STEP FOUR: Use your increased understanding to self-improve
Unused knowledge is of little value. Therefore, try to immediately
incorporate new information into your planning or carrying out of a
self-help project (see chapter 2). Perhaps an "idea book" for future
projects (as a helpee or a helper) is a good idea. Much knowledge
never gets used.
Obviously, all three--autobiography, journal, and reading--could
involve thousands of hours. But they could still be beneficial if limited
to only 15 to 30 minutes a day.
There are many stumbling blocks. The first is time. While these
approaches may sound interesting and worthwhile, few people are
disciplined enough to complete an extensive project, like an intensive
journal, involving hundreds of hours. We procrastinate. Another
stumbling block is diminishing returns. The first hours on a journal or
reading may be novel and very rewarding but you may profit less and
less with time (or feel you do). We need payoffs. Another barrier is our
reluctance to self-disclose or even admit problems to ourselves. The
personal benefit from any of these methods depends on seeing the
connection between your history, journal activities, or reading and
your daily personal life. Also mentioned above is the difficulty finding
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
Little scientific evaluation of these kinds of self-analysis has been
done. Yet, 30-40% of therapists believe it is helpful to provide reading
material to their clients and they do so. If these methods can, in fact,
replace some of the time spent in therapy--or even replace therapy in
some cases, they are far cheaper than therapy ($75 to $125 an hour).
Informed people must demand more useful, proven knowledge about
self-understanding and self-direction.
There are possible pitfalls. Readings, writing an autobiography, or
doing a journal could yield few benefits and be a waste of time. You
could even be distressed by the self-probing or by the reading
material. It is certain that increased insight includes negative,
embarrassing information about your true self. In addition, you may
falsely assume you have negative traits and awful psychological
disorders. Medical students are notorious for developing the beginning
symptoms of the diseases they are studying. Psychology students do
the same thing when reading Abnormal Psychology. When you ask
yourself if you have schizophrenic, hostile, psychopathic,
psychosomatic or other sick tendencies, that is surely stressful (but it
can also be insight producing and healthy).