Psychological Self-Help

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23
Since behavior therapists are fond of saying their methods can
help without the therapist having to uncover the causes and the
history of the problem, let me hasten to say that I agree with that
too... sometimes. Many problems can certainly be eliminated without
digging deeply into your early childhood and without concocting
speculative psychoanalytic explanations. Yet, in other cases, it can be
beneficial to understand how the problem started and how it has been
maintained. Even the behaviorist would want to ask, "What is the
reinforcement history of the problem behavior?" 
Again, the history of your problem may be clearer if you
investigate the background of each part separately. That is, what is
the history of your unwanted behavior, your emotional reactions, your
lack of skills, your irrational or harmful ways of thinking, and your
unconscious needs, "games," or defenses? Consider four stages of
your history, as sketchily illustrated by this hypothetical depressed
person: 
Part of the
problem
1. Current
situation
2. Any
recent
stress or
crises?
3.
Developmental
history
4. Origin
Behavior
alone & inactive
--
restrictive
parents    
--
Emotions
tense &
depressed
divorce
expects the worst
(from
Mom?)
Skills
poor social
skills
friends sided
with ex-
husband
loner
very shy at
18 months
Cognition
self-critical
blamed by
husband
--
Mo. critical
Unconscious
factors
husband
leaving
associated with
father leaving
distrustful of
men
--
abandoned
by Fa. at 6
Ask yourself, "How did each part start and what has kept it going?"
"Is there some reinforcement--a payoff--for each part?" As you will
see in chapter 4, there are many ways for a behavior to be
maintained. For example, many harmful and troublesome behaviors,
feelings, and thoughts have obvious payoffs. Cheating on an exam,
being unfaithful, or being very obedient are all rewarded (at least they
are behaviors that seek certain rewards). Having a psychosomatic
headache may get us attention or off work. Even feeling so shy that a
person withdraws from others may be reinforced by the relief the
person feels when he/she avoids the stress of interacting. Perhaps
every human action that continues is reinforced. If so, look for the
payoffs. 
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