Psychological Self-Help

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48
overly self-critical.) Somehow the ordinarily rational cognitive
processes run amuck and exaggerate the dangers, as when beginning
spelunkers think the cave will crash down on them or speakers fear
the audience will think they are dumb or people avoid revealing their
personal opinions and intimate feelings. Let's see how this might
happen. 
Most phobias are groundless and excessive, such as a fear of
harmless bugs, dirt, worms, meeting people, speaking to a large
group, and heights. Hauck (1975) suggested that these harmless
situations are associated with fantasies of horrible consequences (like
the fear of elevators). Thus, our own scary ideas become the "pain"
paired with the situation to produce a fear reaction. For example, the
shy person thinks about meeting someone and then imagines not
knowing what to say and becoming terribly embarrassed. And, thus,
he/she becomes even more shy. Likewise, most of us have at least a
mild fear of the dark. Relatively few people have been attacked in the
dark, no one by ghosts or monsters. Yet, at age 3 or 4 (as soon as our
imagination develops enough) we begin fantasizing scary creatures
lurking in the dark. Our own fantasies create our fear of the dark. 
We can easily forgive the child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy is when adults
are afraid of the light.
Of course just saying "fears come from irrational thinking" is not a
very complete explanation of behavior. The question is: "why and how
do we learn to think irrationally?" Bandura (1977) says false beliefs
come (a) from faulty perception (like believing your black neighbors
are more violent than your white ones because TV News picture more
blacks as criminal suspects) and (b) from faulty conclusions based on
insufficient evidence (like believing that this airplane you are boarding
is likely to crash because you have seen some terrible crashes on TV
lately). But why the faulty perceptions and conclusions? There are lots
of ways for our thinking to become irrational, so we will discuss this in
some detail. Also, in chapter 6 we will learn more about how
depression and low self-esteem seems to be produced by negative
self-evaluative thoughts; in chapter 7 we will see how anger may be
produced by negative thoughts about others, etc. (But which comes
first, the idea or the emotion? Cognitive theory says the idea, but it is
hard to believe that emotions have no role to play in producing some
of the irrational thinking in the first place, right?) 
Faulty perceptions and irrational reactions  
Anxiety and fears may result from how we perceive and react to
situations. It may help to separate the faulty perceptions, i.e. learned
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