Radical Changes

When I posted before about Richard Dawkin’s and the influence that his early book “The Selfish Gene” had on my approach to self help, it only occurred to me afterwards to learn more about what Richard had got up to since then.

I had heard he had written a book called “The God Delusion”, but I didn’t realize he had become the poster boy for radical atheism.

Here you can watch him working up to full speed.

-Dr Martin Russell

What Should You Change?

“I know what I SHOULD do, but I don’t!”

Listening to people’s words is really fascinating.

If you ever hear “I should…”, then here is the conclusion you can make – they won’t.

“Should” automatically implies that they aren’t going to do it. If they were going to do it they would use some other phrase like “I will…” or “when I…”.

“Should” = won’t happen.

Now before you get defensive, and say “Yes, but…” let me add one piece.

There is a REALLY good reason that you won’t do it, and that is that most of the things that you think you “should” do, you really shouldn’t.

Let me give you 2 examples.

First, think about a time when you didn’t stand up for yourself and you thought “I should have really given them a mouthful!”

Well, no you shouldn’t have.

This “should” comes up as an over-reaction to the initial under-reaction. I’ve had people tell me what they “should” have done, and it included things that would have landed them in police custody. It was a really good thing that they didn’t act upon that “should”.

This might seem too obvious an example of when “should” is wrong, but check for a moment. How many other times have you said “I should do X”, when X is really an overreaction to the original situation?

Second, doing the things you “know you should”, because someone else said so.

If someone tells you what to do, even if they are parents, teachers, friends or doctors, they are not always right. Sometimes in fact they are completely wrong. They can be absolutely, completely sure of something, and still be wrong. Certainly is not truth.

You might try what they suggest and find that it doesn’t work for you, but you might still be left with this sense that you “should” be doing what they say.

This “should” is not a signal to keep stubbornly trying to do something. It is a signal to reassess the original statement, maybe add some qualifiers, or even throw the whole idea away completely.

Either way, when you hear yourself say “should”, realize this means you won’t, and you might be better off anyway.

These two self-reflections alone may help you get rid of a whole lot of “should”s in your life, and a whole lot of guilt as well.

-Dr Martin Russell

Online Solutions

I set up this website, and the products I offer, so people can access my counseling solutions without needing to see me in person.

However I’ve still been asked for advice that doesn’t fit the products I’ve produced so far.

So I’m pondering setting up some sort of email service to offer individual help.

At this stage I’m just looking for expressions of interest.

If you’d value such a program, or have suggestions for how it might work best, then either add a comment below, or stay private and email me direct.

If you don’t have my email then sign up for the blog announcement list in the box on the main page, confirm your subscription, and then send a reply to the address of the Welcome email you receive.

-Dr Martin Russell

Maths For Choosing A Therapist

A therapist can be a very personal choice, so it can seem a bit ridiculous to apply mathematics to such a situation.

But let me build up to it using a trivial choice: deciding where to fill up your car.

Let’s say that you will pass quite a few gas stations on your way going home, and you want to fill up your car for the cheapest price. You need to choose when to buy and when to drive on to the next one.

In this example we will assume that you don’t have a place that you already know is cheaper, and also that you can’t be bothered turning around and going back if you discover that the cheapest one was one you passed earlier.

When you drive by and see the price, how are you do choose what to do?

Do you just pick the first one you see and forget it? Do you wait for one that “seems” cheap? What if the later ones are all more expensive and you end up missing out on the better prices that came earlier?

What is the optimum strategy in such an uncertain situation?

It turns out that this has been tested mathematically, and the optimum strategy is fairly simple…

–> Drive past the first place and check the price, but don’t buy. Keep driving and turn in as soon as there is price cheaper than the first place.

This method works because it is very unlikely that the first place you go past will be the cheapest, but you also won’t wait too long and miss all the good prices.

So here’s a good use of this strategy…

Choosing A Therapist.

[This applies equally to professional help of any type from accountants and lawyers to naturopaths and dentists, and also to choosing self help books, videos, treatments, etc including the self help material you can purchase on this site.]

Most people who come to see me never really looked around before they settled on who they wanted to help them. They got a recommendation from their doctor or from a friend, or looked up on the internet. If you are happy to just accept their recommendation, or you will do a full treatment and move on to the next one if that one doesn’t work, then that’s fine, but to decide for yourself more quickly I suggest you do something different.

