Psychological Self-Help

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29
An important final word of caution
There is one small area where harm may be especially likely.
Beware of anyone who tries hard to persuade you that you have been
sexually abused but you have repressed it. This action by
therapists/writers has generated a heated controversy. Many
therapists believe that certain psychological problems, such as bulimia,
multiple personality, and a variety of fears and personality traits, may
be caused by child sexual abuse or incest (Loftus, 1993). The problem
occurs when the assumed "victim" doesn't remember any sexual abuse
(most abused people do have some memories), but a therapist, group,
or writer strongly believes that remembering the sexual experiences in
detail is crucial for the victim's recovery. The therapist/writer may
attempt to uncover the incest or sexual abuse experiences, using a
variety of methods, such as hypnosis, age regression, visualization,
dreams, or simply "try to remember being molested" (Tavris, 1993;
Wright, 1994). Given just brief encouragement and suggestions,
however, some clients/readers will start to falsely "remember"
incidents, sometimes ones that took place when they were less than
one year old (when as adults we have no memories) and sometimes
fervently believing really wild bizarre experiences. Research has shown
that memories often distort reality and can be easily influenced by
others. So implanting a memory of sexual abuse may not be hard to
do in suggestible people, but a false accusation of child molestation is
a devastating charge, likely to result in a long prison sentence and
destruction of a family (plus more emotional stress for the victim).
Therefore, until we know more about the causes of specific emotional
problems, helpers and writers will have to carefully avoid vigorously
implanting these destructive ideas. You will occasionally find warnings
about specific books in this book. 
In my experience, self-help readings and methods are often not
acted upon (and, thus, don't do any good), but only in very rare
circumstances do they cause lasting harm. A temporary disturbance
from reading, usually worry about some "illness" or some self-
dissatisfaction, rarely lasts more than a few days (and often results in
self-improvement). On the other hand, both the exaggerated-but-
debilitating fear of harming yourself (by trying to self-help) and the
self-defeating feelings of helplessness cause great harm in many lives
because these feelings obstruct our attempts to change. Learn as
much as you can about self-help, and then do something! If you don't
get the results you want, try something different or get professional
help. 
Understanding 5: It may be difficult to measure changes in your
adjustment, but you should try. Objective measurement is necessary for
honest evaluation. Every self-helper should try to be his/her own
researcher. 
We all live life alone in many ways, even when intimate with
someone else. For example, married couples talk on the average only
20 minutes per day (often much less); long-term therapy, costing
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