The reason Americans are obsessed with advice

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Mildred Newman, a classically trained psychoanalyst, opened her practice in Greenwich Village in the mid-1950s. She had no specialty at first — beyond New Yorkers. But by the 1960s, she’d become known as an expert on the perils of fame. Her patient list included writers, directors, and actors, like Mike Nichols, Nora Ephron, and Anthony Perkins.

Newman was available to her patients all the time; her patients joined her and her husband for long weekends in their Woodstock home and were encouraged to call at any time, day or night, whenever they needed a pep talk or had a bad day.

Newman realized that her patients wanted more than self-knowledge: They wanted pampering, endless access to compliments and encouragement, permission to be lazy or ambitious or buy a dress they couldn’t afford. They worked in cutthroat industries and craved an oasis where they could avoid judgment.

Newman recognized that everyone, not just celebrities, desired this. So, in 1971, Newman and her husband, the analyst Bernard Berkowitz, co-wrote “How to Be Your Own Best Friend.”

The book, which went on to become a best-seller, was distillation of Newman’s ideology, urging readers to trust their instincts and forgive their faults.

“How to be Your Own Best Friend” is considered to be origin of the contemporary self-help industry. “I think that, with a little help from me, she should really be credited with the self-help deluge that followed,” Berkowitz later said of his wife. There are now countless books, apps, websites, juice bars, etc. that preach the dogma of self-love and assert that a person’s foremost responsibility is to herself.

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