Psychological Self-Help

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by merely observing someone else--a model--who has
excessive fear or nervousness, and learning to respond the
same way (see discuss of modeling in chapter 4), 
by learning to distort incoming perceptions so that the situation
is made to look worse than it is by these faulty perceptions,
e.g. blushing may interpreted as making a fool out of yourself
or speaking too softly to be heard may cause the listener to
frown which is then interpreted as disapproval, 
by applying certain unreasonable personal beliefs or
expectations to the perceived situation so that
disappointments, anger, and/or a sense of inadequacy are
immediately created by these irrational thoughts, e.g. thinking
that others will think you are unattractive or believing that brief
pauses in your speech will bore the listener, 
by acting on a variety of faulty conclusions an excessively
stressful situation may have long-range consequences, e.g. by
falsely believing we are boring or can't answer the other
person's questions, we abruptly terminate the interaction or by
having fantasies of some horrible outcome which literally scares
us "out of our wits," we do poorly and the situation gets out of
our control or by self-critically using this stressful incident and
failure experience to further lower our self-concept, a serious
self-esteem problem develops, etc., etc. There are an infinite
number of false beliefs; every human has some, many have
These are some of the basic ideas of cognitive theory. There are
many different kinds of thoughts that cause stress and fears. Cognitive
processes have become the main focus of psychological treatment in
the last 15 years or so. 
Observational learning and cognition
In chapter 4, we saw that one could learn to be aggressive from
watching a model. In a similar way, we can learn fears too (Bandura &
Rosenthal, 1966) from watching a fearful person. If a parent has an
obvious fear, say fear of flying or of storms or of dealing with
authorities, his/her children are likely to assume there are great risks
involved and be afraid of these things also. I once saw a client who's
entire family had a fear of heights, especially docks over water. They
passed it on, via modeling, from generation to generation. 
Cognitive theory says both reasonable and unreasonable fears
(phobias) are based on thoughts. Of course, it is logical thought that
enables us to distinguish between rational fears and irrational fears,
but for the frightened person this differentiation is difficult. Yet, our
survival depends on cognition--recognizing real dangers, like driving
while drinking or smoking while lying in bed or going into business
with a dishonest partner. But, why do so many of us learn to greatly
fear less dangerous situations, such as asking an attractive person for
a date. Could it be a crushing blow to our ego even if the person who
turns us down hardly knows us? (No, if we are secure; yes, if we are
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