behind me now," "maybe something good will come out of this mess,"
Most of the attitudes mentioned in this section would require
considerable time to learn, if you were starting with a negative
attitude. One doesn't develop a new philosophy of life or a broad belief
in self-efficacy or an acceptance of others quickly. But, fortunately,
most people already have many positive, helpful attitudes.
Each attitude would have its own problems, i.e. different obstacles
to the adoption of that attitude. For instance, many people are
conditioned to have negative reactions, even by age 18 or 20, to racial
groups, to mental illness, to obese and unattractive people, to old
people, to violent criminals, etc. As a result, the development of
tolerant, understanding attitudes towards these people is very difficult.
The only solution I know of is to get a lot of experience with the type
of person you don't understand or don't like. Examples: If you feel
negatively towards welfare mothers, get to know several intimately
and find how they got in that situation. If homosexuality is disgusting
to you, make friends with many gays and lesbians; empathize with
their needs for love.
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
Very little is known scientifically about how to change your own
attitudes or about the effects of doing so. There is a great deal of
clinical and practical knowledge about these matters, however. Love
one another is an old idea (but we can't do it yet). Quite a bit is known
about persuading others (see chapter 13), mostly related to sales.
Most of the attitudes mentioned above sound beneficial and have been
advocated by outstanding philosophers, therapists, and wise people.
But, the ramifications of broad general attitudes, such as "I'm in
control of my life" or "tolerance of others," are so vast that the precise
measurement necessary for science has not yet been done. The
limited research findings (primarily about self-efficacy) are theory-
oriented, proving only that thinking you are effective is associated with
being effective. Research findings are not very practical thus far in
terms of actually showing us how to build self-efficacy and gain control
of our lives. The research will probably become more personally useful
in the next 10 to 20 years.
There are no known dangers but some are conceivable: beliefs in
self-efficacy may exaggerate how much control you actually have and
could lead to an unrealistic sense of self-responsibility; a demanding
philosophy of life may increase stress and guilt; an accepting attitude
based on determinism may reduce your zeal to wipe out injustice and