Psychological Self-Help

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with illness, the patient who believes he/she retains control over
aspects of the disease generally does better than the patient who feels
out of control. An optimistic, hopeful attitude about one’s self-control
actually changes our bodies--the body chemistry and immune system
However, too much (unrealistic) belief in one’s ability to control
things and/or too high a need to be in control, sometimes resulting in
making extreme efforts, can often make things--your health or social
situation--worse. For example, the alcoholic’s belief that “I can quit
any time I want” surely contributes to a loss of control over the
addiction. Also, as managers have seen, it is often harmful to give a
person more control responsibilities than he/she wants or can handle.
Likewise, as we will see in chapter 8, if a person believes he/she is
personally in control of a situation when in reality external factors are
the dominating forces, the consequences can be detrimental to his/her
health and self-concept, especially if the person continues to feel
responsible for the unwanted outcomes. Thus, it seems that the
concept of “free will” may sometimes assign far too much
responsibility (blame) to the actor (often a victim) when things go
wrong. In the opposite direction, feeling more helpless than you
actually are is problematic--and perhaps in this case the actor
(sometimes a victim) hasn’t taken enough self-responsibility. 
Shapiro (1997) illustrates the elusiveness and complexity of the
seemingly simple concept of self-control by asking: Is self-control
merely a belief (“Oh, I’d never have an affair”) or is it actual control in
real life? Is it a general trait (“I’m totally in control”) or very specific
(“I can handle alcohol but not sweets”) to thousands of tasks or areas
of control? Is there one level of control desired over external events
and another level of control expected over one’s own emotions,
choices, and actions? Is self-control only mastery, i.e. consciously and
intentionally improving one’s behaviors, emotions, skills, and thoughts,
or is it also coping by yielding, adapting, accepting, accommodating a
situation or powerful force until one has a better chance to change
There are other complexities: Is it still self-control if others are
helping you cope, such as family, friends (gang), government
program, self-help group, self-help book, religion, or God? How does
one naturally learn self-control? Where does one go to learn to
improve one’s self-control? Who in our culture are the self-control
experts--what discipline wants this area of research? 
Shapiro, Schwartz, and Astin (1996) suggest that the kind of
therapeutic intervention or self-help instruction a person wanting
better self-control will need depends on his/her “control
characteristics.” For instance, it is quite possible that gender
differences, age level, genetic factors, level of aspiration, situational
differences, confidence, and several other personality traits will
influence the kind of control methods that each specific person needs
to learn or be taught. Because of these uncertainties I have listed
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