Learn skills and methods of reducing unpleasant emotions that
bother us, such as fear, guilt, chronic stress, self-criticism, etc.
Examples: Anxiety about our work can often be reduced by
doing extra work and preparing better. Gradually confronting
and challenging your shyness rather than avoiding social
interaction can reduce the discomfort as well as alter the course
of your life. See chapters 5 to 9 for more information.
Make a rule that something bad will happen if the desired
behavior doesn't occur as you want it to. Examples: "If I don't
do the dishes, I pay $2.00" or "If I swear, I give $5.00 extra to
the church (or to the KKK)" or "If I eat dessert, I have to run 2
miles." If you can't impose the rules on yourself, ask your
friends for help: e.g. if you tend to be late, ask friends to get
mad at you and only wait 5 minutes. If you fail to do your
clearly-defined share of the "dirty work," arrange to have
friends give away your favorite clothes or records.
Becoming more aware of the feelings of others may provide the
motivation you need to do the desired behavior. Suppose your
boy/girlfriend told you that he/she is bothered by your being a
"C" student (or really dislikes a habit of yours), wouldn't that be
motivating? You now have a chance to make reasonable self-
improvements and avoid stress between you.
STEP FOUR: Try out your new plan and see how it works.
This may involve a contract (as in the last method), such as
agreeing to try a new way to get out of a disagreeable situation,
setting a fine for certain actions, increasing self-dissatisfaction that can
be avoided, etc. Try to arrange the relief from the unpleasant stimulus
immediately following the desired behavior.
Devising and practicing a better avoidance or escape mechanism
may take an hour or two. As with positive reinforcement, it may take a
few minutes every day for several weeks to carry out a contract to
reinforce certain behaviors in this way.
Common problems with the method
Breaking the rules is the most common--"I just sort of forgot."
Also, many people realize that they might break the rule so they avoid
making an agreement that has serious consequences. When this
happens, ask if you are serious about changing. Very few people will
raise their own level of dissatisfaction; the rationalizations and excuses
we use pay off so highly. But if you are serious about changing, you
will probably want to set serious penalties for failing to do what you
want to do.
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers