Psychological Self-Help

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those views of the situation were accurate, the person has a right to
be depressed. However, these pessimistic views are never accurate. 
Changing your explanation of the situation can change your
emotional reactions, obviously. If you shift your attributions so that
you see yourself as less responsible for an unfortunate happening
(divorce, failure, accident, thoughtless inconsiderate act), you should
feel less guilty or depressed. If you change your attributions so that
there is more hope of improving the situation in the future, even
though you are held more responsible for the unwanted situation, you
should feel less hopeless and more self-confident. For example,
deciding "I'm going to have to work harder to succeed" is self-blaming
for past failures, but it may be an accurate and hopeful assessment of
the situation because you can work harder. 
Likewise, starting to see an unpleasant situation as being caused
by temporary or easily changed causes is hopeful (as compared with
unchangeable causes). Example: "My grades were low because I had
the flu... (or) I tried to study in the living room where there is TV,
stereo, and lots of activity." Also, if the cause of an unwanted situation
influences very few other things (vs. a cause that disrupts almost
everything), that is a happier situation. Example: being six foot seven
inches tall may only keep you from being a fighter pilot but a bad
temper may destroy many jobs and relationships. Finally, depressed
people use several attributions that may at first seem unchangeable
(low ability, bad luck, they're against me), but these causes can be
seen as modifiable (learn skills, change luck, avoid or disarm
enemies). There are so many ways to make changes; we should
almost never feel powerless. 
For practice at changing your attributions (these are old thought
patterns that don't change easily), try listing your weekly successes
and explain them in terms of your personal traits and skills that are
rather permanent and potentially useful in several areas of your life.
This also keeps you from dwelling on your failures. Example: "My
grades in math and social science went up because I learned to get
myself organized every day, to enjoy studying these topics, and to use
the SQRRR study method." (See #4 above) 
Successful self-help projects build confidence in your ability
to make your world better (see self-efficacy in chapter 14). Sounds
simple but much is involved: you must select some meaningful life
goals, then acquire knowledge, skills, and role models so you can
achieve these goals, and finally exert considerable effort so the
achievement of the goals creates pride. Just saying "I can help myself"
is not nearly as impactful as actually changing yourself (sort of like
saying "I care for starving kids" and doing nothing versus saying "I
care" and actually taking a hungry child on your lap and feeding
Consider failure to be a sign you need to work harder or
need more practice, rather than proof you are "a failure." Moreover,
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