Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Love Science...

...especially when research findings agree with what I think is true based on my experience. A recent Newsweek magazine had an article on the "substantial progress psychological research has made in identifying the most effective treatments." I loved it because it said that there was a huge amount of evidence, based on rigorous clinical trials, that cognitive-behavior therapy is very effective against a wide variety of disorders. The short definition they gave of this type of therapy: "Teaching patients to think about their thoughts in new, healthier ways and to act on those new ways of thinking." The research shows that the results are better and longer lasting than drugs.

In my experience, this type of therapy is wonderfully effective. It's not everything, but it's a lot! There are probably an infinite number of ways to think about my life experiences. I've learned only one way, but as soon as I can see some other ways that are equally true, I not only feel better but soon act better. My favorite example is that I came into adulthood believing that if someone was doing something I thought was detrimental to me, I should raise hell until the person quit. I did that for years. It didn't work. I tried being submissive and learning to put up with being a doormat. That didn't work either. (My personality made it almost impossible to carry that one out.) I didn't have a third way of looking at these problems.

It turns out there are quite a number of other ways of looking at these problems. A vast majority of the time, I can simply change my own behavior so that the person doesn't have the opportunity to do what they're doing. For example, if I'm in a relationship with an explosive person who yells at me, I can wait until he or she is in a quieter mood and say,"I can't handle it when you yell at me. So, I'm going to start leaving the room when you do that. I'll be glad to work out any problems we have, but not when you yell." Of course, then I will have to actually walk away.

In order to put these new ways of thinking and acting into practice, I will have to stop focusing on the other person's bad behavior. Blaming and complaining may initially make me feel better but in the long run just keeps me stressed without any solution. Turning my attention to what I can do differently sometimes makes me feel like I'm blaming myself. However, none of this is about who's to blame. It's about learning to solve my problems like a rational adult. I love science!

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