BUENOS AIRES — It would be rare if not impossible to visit a bookshop in Latin America or Spain without seeing the self-help books of Argentine physician and therapist Jorge Bucay. Indeed, in terms of sales, he might plausibly be compared to Paulo Coelho, the extremely popular novelist with a spiritual message.
Born in Buenos Aires in 1949, Bucay's books have been translated into 35 languages and sell in 50 countries. He recently finished an educational program for youngsters with drug problems in Mexico. While he believes life has never been easy, he insists new elements of modern life conspire to obstruct and complicate the existence of the current generation.
"If someone has children, the first thing they want is for them to be happy, and then become someone in life and all that," he writes. "But the educational system, I mean always, not just now, creates competitive, successful people, and does not educate them to be happy. The problem is that success gives money, not happiness. The eternal problem."
Bucay believes that we live in a time when the six Cs further complicate life.
The first C is of fast and permanent change, he says, a novelty because changes were never this fast and the world was never as unpredictable as it has become. A second C is the attitude of fierce competition people espouse, bereft of solidarity. The third he calls "organized corruption."
"Add to these three, the supremacy of computers, technology that is good in itself but often serves or aides bad people rather than the virtuous. There is the C of a crisis of values, and the C of crime organized on a global or planetary scale."
Bucay's books suggest a few ideas, or reflections, on how to find within this tower of Babel a simpler path leading to a measure of harmony and happiness.
And one of his first pieces of advice is to accept yourself just as you are. "Being happy is an internal responsibility, not an external one, and we should think of it not as a right but a duty. To be happy, you need to stop pretending and be who you really are."
Another piece of advice is to accept reality as it is. The things that benefit us are "never free" and one has to "accept successes and failures." Bucay cites another obligation in life, "which is to help someone, care for a person, make that person happy, just one."
The book in four chapters, with a prologue, epilogue and two poems by the singer Eladia Blázquez, begins by observing the grouchiness that pervades society.
"Bad mood is the undoubted and most explicit symptom of our neurosis," writes the therapist to millions. "When you don't manage your life well, you become angry and frustrated as things don't go as intended, and our bad mood is a sign showing we were not able to resolve the conflict. And this conflict is, quite simply, knowing that you are the battlefield, with an unresolved outcome. I think you should clear and order your mind a bit, and get rid of problems that have no place in your head."