Psychological Self-Help

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confident and trusting of others and less scared, you are much more
likely to be helpful (85% vs. 50% of the time) to a person in crisis
(Wilson, 1976). You can't wait until a crisis occurs to get this
knowledge, confidence, trust, and courage; now is the time. 
What are some of the other barriers to helping? Research
indicates that people vary greatly in their awareness of their own
values; you aren't likely to be dedicated to your basic principles unless
they are in the forefront of your thinking all the time. In fact, what
seems to usually happen, if you do not keep your values in mind, is
that you will be influenced by friends (see chapter 9). Unfortunately,
friends are more likely to undermine your values and persuade you to
not study rather than to study hard, to play rather than help out at
home, to spend money having fun rather than giving to a good cause,
etc., so beware. Be independent! Have your own life goals; in that
case, Thomas Berndt at Purdue says you will change friends, rather
than change your values. 
Likewise, in the struggle between conflicting values inside each of
us, certain attitudes or values may be used to "cut down" other
values, e.g. Rokeach (1973) has shown that people who wanted to
stay superior and "keep the niggers in their place" rated freedom much
higher than equality (see Table 3.2). Thus, a belief in "freedom" is
sometimes used to justify our having advantages and opportunities
that are denied to others, just like a preoccupation with seeking
happiness or wealth can blind us to the good we could do for others. It
is interesting to note that President Reagan's speeches referred to
"freedom" and "liberty" twenty times as often as "equality" or "equal
rights" (Ball-Rokeach, Rokeach & Grube, 1984). So, don't be pushed
around by your politicians, your friends, or by your own emotional
needs and cop outs. Stick to your basic values. A recent book by Hass
(1998) may be particularly helpful with mastering self-control in this
area. He emphasizes how our emotions frequently lead us astray,
luring us to do the wrong things or to forget to do the right things.
Emotions need to be controlled before our values can dominate. 
Becoming helpful yourself 
In summary, you must by now realize that becoming and
remaining a caring, loving person is very complicated (though no more
complicated than becoming a greedy, angry person). I hope you don't
feel overwhelmed or pessimistic. The truth is that many people have
learned to be altruistic or it is our nature in comfortable
circumstances (Kohn, 1992). Examples: About 45% of wallets left on a
New York street (containing $5 and personal papers) are returned
intact (Hornstein, 1976). Circumstances influence when people will
return a wallet, e.g. positive feelings increase the return rate to 60%
and a minor negative experience reduces the rate to 20% (on the day
Robert Kennedy was killed, June 4, 1968, none of the 40 "lost" wallets
were returned). People helped a man with a cane who collapsed on a
subway 95% of the time, but if he acted drunk, the response rate
dropped to 50% (Piliavin, Rodin & Piliavin, 1969). If you ask for a
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