever, and that’s how self-help got started.

If you really want somebody to help themselves, send them to a gas station. You have to do all the work yourself now, so it’s practically the same thing as therapy. Or give them coupons. My self-help book would have 200 pages of coupons in it. Think about it. If it’s double coupon day at Albertson’s and you show up with a book like that, what kind of problems could you really have?

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