Psychological Self-Help

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knowledge about denial is gradually being gathered (Breznitz, 1983).
For instance, Lazarus has found that patients facing surgery who deny
the dangers and have a false sense of security have a better post-
operative recovery (Derlega and Janda, 1981). However, many
patients could have avoided surgery in the first place by carefully
attending to their health. Thus, denial lets us eat lots of fat, relaxes us
during our heart attack, and then again interferes with our taking care
of serious health problems 
Regression: resorting to earlier ways of acting or feeling,
although it is no longer appropriate. Examples: Throwing a temper
tantrum like a 3-year-old at age 18. Under stress an adult might curl
up in bed, suck their thumb, and clutch their old teddy bear. A 23-
year-old experiencing serious financial difficulties might feel an urge to
return to his/her parent's home and let them take care of him/her.
These are not planned actions; they are old habits that return
Rationalization: Giving excuses for shortcomings and thereby
avoiding self-condemnation, disappointments, or criticism by others.
Examples: After stealing from a large company, "they won't miss it.
Everybody does it." After getting about average grades on the GRE
(not good enough to get into Ph. D. programs), "I would have hated
five more years of research and theory anyway." This is called "sour
grapes," from Aesop's tale about the fox who decided the grapes too
high to reach were sour anyway. The reverse is "sweet lemons," an
assumption that everything happens for the best, "failing the GRE's
was a blessing in disguise, now I know I want to become a counselor--
maybe a social worker--and not a Ph. D." 
Projection: Attributing to others one's own unacceptable
thoughts, feelings, impulses, etc. So, the white person with repressed
sexual urges may believe that all blacks are preoccupied with sex. The
moralistic spouse, who is tempted to have an affair, begins to
suspicion that his/her partner has been unfaithful. A slightly different
form of paranoid projection is when a self-critical feeling or idea is
attributed to others. Suppose a young woman from a religious family
has strong feelings against any sexual urges she might have and,
thus, almost never has them. She might start to believe, however,
that others are critical of her whenever she wears a dress that shows
her shape. 
Displacement: redirecting our impulses (often anger) from the
real target (because that is too dangerous) to a safer but innocent
person. The classic case is the frustrated worker, who can't yell at the
boss but comes home and yells at the spouse, who yells at the
children, who kick the dog, i.e. we take it out on the people we love.
Suppose we were very envious of the relationship between our sister
and our mother. Our feelings may never be expressed towards them
directly but take the form of resentment and distrust of most other
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