Introduction to Self-Help
What is psychological self-help?
I consider self-help to be intentional coping. It is handling your
own troublesome situations by exercising deliberate conscious control
to improve the outcome of the situation. It is recognizing your own
personal weaknesses and working to overcome those faults and
improve yourself. It sometimes involves changing others or the
environment to improve your own circumstances or feelings, but self-
help primarily focuses on changing your own behavior, feelings, skills,
cognition (thoughts), or unconscious processes. Self-help is the
conscious reasoning part of your "self" changing other aspects of your
internal self, your actions, and your situation. It is self-improvement
by your self.
The self-change notion may seem a little foreign to you because
our culture attends far more to changing other people--making
children behave, teaching others, motivating employees, fighting crime
and drugs, selling ourselves or products to others, pleasing our lover,
getting people to vote our way, etc.--than to changing ourselves.
"Making things better" often means trying to change someone else.
Even my discipline of psychology spends far more time on studying
methods for changing or treating others than on methods for self-
improvement. The old concepts of self-control, self-responsibility, and
self-reliance haven't been in vogue during the last few decades.
On the other hand, if the idea of self-help seems like
commonsense to you, then you may be particularly aware that our
minds are almost constantly attempting to solve some current or
approaching problem. Indeed, most of us are self-helping all the time,
i.e. every time you plan your actions by imagining in advance how to
possibly handle a situation. Even if it takes only seconds during a
conversation to think of what to say, that is self-helping. Our brain's
great ability to quickly imagine different ways of approaching a difficult
situation sets us apart from other animals. We are constantly asking
ourselves "what should I say or do now?" which usually involves
thinking of alternative approaches as well as guessing what the
outcome of each alternative might be. As a person becomes keenly
aware of these constant and complex coping processes, he/she
recognizes a myriad of opportunities for intervening to make things
better. This book should, above all else, enhance your understanding
of these internal mental events involved in coping moment by moment
throughout life. This is the essence of self-help.
I suspect that many of us overlook most of the opportunities we
have to influence our lives (we couldn't possibly act on all of them).
We may feel rather powerless or we feel controlled by outside forces--
others, circumstances, fate, or a higher power. Many others don't