Psychological Self-Help

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David Weikart has researched the long-range effects of early
childhood education which emphasizes independent thinking (in 4-
year-olds!), problem-solving, and sharing their self-help plans and
progress with others. Ten years later, at age 15, these students had
better family relations, more part-time jobs, less delinquency, less
drug use, and a greater sense of personal control than similar students
taught obedience and conformity in preschool (Remley, 1988). Don't
overlook the importance of skills and attitudes. If ordinary 4-year-olds
can learn this stuff, so can dependent, insecure adults. 
Make your own decisions. Making your own decisions is
obviously vital to "being your own person." The importance of these
skills has already been discussed in this chapter and the detailed steps
for making decisions are given in method #11 in chapter 13.
Teaching personal problem solving skills, much like in chapter 2,
has been shown to be effective with dependent clients (D'Zurilla &
Goldfried, 1971). 
Be tactfully assertive. Being tactfully assertive is the crux of
effective relating (Jakubowski & Lange, 1991). Assertion is the
opposite of conformity, passivity, blind obedience, etc. discussed
above. If you can't meet others, speak your mind, express your
feelings and preferences, ask others to explain themselves, give and
accept compliments, talk about yourself, and disclose your real self to
others, you need assertiveness training as described method #3 in
chapter 13. Also see self-disclosure training in method #6 in the
same chapter. 
Research has shown that it is important to identify the exact
situations where you have trouble being assertive. A person is seldom
unassertive in all ways, just in certain areas. There are six common
problem areas: (a) objecting to being taken advantage of, (b)
expressing positive feelings, e.g. praise or affection, (c) wanting to
approach someone, (d) complaining about a service, (e) expressing a
different opinion, and (f) refusing an unreasonable request. You need
to practice giving specific responses in troublesome situations relevant
to you, because practice in one area doesn't help in other areas. If
possible, also get feedback from someone who can provide a model of
assertiveness for you and reinforce your good responses. 
Furthermore, the assertiveness training needs to be modified
according to the reason for your problem, for instance (a) you might
not know when it is appropriate to be assertive, (b) you may be afraid
of what might happen if you became assertive, and (c) you may not
know how to be assertive (MacDonald, 1975). Chapter 13 deals with
each of these problems, but you must diagnose your own needs and
situation. 
Please note: no matter how skillful you become, the other persons'
positive reaction to your new assertiveness is not guaranteed. Indeed,
they may become aggressive, walk out on you, or have some other
unwanted response. Be prepared. Also, there is some evidence that
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