Psychological Self-Help

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emotional crises resulted in much fewer visits to the Health Service.
The process of "writing your deepest thoughts and feelings" seems to
translate the disturbing and often chaotic experience into language
that tells a coherent story. This story-telling thought process seems to
be the key to gaining mental and physical benefits. Apparently the
written "story" changes how the person organizes and thinks about the
trauma. In some of the studies, the writing was done for 15-30
minutes per day for 3-5 days. The writers were encouraged to also
relate their stressful experience to their childhood, relationships, who
they are and want to be, etc. As the stories became more insightful
and understandable over time, the benefits increased. Keep in mind
that this experimental form of self-treatment takes little or no
professional time and is something you can do at any time. Lepore and
Smyth (2002) have summarized this interesting and important
research about expressive writing. 
Some cautions are in order, however: trauma sufferers remind me
that learning to cope with old traumas takes a long time, not just 100
minutes. Also, if remembering a trauma still makes you distraught
("re-traumatized"), it is wise to have someone, a friend or a therapist,
with you during this writing process. Also, for some people, especially
those who's experiences haven't been believed before, an especially
important part may be sharing the traumatic memory with someone
who will listen carefully and care, be very supportive, and reassure you
that they believe your description. Surely another important part is to
come to believe in some detail that you now know how to handle that
trauma and others equally challenging. All this learning takes time. 
Later, in this section, we will discuss the value of writing a journal,
seeing clearly your "life script," and finding meaning in your life via
personal myths (Valley-Fox & Keen, 1992). 
These methods--reading books, writing your history and
autobiography, keeping a journal--are serious, time-consuming, long-
term, down-to-earth, and reasonable efforts. Doing all three would
require great, sustained effort which may amount to a change in
lifestyle. Ask yourself if you are motivated to undertake any of these
long-term tasks. A dedicated self-helper and aspiring psychotherapist
will be. 
Reading psychology books and keeping a journal do not deal with
unconscious factors exclusively, of course. But read Freud and see if
you don't uncover your Oedipus/Electra complex or some other sexual
experiences in childhood. (I clearly remember at age five being
fascinated by my mother's breasts and hoping she would come and
help me take a bath.) Write your history, consulting with your parents
and siblings, and see if you don't view your childhood differently. If
there has been friction with a parent, try to see "where they were
coming from." Keep a journal for several weeks and observe to see if
you have cycles (PMS or reoccurring relationships or high-and-low
productivity) or if you experience the same emotion over and over.
These are useful insights. 
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