Clayton E. Tucker-Ladd’s “Psychological Self-Help” is a web-based book that analyses aspects involved in self improvement. This book provides the reader with several ideas/ premises which may be applied in life. The first premise is that in solving a problem, one should aim at developing a system that can be applied to analyze a problem and divide it into manageable parts. He also asserts that to accomplish goals, one should consider what they value most and want to achieve (Covey, 1992; Tucker-Ladd, 2004). This book is not based on few premises but many far reaching and interweaving ones. The main focus, however, is on solving problems. He proposes an approach of understanding the problem and the solution. The author explores values and morals, the search of meaning in one’s life, setting goals and developing good personal characters. In terms of personal values and morals, the Tucker-Ladd explains that morals are necessary because they provide guidance in life; inspire and motivate; help one overcome failure; and improve self esteem. Besides this, Tucker-Ladd teaches on managing depression, anger and aggression in different contexts such as in a family or relationship.
Two recommendations made by this book are: how to change ones behavior by changing their environment and how to apply a consequence method or reward to motivate oneself. First, changing ones environment can be the catalyst needed to change one’s behavior. The environment strongly influences one’s behavior. To explain this, Tucker-Ladd gives the examples of how one drives while effortlessly paying attention to the road and traffic lights or takes notes in a classroom without thinking much about what to write. This shows that the environment releases stimuli that control behavior. People may apply this knowledge in their lives by avoiding environmental cues that elicit bad behavior. The value of this is that it can be applied in many areas, for example, an obese person may avoid smell or sight of food. The second recommendation is the consequence method of reward. External rewards such as good living, a nice car and a big house may provide extrinsic motivation to a college applicant thinking about doing law. On the other hand, internal rewards such as enjoyment of history or a lesson on torts may provide intrinsic motivation to the same applicant (Tucker-Ladd, 2004). Tucker-Ladd teaches that one may use intrinsic and extrinsic motivation through rewards but should learn how to balance them to maximize positive outcomes.
There are two practices suggested in this book that may be too simple for readers or cause problems. First is the Rational-Emotive imagery therapy and Implosion. Implosion is the use of fantasy to cure fears. For example, a person with the fear of driving may be told to imagine driving a sports car along a highway while increasing the speed. He may then be told to imagine that his car turns into something fantastically scary such as a big sex object that crushes into another vehicle. This is aimed at erasing the primary fear of driving. The difficulty with this approach is that one cannot surprise themselves. This method also goes against Freudian thinking where greater fears such as the fear of death would take over. The second recommendation that may present challenges for the individual is using determinism to be happy. This method is aimed at reducing the practice of assigning happiness to material things. For example, if one believes that they will be happy only if they have certain material things in their life such as vehicles, houses etc. Determinism is the practice of doing one’s best and accepting the outcome. For example in a relationship or work position, determinism involves doing one’s best and realizing that one may not always appreciate it. This practice is difficult because it is not easy for people to accept failure.
Tucker-Ladd, provides numerous references. Most of these references are very credible because they include journals and academic research papers from reputable institutions and researchers. The references used are useful in obtaining more information on some of the methods discussed. For example, Tucker-Ladd refers to some sources when talking about a field he has not delved into. An example of this is when he quotes Adler (1985) when talking about the subject of mood-altering drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, tranquilizers and anti-depressants. He admits his limit knowledge in this field of drugs and refers the reader to a better source on the same. In addition, Tucker-Ladd borrows some theories and hypothesis from other sources such as the Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis by (Byrne & Kelly, 1981) and Berkowitz (1989) or (Aronson, 1984), who talk about the level of frustration one gets if they fail to achieve a highly desirable goal.
Five theories on psychology mentioned in this book include the social learning theory; Sternberg’s theory, attribution theory; cognitive theory and self-psychology theory. The social learning theory states that humans are not innately aggressive. Bandura (1973) states that frustration is the main cause of aggression, he argues that aggression is learnt from observation of aggressive models and from accepting reward from aggression. The reward may be from the satisfaction of stopping the aggression of others; from getting praise as a result of being aggressive; self-reinforcement or self-praise or from reducing tension (Mallick & McCandless, 1999). Tavris (1984) adds that anger is a social event. Sternberg’s theory examines why people get angry. Sternberg (2005) proposes a theory on love, stating that love has three parts: intimacy, passion and commitment. The love one obtains in life is made up of the different love stories one has heard about. These same ideas are applied to hate. The more of the three parts of love or hate one has, the more hate or love one can show Sternberg (2005). I have come across this theory before and its use in the company setting is familiar. The attribution theory (Hume, 1739) helps one understand motivation and behavior. I have not come across this theory before. Its application is not familiar to me. The cognitive theory asserts that reasonable as well as unreasonable fears are related to thoughts. Logical thought helps one distinguish between these fears. However, for a person who is frightened, this is difficult to do. I am familiar with this theory and have encountered it while studying on the phenomenon of fear. This theory may be applied when one considers that survival is highly dependent on cognition. This is the recognition of real dangers such as driving while on the phone or entering into a business agreement with a partner who is dishonest. The self-psychology theory states that stress results from conflict with the self and actual self; perception of needs; view of reality and beliefs and values (Epstein, 1993). I have not encountered this theory before.
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