Psychological Self-Help

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85
anger and dependency. So, an anxious person might also want to
focus on increasing the positive events and feelings in their life. This
could include planning and doing interesting things, stopping to "smell
the roses," looking for the positive aspects of your situation, reading
higher self-esteem, greater toughness), taking pride in planning and
using ways to handle the anxiety, having more fun, seeking more and
deeper social contact and support, etc. There are many ways to get
where you want to go--be open-minded but make use of research-
based self-help methods. 
Desensitization
A method that must be considered for overcoming unreasonable or
excessive fears. This well researched procedure is based on the belief
that a strong relaxation response can gradually overpower and inhibit
a fear response to a particular stimulus. The desensitization method
involves first relaxing, then imagining mildly scary situations, and
works up to relaxing in the most scary (but not actually dangerous)
situations. This is a painless method of reducing anxiety or fear
reactions because you must stay deeply relaxed throughout the entire
process. It avoids all stressful actual confrontations with the scary
situation, being done entirely in one's imagination. So it is easy to
carry out and always available--it just takes fantasy (see in vivo and
Exposure for versions that require confronting the real situation). The
method was developed by a psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe (1958), and
based on classical conditioning, using the same principles as Watson
and Jones in the 1920's. 
Extensive research has evaluated desensitization, indicating it is an
effective method, but powerful placebo or suggestion effects are just
about as effective, suggesting the method may not add a lot beyond
the expectation of improvement. Wolpe (1980) has claimed that the
method is also helpful with many psychosomatic disorders because it
reduces the underlying anxiety. No competent self-helper should
overlook desensitization as described in chapter 12; it is potentially
useful in any situation with any unwanted emotion. 
Flooding and venting feelings --experiencing and releasing intense
emotions is thought to be beneficial in a variety of ways. First of all,
Freud sought intense emotional reactions in therapy, called
abreactions. These repressed memories usually involved very painful
early childhood experiences. The patient would relive these
experiences and as a result gain insight into the source of his/her
current problems. With this new understanding, the fear, neurotic
behavior, or psychosomatic complaint will go away, supposedly. Primal
therapy, which uncovers the hurts of birth and early childhood, is
based on the same assumptions. The newer therapies by John
Bradshaw and others, which reclaim and nurture the hurt inner child,
also relive the disappointments of childhood. In a sense, like
desensitization, this is confronting the inner sources of fears and
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