Personal Development and Self-Help in Appalachia

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Health and wellness are important to maintain a strong and nutritious body. That’s why personal development is important in every aspect of daily life. There are many ways that personal development can improve daily living, by improving the mind, body, and increasing energy. For individuals living in rural Appalachia, the culture of self-help is different and more biased than in larger metro areas. The challenges of maintaining emotional well-being in an atmosphere of discrimination cannot be understated; yet, through humanistic interventions, people can obtain the power of forgiveness and service in enhancing personal wellness.

Attachment to family is important, especially to those living in rural Appalachia; a community that values both collective and individual values. These very values are instilled as part of a person’s identity, which is why LBGTQ individuals can sometimes be reluctant to ask for help, regardless of need, because of the value that is placed on self-reliance. In rural Appalachia, seeking help is viewed as humiliating, while humility and modesty are highly valued.

Culture in rural areas of Appalachia is based on family-centered values. These values are taught early during childhood, and identity becomes bound up in community, church, family, and peer groups. Additionally, Appalachian culture values individualism and self-reliance, and maintaining group harmony is considered more important than achieving personal goals. It is important to understand that families are sometimes the source of trauma for LBGTQ in Appalachia. Self-help then becomes a way to hide beneath the deep rooted problems, and often times support for self-help is not available, due to fear of disclosure and ridicule.

The most common form of self-help among this population is the attempt to conceal sexual orientation. However, nondisclosure can result in negative outcomes arising from strategies of distancing and disengagement from family, and self-help becomes a self-defeating behavior that generally roots the problems much deeper. Mental health professionals have historically demonstrated heterocentric and homophobic beliefs, prejudices, and practices against LGBTQ individuals, placing the burden of distress on the client and his or her possession of an illness.

Self-help methods for this population include enhancing personal wellness through humanistic interventions, then offering individuals the power of forgiveness and service in enhancing resiliency. Humanistic interventions allow the client to confront and articulate losses, and be afforded the opportunity to sense, acknowledge and express feelings. The basis of the humanistic self-help process is to free people from the barriers holding them back, such as unawareness, fearfulness, and paralyzing anxiety. These feelings and thoughts hinder the ability to make a free choice. Humanistic self-help gives people the freedom to explore their feelings safely, and may allow individuals the ability to see choices they have, and to decide how to act on those choices and potentially transform their lives.