Psychological Self-Help

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three miles first and end up jogging into the elevator. An assertive
attitude, such as "I won't let them push me around any more," can
counter fear. 
STEP THREE: Confront the scary situations starting with a very
mildly stressful one
Place yourself in the least frightening situation on your 3 x 5 cards
and remain as relaxed as possible. Stay in the situation or repeat it
over and over until you are entirely unafraid. Work your way through
the list until you can handle the most scary situation well. It might be
helpful to record and reward your progress. 
Time involved
The time depends on availability of the situations. If actual
circumstances seem impossible to arrange, you always have your
imagination (method #4). 
Common problems
Many real life situations just aren't available at the right time.
Sometimes it is hard to arrange actual situations close enough
together in scariness that you can move on easily to the next
situation. In these cases, use some of the suggestions in step one
above or use imagined scenes instead of real situations to fill in the
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
Watson and Tharp (1972) gave three reasons why in vivo
desensitization may be better than fantasized scenes: (1) the actual
behavior change is what is important--the real-life problems eventually
have to be faced anyway, (2) imagined scenes are not as complete
and realistic as the real thing, thus, it takes longer to extinguish the
fear, and (3) often effective coping with the situation requires more
than removal of fears. Watson and Tharp cite a case of a shy young
woman who reduced her fear of men via desensitization but had not
learned how to converse, how to handle their advances, or how to
handle her other emotions besides fear. With in vivo desensitization
the social skills are, hopefully, being learned as the fears are reduced. 
There are no known scientific evaluations of in vivo self-
desensitization. Of course, the method has been used many times in
therapy and described in case studies. Throughout history, people
have learned as much as possible about the things they fear as a way
of conquering the phobias. A famous case is Johann Wolfgang Von
Goethe, one of the world's greatest minds--a poet, author and
philosopher. Goethe was born into wealth and became a good student
but a restless, sexually active playboy in 1765-70. During this time, he
became seriously ill and was treated at home for a year. Following this
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