Psychological Self-Help

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The following discussion and summary of findings (mostly from
Bandura, 1986) are based on research using each subject's single
rating of self-efficacy, not both their intellectual and emotional beliefs.
People who believe they are efficacious tend to see their successes as
resulting from high ability and their failures as resulting from a lack of
effort. As mentioned above, an over-estimation of your ability might
encourage you to test your limits and maximize the effects of positive
expectations. If you can accept some failure and also feel generally
confident in your self-help ability, you will feel less stress, take more
risks, and try harder and longer to make the changes you desire. The
harder you try, the more success you will have. Being successful
increases self-efficacy, one then wants to learn more useful skills.
Success and confidence alter our goals. Eventually, you can gain self-
control and "produce your own future," according to Bandura. In a
similar way, managers-coaches-teachers think employees-athletes-
students perform better when leaders expect them to do well, i.e. "I
think you can." This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 
Low efficacious people, similar to depressed people, think they lack
the ability to help themselves which makes them nervous and further
impairs their performance. Examples: self-doubting students
predictably avoid school work, but how much homework is done by
highly anxious students is not predictable. Having strong physiological
responses while socializing will not tell us if a person will act and feel
shy, but self-evaluations of "I'm shy" or "feeling tense is normal" will
tell us. Without confidence, most people give up... but some decide to
learn some new coping skills. On the other hand, over-confident
people are unlikely to feel the need to prepare in advance to meet
problems and may, therefore, not do well in spite of having
confidence. This complicates matters. For example, smokers and
drinkers who believe they can abstain are actually more successful in
doing so, but those who believe they could overcome a relapse are not
as successful at abstaining as those who think "one drink leads to a
drunk" (Bandura, 1986, p.437; Haaga & Stewart, 1992). 
If you are inaccurate and over-estimate or under-estimate your
effectiveness in a certain situation, there can be unfortunate
consequences, e.g. you might attempt impossible tasks or avoid tasks
you could handle. Sometimes, as with a placebo, reality doesn't
matter. Example: if you are taught that relaxing your head muscles
prevents tension headaches and are convinced by the experimenter
that you are able to relax those muscles effectively (even though you
are in fact tensing the muscles), you will have fewer headaches in the
future (Holroyd, et al, 1984). Faith in doctors, pills, therapy, God,
witch doctors, and self-help can be powerful forces, usually for the
good. Believing we are helpless is just as powerful in the other
direction (see depression in chapter 6). 
Where does this belief in or doubts about your self-efficacy
come from? How can self-efficacy be increased? Bandura (1986) cites
research suggesting past successes or failures --as judged by us--
resulting from our efforts in relevant areas are primarily responsible
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