Psychological Self-Help

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STEP FOUR: Play the movie again. Use the self-help methods
(developed in step three) to prevent or to reduce the unwanted
You can, in effect, test out the emotion-control methods by
imagining being in the upsetting scene. After arousing the unwanted
emotions by thinking about being angry at your roommate or being
hurt by rejection, you "talk yourself down." Use the relaxation
techniques, deep breathing, self-instructions, and new attitudes to
avoid getting upset, to calm down, or to resolve the problem. 
Repeat this mental process (the movie of the situation) over and
over, discovering which methods work best for you. Keep rehearsing
until you are sure you can control your feelings and handle the
situation. Example: suppose you are a college sophomore who has
never done well on objective examinations. You seem to "clutch up" or
freeze; you just don't think well although you have studied and seem
to know the material. So, before the exam, you might say: 
"I have studied more than a lot of people. I should do pretty
"Try to relax now and during the exam--take a deep breath and
enjoy the relaxation as I exhale." 
It is easy for you to imagine taking an exam, reading a hard
question, coming up with a blank, and thinking "I'm going to flunk this
test" with a sinking, panicky feeling inside because it has happened so
many times during a test before. Your palms sweat; you feel scared;
you are embarrassed. As you imagine feeling these things, start giving
yourself self-instructions to lower your anxiety, to get you back on
track and go on with the exam: 
"I'll just mark this item and come back to it later. I want to stay
"Just because I didn't know that answer immediately doesn't
mean I'll fail. Lots of people probably clutched on it too." 
"OK, what's the answer to the next question? It's not a or c,
and b says 'always', and besides d sounds right, it's d!" 
"I'm getting along pretty well. If I just stay relaxed, I'm going
to feel good about myself." 
"I'll make an outline for the essay question; maybe reading
some more objective questions will help me remember more
little details about authors and research to include in the
"Stay relaxed, it will come to you. You are doing well. Go back
and read the hard questions again." 
After handling the fantasy-induced stress, take a break, relax,
praise your efforts and map out a strategy for the next trial run. Keep
repeating the fantasies until you are able to control the emotions. 
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