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Self-Image, Destiny, and “A Sense of Epic Hope”: The Grandfather of Self-Help Books Really Does Have Something to Offer

woman stretching in sunlight

Why do some people enjoy an improved sense of self-worth when their circumstances improve, while others do not? Sixty years ago, a plastic surgeon came up with an theory of unconscious, lifelong messages to the self. His book exploring that theory has a vast following to this day. 

If you’re dubious about anyone eager to declare that YOU TOO CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE!—well, you have a lot of company. Historian Mitch Horowitz is right there with you. But in this post, he makes a sober, persuasive case for exactly that sort of book: the 1960 bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life, by the groundbreaking plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz.  

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Horowitz’s concise summary of Maltz’s theory is better than any I can offer, so I’ll just note that we’re definitely not in the realm of auras and tarot cards: Maltz’s program is secular, non-mystical, and demanding. It’s never been out of print, has sold millions, and has given hope and help to generations of readers, including celebrities from Salvador Dali to Nancy Reagan. Have a look, and see if it speaks to you. 


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In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)