Assess the first person. Then search for someone better.

It’s not personal. It’s just playing the odds. Got back pain? Want to stop smoking? There are hundreds of choices available to you, and none of them work 100% of the time. The biggest risk is procrastinating and doing nothing.

Let me repeat: when you are in a new area and don’t yet have a comparison, then the first person you go to is mathematically UNlikely to be the best person for you.

Is this a lot of hunting? Yes it can be, and it’s certainly more than just taking the first option.

Is it worth the hunt? Well that depends on how important it is to you. Even if you hunt and find nothing better, then at least you know this when you go back.

Do you need to hunt forever? No. That’s the beauty of this strategy. You get started at the optimum time: when you know you are committing to the best decision you can make, as soon as possible.

Need help in any area and got too many choices?

Find a first option, sort out how to compare it to other options. Then keep searching and when you find better, get started on that one immediately.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

A Condition Without A Name

When I went to medical school it wasn’t a clear cut decision for me. For the first two years I also did an extra maths subject on the side, to keep up my interest in the subject.

By this stage I’ve probably turned quite a few people off, and I’m only past the second sentence.

People know maths isn’t meant to be fun or relevant, unless of course it is applied to sporting statistics, finances or weight-loss (not fun there, but it is relevant when sorting out calorie-counters and reading BMI charts.)

There doesn’t seem to be a word for maths phobia.

There really should be a word for it, because people seem to have to the condition.

Out of more than 500 phobias on The Phobia List none matched. Arithmophobia was the closest I found, and that is a fear of numbers, not maths.

Or maybe it’s classified elsewhere – it’s really a fear of blackboards and chalk, or school and teachers, or homework, or mixed up in the phobia of public speaking when people were asked a maths question in class and were humiliated when they didn’t know the answer.

Whatever the real cause I don’t mind.

You can get some great self help tips from a few maths tricks.

For financial self-help I’d suggest using the techniques of multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, who had applied Einstein’s comment that “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest”.

For perfectionists, take a look at chaos theory. Watch the perfection become equally imperfect no matter how far you go deeper and deeper in. Then when you reel back in shock and horror, notice how still beautiful it all is anyway.

However, don’t bother explaining probability mathematics to gambling addicts. I’ve tried that – once. It got me less than nowhere. Help yourself, and save your breath.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

A Foundation For Self Help

One of the books that has had the most influence on me is “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.

For me “The Selfish Gene” was ultimately a scientific clarification of Richard Carlson’s multi-million seller “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” with it’s strange subtitle “… and It’s All Small Stuff”.

The premise of Dawkins’ book is that life is merely a mechanism for our genetic code to spread itself. We as human beings can be thought of as simply gene factories, and our success not only spreads ourselves, it spreads our genes too, and that is the crucial factor.

When we raise animals, be they dogs, cows, or battery hens, we are helping one group of genes outlast and outgrow others like the Dodo or the shark. When we provide a means for HIV and SARS and influenza to spread worldwide, we are helping another group of genes too.

Human beings are just the most visible of genes. We are nowhere near the most successful. Each human body is just 1 set of genes which means there are less than 7 billion human gene copies around. Microbes get 7 billion into a pool of water and are ready in moments to get more billions spreading further.

Humans are in fact a rather fragile gene container, balanced precariously on the top of a whole ecosystem, that has the same potential to collapse for us as it did for the dinosaurs. We could disappear in any one of a variety of ways, and life, and genes, would continue on.

Until the Earth succumbs to forces that rip every molecule back into atoms and pieces of atoms, this planet’s genes will continue replicating and spreading themselves. Humans are useful only in the sense that they are one more way that Earth genes could spread out to the rest of the universe. Space travel inevitably carries genes, be they human, monkey or microorganism, out away from our planet and would allow genes to escape potential local destruction by supernovas or black holes or the like.

Does it all his genetic competition get lost anyway when the whole universe collapses on itself billions of years from now? … I’m happy to hang around with you to wait and see.

Intelligence and human beings ourselves are just side effects of genes replicating themselves into every available niche and permutation. Humans could be wiped clean out of the universe and genes would just keep evolving other ways as inevitably as gravity makes water pool into dips and crevices.

