Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could control your behavior? You'd
avoid over-eating, alcoholism, all bad habits, procrastination, being
late, impulsive comments and purchases, sinful behavior, misplaced
objects and papers, rushing at the last minute, etc. Instead, you'd
have good health, a beautifully exercised body, excellent work habits,
an organized life, success, good social graces, good mental health,
healthy attitudes, and practically a guarantee of getting into heaven.
The truth is: you can't control all your behavior. We are all a little
out of control. Some of us are seriously out of control. For example,
some of us are ruining our lives and/or killing ourselves with food,
drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, careless driving and other ways. Some of us
are blowing off our school work or our jobs but still believing, even
though it is very unrealistic, that we will "be successful." Some of us
can't get or hold a job, or hold on to love, or properly care for our
children, or manage a home and pay our debts. There is an enormous
difference between the people who are out of control and those in
control. It is important to understand the causes of behavior and how
to change it. We could all gain better control.
Keep in mind that "behavior" is just one of five parts of any human
situation (see chapter 2). The fact is that behavior (actions) and the
other parts--feelings, skills, thoughts, and unconscious drives--are so
intermixed that it is artificially over-simplified to talk about one part in
isolation. Yet, psychologists do that a lot (me too, right now).
Otherwise, things get very complicated. And, indeed, perhaps
clinicians do over-analyze things, always wondering what you mean
when you say "Hello!" But in the 1950's and 1960's psychologists
focused on behavior and learning theory, then in the middle 1970's to
1980's the focus was on cognition (thinking). Both were over
simplified. Now, in the 1990's focus has turned to the interaction of
emotions, values, motivation, unaware perceptions and needs with
behavior and thoughts. Psychological methods, like therapy and self-
help, change our brain. This chapter explores these many interactions.
William James and Sigmund Freud would certainly be pleased with the
recent return to introspection of our conscious and unconscious
thoughts and feelings.
It is wholesome to keep a historical perspective. We must not
forget how young modern psychology is (and how ignorant we all are).
Only 150 years ago, we did not use the concept of unconscious forces.
Instead when people behaved in ways they didn't "intend" to behave,
it was thought they were possessed by an alien force--the will of God,
the work of the Devil, a guardian angel, or other spirits (Ellenberger,
1970). In 1900 the focus was on instincts, the stream of
consciousness, the "will," the self, and so on. Psychology has changed,
but we haven't come far. Wonder what psychology will be concerned
with in 2100?