Rebellion against pressure ("I hate it that Mom makes me study before
dinner," "I like the way I've been teaching, this new cooperative
education is nonsense," "I hate it when he/she mentions my weight
when we are making love," etc.). (3) Resignation to staying the same
("I can't do anything about it," "I've tried to quit a 1000 times," etc.).
(4) Feeling a victim and believing that someone else is responsible for
your troubles; therefore, THEY owe it to you to fix it! You shouldn't
have to do the work of changing (Dombeck, 2000). (5) Rationalizing
that the problem behavior is really all right ("I know smoking isn't
good for you but I only smoke 15 a day and usually I don't inhale and
I smoke "light" cigarettes and I didn't start until I was 25 and my
grandpa smoked 2 packs a day until he was 95 and I need them to
relax but I'm going to quit!"). These are the kind of obstacles you
face--they are powerful.
What can we do about our avoidance and denial? First, we can
become aware of our use of excuses and mental tricks to avoid
changing. Certain personalities consistently use specific defenses, e.g.
if someone said something demeaning about you and you responded
by laughing it off or saying "they didn't really mean it--no big deal,"
you are probably prone to use denial or minimization. If you
responded by saying "that person is just mean-spirited, besides you
can't please everybody--these things happen" or "there are deep
psychological reasons why he/she said what he/she did," you are a
rationalizer or an intellectualizer. If you boiled over, verbally or
physically attacking the person or assuming they are totally evil, you
are "externalizing" the causes of the problem. If you became self-
critical and felt blamable for his/her opinion, you are "internalizing"
the causes of the problem. In short, learn what defense mechanisms
you use (see chapter 15) and do something about it, e.g. force
yourself to face upsetting problems, avoid explaining away criticism of
you, empathize with others (even critics), find less destructive ways to
vent your anger, avoid feeling totally responsible for every bad
Second, the obvious solution to denial is to open your mind in
many ways but this may not be easy. You must find good, persuasive
reasons for changing. You must face reality and come to truly believe
that the desired goals are well worth the cost of changing. This means
you admit the problem, see its seriousness, and face the worries and
fears involved in remaining unchanged. Caution: Research has shown
that concentrating on the bad aspects of some behavior causes us to
be unhappy and to want to change, but it doesn't lead to change
(Beike, 2000). To take action and change, we must also see the
advantages of improving and believe we can make the self-
improvements we need. In other words, we have to get intimate with
the problem and learn about it, not avoid thinking about it. And we
must believe in our own self-control. How do you do both?
Miller and Rollnick, who deal with addictions, have developed
questions to help us see our problems more fully (these interviewers
have found that frank accusations and threatening confrontations by