Psychological Self-Help

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processes involved if we chose to do so. This is mostly a beneficial
unconscious process. 
A third semi-conscious process involves the defenses, wishful
thinking, and excuses used to allay our own guilt and anxiety. Often
we quickly "go for" the immediate reward and overlook the long-range
consequences--we eat the fatty meat and forget our health. Or we
overlook problems in our marriage until our spouse files for divorce. Or
our motives are so numerous (and rationalized) that we deny some of
them--we have several reasons for accepting a certain job but neglect
our attraction to someone we will be working with. Or we are
convinced we must have a new car and don't even consider the
economic advantages of an older, smaller car. Gaining self-awareness,
which isn't too hard in some of these cases, involves getting a clearer
view of these motives and payoffs (chapters 9 & 15). Perhaps some
distortions of reality help us cope, e.g. avoiding thinking about our
unavoidable death or thinking of heaven may be helpful. 
Lastly, some psychologists believe that the unconscious primarily
contains repressed urges and thoughts. Repression supposedly occurs
because the thought is too awful, too serious (not just an excuse to
buy a new car), too psychologically painful, to admit to ourselves
consciously. If an idea were not shame or guilt-producing, you could
supposedly think of it consciously with a little effort. Some ideas are
very hard to face; in suicide people kill themselves to avoid painful
ideas. According to the Freudians, we are selfish and driven by sexual
and aggressive urges that we can not stand to think about, things like
the desire for forbidden sexual activity, the urge to harm ourselves or
others, the wish to dominate others, and so on. It would be possible
for unseen parts of our brain to have these urges, other parts could
detect these urges and develop some defenses against the urges,
defenses that seem irrational and look neurotic or psychotic. Experts
disagree about how much these "terrible" repressed motives affect our
daily lives. You can decide for yourself, but surely these unacceptable
thoughts and feelings are inside us sometimes and they would surely
affect our behavior. 
Experts also disagree about the importance of understanding your
history and internal dynamics in order to figure out how to change.
Behaviorists contend that this information isn't necessary; they think
all one needs is a change is the environment so that the desired
behavior is more reinforced than the unwanted behavior. Most other
psychologists would disagree. I agree with the behaviorist in the sense
that simple behavioral self-help (or therapy) methods may change
very complex, poorly understood aspects of our lives, but we can't
count on these simple methods always working. However, if I had my
choice, I'd rather that we all were omnipotent and understood all our
life-history, the laws of behavior (conscious and unconscious), the
dynamics and methods of changing--everything! 
A little experience with self-help shows the importance of keeping
an open mind about causes and methods. Several years ago a bright
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