Psychological Self-Help

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1160
Storms and McCaul (1976) have proposed that concluding you are
responsible for some unwanted behavior is anxiety arousing. And,
increased anxiety may increase the unwanted behavior. Example:
thinking "I'm responsible for my speech problems" increased
stammering; thinking "my speech problems are due to the
experimental conditions" did not increase stammering. Yet, concluding
you are not responsible for unwanted behavior may very likely
decrease your anxiety and decrease your self-improvement efforts. So,
it's complex because the "I'm responsible" attribution is helpful in
many circumstances but not all. 
 
Are feelings good or bad?
A common saying is "you are responsible for your feelings." (For
the moment, let's forget about reflexive and unconscious feelings.)
Fortunately, all feelings can be viewed as natural, as neither good nor
bad. This is how: many people believe that feelings and thoughts can
not be bad because they hurt no one. Acts can be bad (because they
can hurt). From this viewpoint, there would be no need to hide our
feelings (unless disclosing the feelings hurt someone) and no need to
feel guilty about any thoughts or feelings. 
However, it is easy to see how we come to believe that thoughts
and feelings are bad. Suppose as a child you hit your little brother and
were spanked and told, "don't do that." As a 5-year-old you aren't
likely to figure out that the parent who hit you meant "your hitting is
bad but feeling angry is OK," so you grow up thinking "feeling angry is
bad." Many of our feelings are suppressed by being told "don't be a
scaredy cat," "big kids don't cry," "touching yourself down there is
naughty," etc. So, we learn to deny or dislike or feel guilty about many
feelings. We even hide many positive feelings: "I don't want him/her
to know I like him/her because he/she might not like me." 
In the guilt section of chapter 6 we discuss further the question of
whether thoughts (temptations to do something bad) are bad in the
sense that they may increase the probability that we will actually do
something bad. 
Feelings usually leak out
Feelings usually find a way to express themselves, however. There
are several ways subjective feelings get expressed: 
1.
You may act on feelings: shout at someone when angry, cry
when sad, communicate (in body language) your interest when
attracted to someone. (These same behaviors--shouting, crying
and attracting--surely influence our feelings too.) 
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