Psychological Self-Help

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consequences of any addictions or abuse or sickness. Such a guide is
important. The chances may not be very high that big awful secrets
will be uncovered in your past, but when addiction, crime, psychosis,
infidelity, brutality, etc. are a part of your background, you can bet it
has had a significant but often hidden impact on your life. You have a
right to know. A probing history is a major undertaking and an
important introduction to your autobiography. 
One of the more helpful brief procedures for letting a small group
get to know you is a "life graph"--a line drawn year by year showing
the highs and lows of your life. Ron Konzak (nd) has a book and a
nine-foot graph for such a history (a blackboard works well). He says it
helps you understand yourself better; I saw the life graph as primarily
a way to disclose to others the most important events and stages of
your life. Friends or group members will not read your 100-page
autobiography, but they will attend carefully to a 15-minute graph of
your ups and downs, and use that information to understand,
empathize, and help you as best they can. 
Your reading and writing of reading notes, an autobiography,
and/or a journal will be more profitable if you have some specific self-
understanding or self-change goals in mind, perhaps only 3 or 4. Thus,
this method begins with an autobiographical review of your life which
will help you decide where you want to go from here. But first, make a
tentative list of some things you might want to understand better
about yourself and make another list of things you might want to
change about yourself. Pay particular attention to these areas (and
others that occur to you) as you write your autobiography. For each
"mystery" and each "problem" make up a work sheet for ideas, books
to read, possible explanations, possible self-improvement approaches
and so on. You will be "researching" your problem. 
Peter Madison (1969), author of Personality Development in
College, offered for several years a college course in personality
development based on an autobiography, a daily journal, and readings
about case studies. The outline below for an autobiography comes
from his experience. But first some comments about writing a life
history (for personal insight). Try to focus on the events that have
emotional significance for you, events that influenced your behavior,
feelings, and values. Don't list where you lived or went to school or
what organizations you belonged to (it's not a resume), unless these
facts had impact on your self-concept, goals, reactions to others, etc.
In fact, some of the most important factors in your development may
be things that did not happen: not having love, not having friends, not
having parents who attended to your school work (or non-work), not
having responsibilities, not having dates, not having career plans, not
having anyone to share personal feelings with, etc. Include these.
Sometimes little things make a difference: mom talking to you about
sex, dad teaching you to drive carefully, long talks with your sister,
childhood sexual experiences, liking a teacher, and so on. Lastly, it is
important to be frank and to give details. Yet, keep in mind that others
may find your writings, so consider using a code name for yourself and
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