Psychological Self-Help

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Siegelman urges her readers to nurture their fantasies of taking
risks; these wistful thoughts are kernels of hope--perhaps our only
hope of change, growth, satisfaction, greatness or goodness. These
thoughts of a new career, travel, success, a new life are the basis for
shifting from "I wish I could" to "by God, I will...." Don't crush them.
The rest of her suggestions for risk-taking are in chapters 13
(decision-making) and 14. 
Learning we can cope even though we are afraid is an important
self-understanding. Such people say, "I'm tough; I'm a survivor; I can
handle it." Neal Miller (1976) found Air Force officers believed they did
better under mild fear (49%) or intense fear (34% but 25% said they
did worse). In terms of handling fear, there are interesting findings
about birth order and pilot effectiveness in combat (later born do
better!). So, try some scary activities in everyday life: (1) try self-
disclosing and find that others like you--and are frequently like you.
(2) Try expressing your feelings and find out they are controllable. (3)
Try exposing yourself to temptations and find you have self-control.
(4) Try exploring your unconscious urges and find out you are not
awful for having them nor powerless against them. That's how to get
Have a purpose.  Hope and purpose enable us to overcome hardships,
whether it is concentration or prison camps, serious physical or mental illness,
or occupational burnout (Pines & Aronson, 1981; Frank, 1974). As chapter 3
says, a valued purpose for living saves us from meaninglessness and can
provide enormous motivation. For example, religious beliefs provide a life-
purpose and a refuge from the ultimate fear, eternal death. 
Unfortunately, there is little scientific knowledge about how to
develop faith and hope. Yet, there is universal interest in these topics
and ample evidence for the power of faith. For instance, Marks (1978)
compares the ineffectiveness of lengthy (1 year) therapy with
transsexuals to the astonishing effectiveness of faith healing. The faith
healer, in one case, took only three hours to pray, lay on hands, and
"exorcise 22 evil spirits." The client, a life-long transsexual,
immediately declared he was a man, discarded his female clothing and
got his hair cut. Two years later he was still living as a heterosexual
and planning to get married. Suggestion effects can help people have
faith. 
A distinction must be made between (a) passive faith or idle
wishing for something and (b) working hard and wisely to help yourself
achieve something. Both may work, but my bets are on (b). They are
certainly different processes. 
Hope is an effort to make it so, not a wish that it may be so.
-G. I. Gurdjieff
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