Psychological Self-Help

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If the external situation is bad and unchangeable, still search for
the better ways of coping mentally. One study (Felton, Hinrichson,
Revenson, & Elron, 1980) compared persons who adjusted well to
crippling disease with persons who did poorly. The stress-tolerant
people had an optimistic outlook (even if, in this case, it meant
denying reality), were able to express feelings, such as anger and
complaints, and had a rich fantasy life so they could escape into
daydreams. Brutal self-honesty is not always the best policy. 
Self-efficacy --learning to realistically believe in yourself as a self-
helper. Indeed, stress "management" implies you are in control of
techniques that work. Take a new attitude: feeling anxious doesn't
mean we have failed again, it simply signals that there is another
problem to be solved, another opportunity to learn more about self-
Don't tell me that worry doesn't do any good. I know better. The things I worry about never
The feeling that "I'm in control" is related to fear, anxiety, courage,
and self-direction (Rachman, 1978). Studies of wartime pilots, for
instance, show that fear and courage are related to (a) feeling
competent, (b) feeling in control, and (c) not wanting to "let down my
buddies." Feeling out of control is scary. And it's unchallenging ("What
can I do?"). Several leading test pilots refused to become early
astronauts because they had little control in Project Mercury--they felt
like "spam in a can" (Wolfe, 1980). 
Stoyva and Anderson (1982) think biofeedback speeds up the
process of believing we have control. Also, many of the self-
instructions in stress inoculation involve suggestions that we are in
control, e.g. "This will upset me but I can handle it." In 1910 it was
Emil Coue's, "I'm getting better and better," now it is Bandura's self-
efficacy. Both reduce stress. 
By taking a risk, by running some danger, by facing stress, there is
a chance to win, to conquer, to triumph--to feel good about ourselves
(Siegelman, 1983). 83% of the time we feel positive when we take a
chance to better our situation, to "test our mettle." Even when we fail
or lose, 50% of the time we feel good about ourselves for trying.
Where we consider the outcome as "mixed," 75% of the time we feel
positive about ourselves for having tried to do the risky thing. Even
failure can be a valuable learning experience. Life isn't a game in
which you get only one chance. If you mess it up, you can fix it up. 
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