Psychological Self-Help

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capable than they think they are and just as capable as nondepressed
people (Blankstein, Flett, & Johnston, 1992). So, honestly testing their
abilities may remove unhealthy doubts. 
Feeling good about yourself, i.e. having self-esteem, one might
guess would be associated with being happy. That’s true but it may
not be that simple. Moreover, measures of self-esteem and happiness
tend to be rather stable over a life time, suggesting self-concept
changes are often hard and take time. We don’t understand that
thoroughly. To change self-esteem one may need truly major life
changes—long lasting success or failure—and/or demanding self-help
efforts (see chapter 14). Research suggests that feelings about
yourself are more easily changed in childhood or in late-middle and old
age. Adolescents, young adults, and middle aged people may find it
harder to change their self-concept. However, children and young
teens who experience a serious traumatic emotional distress may
blame themselves for failures, fear more failures, and doubt
themselves socially (but not necessarily academically). Some theories
suggest that people who are chronic self-doubters tend to be more
materialistic, supposedly to prove their self-worth. 
It is commonly believed by professionals and lay persons that low
self-esteem causes many problems, such as difficulty with school
work, marital problems, abusive parenting, crime, and alcohol or drug
abuse. For instance, Sandra Murray at the University of Buffalo has
published articles showing that marriage partners with low self-esteem
sabotage their marriage by thinking their partners love them less than
they really do. The insecure partner expects to be neglected or
criticized but before a slight or imagined rejection actually happens
they attack the partner who, in turn, strikes back later with “you are
so irritable, so insecure, so needy.” 
There is certainly some evidence (and logic) that high self-esteem
contributes to happiness and low self-esteem is related to suicide
attempts, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, and other problems.
However, all these connections (and other similar conjectures) have
not been proven to always be true. Indeed, there are also people who
believe that thinking too highly of one’s self leads to problems, such as
angry responses when criticized, lack of motivation, violence, and
racial-ethnic attitudes. And, in a positive direction, doubting one’s
abilities may have resulted in many people working very hard and
doing well in school or on a job. As usual, internal dynamics are
Other psychologists contend that some people are racists or violent
or tax evaders because they don’t feel bad or guilty enough to stop
such behavior, not because they feel deep down very negative about
themselves and project that self-hatred on to others. Thus, a therapist
might attempt to focus on self-control instead of self-esteem, including
increasing the patient’s awareness of his/her hurtful behavior in the
past rather than thinking “I’m OK” or “I’m a good person.” Awareness
of our negative traits might also be beneficial, e.g. recognizing one’s
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