belief that feeling dizzy means he will faint or die. He doesn't
In addition, the therapist later suggests that the patient expose
himself to other situations where he gets upset and dizzy, and
see what happens if he does not hold on to something. Trying
this several times, the patient again discovered he would not
faint. The panic spells went away. About 85% of the patients in
this treatment program got over their panic spells with this
treatment in two or three months (Clark & Ehlers, 1993). The
essence of the treatment involves disproving the patient's basic
views and conclusions about dizziness and dying. (But, often
exposure is also a basic component of the treatment.)
These examples should make it clear to you why these methods
are called cognitive. The ideas that lead to fears and panic are being
questioned and tested.
Plan self-improvements --our intentions, goals, plans, self-
instructions, and self-evaluations play a major role in directing our
lives. Without rational self-direction, we would be lost, driven only by
the dominant instinct or need of the moment. Learning to organize and
control our lives is necessary to get where we want to go. Thus, set
reasonable goals (chapters 2 & 3), control your behavior (chapters 4
and 11), calm the emotions, find love and friendship, etc.
In terms of controlling stress, learn to give self-instructions
(method #2 in chapter 11) for relaxing and for better coping, such as
when the experienced parachutist thinks about accomplishing the task
of landing safely, rather than about possibly dying in 40 seconds.
We may not always give fantasy the credit it deserves but our
mind is almost constantly rehearsing how to handle some difficult
situation. We imagine what we could say and do, and how others
might respond, and how we could react to that, etc. This use of "covert
rehearsal" is very valuable (see chapter 14).
On the other hand, one needs to occasionally stop the "try harder
signals" from your brain (shouting out orders and demands like a
Marine drill instructor) to your body, i.e. "take a break" from
excessively demanding self-instructions.
Rather than just stopping giving self-instructions, it is sometimes
helpful to give the wrong instructions, as in paradoxical intention. This
is where you tell yourself "increase those fears, make them really
terrifying," instead of "I must calm down." (Case cited earlier and see
It is helpful when we "accentuate the positive" as well as
"eliminate the negative." Life is more than just avoiding problems. We
must reserve our energy for planning and carrying out positive,
meaningful, moral tasks and missions.