Psychological Self-Help

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55
me in some horrific way? How does the idea that a harmless snake
might hurt me get translated into a false perception of the snake as
life-threatening? Why and how does our cognitive estimate of our
ability to handle a specific situation, such as flying, sometimes
plummet suddenly? Science has not yet explained why and how
exaggerated threats are learned and combined with fluctuating
estimates of our self-efficacy in one specific phobic situation. And how
do those "snakes are horrible" and "I can't stand it" thoughts produce
sheer physical terror instantly? 
Surprisingly, high stress people do not have a lot more stressful
experiences than low stress people (except maybe the 10-15% who
"gravitate toward" serious trouble, usually involving conflicts with
people). It truly seems that stress for most people comes primarily
from the person's own personality or general nature, i.e. they are the
type, often with low self-esteem, that respond more intensely to
environmental stresses that are common in everyone's life. As
scientists trying to explain stress, however, it does little good to simply
label these people as "high anxious" or "lacking confidence." Good
explanations must be more precise and in more depth than that; we
must understand exactly why some people get up tight and fall apart
and others do not. Psychology is not doing a good job in this area, as
yet. 
Cognitive (self-efficacy) theory says, as we've seen, that
individuals interpret the same situation differently; they use different
schemas or interpretations--some see the problem as a minor
nuisance while others see it as a major catastrophe-and assess their
ability to handle it differently--"I can handle it" vs. "it's hopeless."
Thus, the level of insecurity differs from person to person. Okay, that
sounds good, but still the question is why? Some of us deny problems,
while others exaggerate problems. But, why? Some of us overestimate
our ability to handle a threatening situation, some are accurate, and
some grossly underestimate our coping skills. But, why? An effective
theory should be encouraging scientists to explore these whys in
detail: what causes the mental processes that lead, in part, to secure
coping and to overwhelmed panic. What are the origin and history of
the specific thoughts involved in exaggerating a threat? What is the
learning history of the thoughts, beliefs, skills and expectations
involved in becoming good self-helpers? (Limited ideas about how to
build self-efficacy are in methods #1 and #9 in chapter 14.) What kind
of societies, teachers, parents, and people, in what circumstances, find
this kind of information interesting and worthwhile...and who do
not...and why? 
Since Cognitive therapists believe that unwanted emotions are
caused by thoughts, this theory emphasizes the need to change or
remove the harmful thoughts, like self-doubts. (Besides, it's easier to
change thoughts than emotions.) But, when faced with the therapeutic
task of changing these thoughts, many Cognitive therapists turn to a
behavioral method, such as asking the patient to expose him/herself
to the scary social situation, etc. That is, it is easier, in turn, to change
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