Psychological Self-Help

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of their pain-control ability were clearly related (r=.53) to actual
results; the higher the feelings of confidence, the greater pain
reduction. The same researchers also found that students' I-E
(Internalizer-Externalizer; see chapter 8) test scores answered on the
basis of emotional, gut-level feelings were related to their Abnormal
Psychology test scores, but rationally answered I-E test scores were
not. Students who emotionally felt personally in control of their lives
did better on the classroom examination. 
These results suggest the popular advice of "believe in yourself"
IN YOUR SELF-CONTROL." Unemotional, intellectual belief in personal
control seems less personally helpful in certain situations. However,
this research is very new and primitive. We need better measures,
better understanding of what is happening, more insight into beliefs in
self-control and placebos, etc. Perhaps the instructions to the self-
raters in 3 encourages more unbridled optimism and pessimism, which
leads to more variable scores and accounts for the higher correlations
with performance. Perhaps an emotionally enhanced "faith" or
enthusiasm or zeal about our ability to change ourselves or a problem
situation helps us conquer problems. Coaches everywhere seem to
think so. So, how do you get this highly emotional, zestful, reassuring
confidence? Sappington, Richards, Spiers and Fraser (1988) say it
must come from an emotional experience, not from logical, factual
information. For example, high feelings of confidence might be
generated by
watching a person similar to you struggling with a familiar
problem, then you get so emotionally involved in his/her efforts
to succeed that you feel exhilarated when they master the
listening to a person, who has successfully coped with a serious
problem, describe his/her techniques, setbacks, traumas, and
other emotionally meaningful or moving experiences, and 
having actual, uplifting experiences that conclusively
demonstrate to us that we have more control over ourselves or
the situation than we thought we had. 
Some psychologists believe that excessive self-confidence could
cause problems, not just in terms of appearing arrogant but perhaps
by causing failure since you don't see your limitations and may, thus,
overextend yourself. Or an inflated opinion of ourselves may lead us to
become poor planners, lax, and prone to backslide or relapse with
some bad habit we have recently overcome (Haaga & Stewart, 1992).
These consequences seem likely but there is only a little evidence,
thus far. Excessive negative thoughts and low self-efficacy are clearly
associated with emotional problems and relapsing; excessive over-
confidence may sometimes get us in trouble (relapse); moderate
confidence in maintaining our desired behavior in spite of full
awareness of the risks will rarely cause problems. In short, a
combination of realism and confidence seems to work best. 
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