Your life problems would be gone in an instant, if humans disappeared forever. However the universe and genes wouldn’t miss a step.

Might not seem uplifting or helpful to think of yourself as an irrelevance. In fact one of the reviews on Amazon.com explains the depression and existential crisis he went through after reading Dawkins’ book.

But it can also be a release. Much like a scientific Buddhist philosophy.

It is then a secure foundation to start to make your personal choices for life. Cheers to irrelevance.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

Funny Compliment

Compliments can be really interesting things.

Here’s one I got sent that made me stop and think…

“I enjoy your insights on your blog and have been inspired several times to keep striving for what I am capable of attaining.”

I think this sentence is incredibly funny. This type of comment happens to me so often in my counseling work. I love these compliments, and yet I still scratch my head about them.

Let me explain…

If anyone can find a more downbeat, irritated, question-all-right-answers, and sometimes just downright negative blog about self-help and success, then let me know. I haven’t found one yet, but if there is I’d love to visit it.

Self help seems to come in 2 main forms.

One is the positivity type. You know the stuff. Affirmations, Law of Attraction, Unlimited Success, and on and on. Life is wonderful, and you’ve just got to believe it enough and it will be so.

I don’t buy it. It doesn’t make sense to me. To me this approach reeks of Western, democratic,  human-centered arrogance, and it sets more people on a path of disappointment than success.

The other main form of self help seems to be the “get real” type.

Now this one makes more sense to me. In fact a few years back I spent about a month watching Dr Phil episodes until I was doing him in my sleep, and I get this. I also recognize that AA is a successful model for a proportion of people.

The problem is the lack of uniform results with this “get real” version. If all it took was to honestly face the problems and then get started on fixing them then more people would do it. The results would be obvious once someone got started and although they might ‘relapse’ on occasion, they would learn to get back to what worked soon enough. But they don’t.

Both approaches, “being positive” and “getting real”, do work for certain people at certain times. But success is not certain with either method.

And if you don’t succeed, well you didn’t believe enough, you didn’t trust enough, or you weren’t really being honest enough with yourself.

There is a third type of self help which seems to be much less common because it doesn’t really seem to be self help at all. How can it be helpful to be negative? How can it be sensible to believe in things that are irrational? How can believing that you are more often wrong than right actually create any success at all?

Well these paradoxes are what my work is about, and I think it taps into something important. Important enough that people give me back comments like the one above.

If you’ve not found the success you want in your life, you’ve probably been trying the 2 approaches I mentioned above.


You may have come to the right place.

Sign up to this blog on the boxes on the side of the home page to discover more.

-Dr Martin W. Russell

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The Quicksand Guide To Professional Help

In a jungle clearing, a person is struggling, up to their waist in quicksand.

They cry out for help, but unfortunately only professional help is available…

Psychiatrist – “What you are in is called quicksand.”

Medical Practitioner – “Quicksand is a physical condition.”

The Freudian – “How old were you when you first played in a sand pit?”

Psychologist – “Let’s find the moment when your foot first touched the quicksand.”

Counselor – “You need to get out of the quicksand.”

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist – “What evidence do you have that you will die?”

Self Help Groups – “Look around, you’re not the only one. We’re under here too.”

Former Sufferer/Victim – “I found when I struggled I sank quicker.”

Hypnotist – “Use the Force, Luke”

Post-modern therapist – “You must realize this is a jungle.”

Rebirthing – “Want a different life?”

Chiropractor – “You would be further out of the sand if you stood up straighter.”

Existentialist/Logotherapist – “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Creative Visualization – “See a house brick transforming into a helium balloon.”

Iridologist – “I can help you as long as you keep your eyes out of the sand.”

Reflexologist – “Please invert yourself so I can get to your feet.”

Tarot Reader – “Hmm. Goddess of Sand – never seen that one before.”

Astrologer – “Keep your head up today. Don’t let things get on top of you.”

Social Worker – “How are your kids and your finances?”

Evangelist – “What do you mean my laying on of hands pushed you down?”

Past-Life Regressionist – “Many of your friends preserved in the tar-pit with you are now in museums.”

Allopathic Practitioner – “Take 2 anti-sand tablets and see me tomorrow.”

Homeopath – “Here is some watered down glue.”


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-Dr Martin W. Russell