Psychological Self-Help

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but the "meat" of this chapter is in the detailed, explicit steps for
applying the method in your life. There are also brief discussions of the
time and common problems involved in using the method, as well as a
cursory assessment of the effectiveness of the method and the risks
involved. Each method is outlined in the same way. Useful references
are cited at the end of most methods. Much of the practical
information about using each method comes from the experiences of
my 3,000 students who attempted to make some important change in
their life. 
Antecedent Methods: 
Self-Help Methods Used Prior to the “Target” Behavior
Change the environment to change your behavior
The environment has a powerful influence on subsequent behavior.
Many of our responses are automatic: we drive with effortless
attention to the road and lights, we take notes in class without
thinking about how to write (or what was said, sometimes). In the
long run the frequency of these behaviors may depend on the
consequences (the payoffs for driving or writing), but at any one
moment it is primarily the stimuli in the environment that control our
Some stimuli are compelling: a ringing telephone! Can you let it
ring? Other such stimuli are an attractive person going by, someone
talking about us, messages or sounds of alarm, and so on. All of us
have habits that occur at certain times and places--we brush our teeth
every morning before showering, watch the evening news during
supper, etc., etc. Environmental and internal stimuli set off these
habitual responses. 
In classical conditioning, stimuli produce an immediate response.
For example, Schachter (1971) demonstrated that obese people
respond to external cues, such as the sight or smell of food or any
reminder that "it's lunch time," rather than to internal messages from
an empty stomach. The best way to avoid overeating is to avoid food
or any reminder of food. Likewise, for any other temptation! "Out of
sight, out of mind." 
In operant conditioning, the environment guides our behavior by
providing cues about the probable payoffs. For example, when initially
interacting with an attractive person of the opposite sex, most of us
are keenly aware of how they are responding to us; we look for signs
that they are interested in, amused by, or attracted to us. We adjust
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