Read the following scenarios, and note the first thing that flashes into your mind when you ask yourself why it happened: Scenario #1: You've put a few calls in to one of your friends, and she hasn't called you back. Scenario #2: You and your teenage daughter are arguing more than usual. Scenario #3: Your marriage doesn't have the physical intimacy it used to. In the second place, the teacher will want to implement this point of view from the very first in his work with the class. Since this experience will run almost directly counter to all the previous educational experience of the student, careful thought should be given to the techniques used. It is desirable that the seating arrangement be a circle, or some physical arrangement which gives the instructor the same type of place as any member of the class. It is important that the purposes of the students should be foremost. The sessions may be started with a description by students of the problems they are facing, or with a discussion of problem areas. The writer has sometimes started a course with as simple a statement as this: This is a course labeled Dynamics of Personality (or whatever course is being taught). I suspect each of us had some sort of purpose in enrolling, even if that purpose was only to gain another credit. If we could begin telling what our purposes were, perhaps we can, together, build the course in such a way as to meet them. As personal purposes are stated (often hesitantly and haltingly), they are simply accepted, or the attitudes connected with them are clarified. Gradually issues arise out of these purposes, and the class is embarked upon its own curriculum construction. We have so many distractions available to us, and without healthier sources of connection, they're easy to grab on to. Consider smartphones. I remember the days when people attended my workshops and, during breaks, talked and got to know one another. Now, everyone's using that downtime to check email or socialize with people far away, ignoring the real folks right in the room with them. When I ask my students to put their phones away, you'd think I was denying them access to their drug. Given how often we call ours a connected society, it's ironic to talk about disconnection as a cause of addiction.

But the modern notion of connectedness feels more like a parody of human connection. My Facearticle and Twitter followers didn't sit with me when my parents died. It was my flesh and blood friends and family in the hospital room with me--people with whom I have deep, nuanced, and textured relationships. For too many of us, our society resembles a barren rat cage far more than a stimulating and supportive community. You probably had little or no problem answering those questions. How you answered depends on your explanatory style, which, as we've hinted, has three dimensions. The Three Dimensions of Explanatory Style Not Me (I'm to blame vs. Someone/something else is at fault) Not Always (The cause is permanent/fixed vs. The cause is temporary/it will pass) Everything vs. Not Everything (This affects all aspects of my life vs. This affects just this) However, this is not to say that things will run smoothly. In students who have, for anything from one to twenty years, experienced a class as a passive experience, such an opening of a course is at first puzzling, then downright frustrating. Negative feelings, often very strong ones, are aroused. At first they are not expressed because one does not talk back to or correct the teacher; I think we ought to have an outline, and follow it, and that you ought to teach us. We came here to learn from you, not to discuss among ourselves!

When negative attitudes such as these are understood and accepted, students begin to recognize the climate that exists. Some may not like the procedure, may heartily disapprove, but all recognize that this is a very different situation from that existing in the ordinary classroom. In this type of climate, changes take place in the student's thinking. When students are given the opportunity at the end of the course to express the meaning which the course has had for them, the emphasis is frequently upon the effects of the general atmosphere in the class. Helping addicts demands that we deepen connections. Rather than the tough love approach of I can't be with you because you're using, we need to say, I love you regardless of whether you're using. My love is unconditional and if you need me, I'll come be with you. I don't want you to feel alone. This doesn't mean that bad behavior is tolerated or goes unchecked. Heartbreaking accounts abound of parents whose kids stole from them or were violent toward them, and intimate partner abuse is a devastating and chronic problem across all demographics in the United States. Protecting yourself and enforcing appropriate boundaries are necessary and appropriate. The challenge is in loving and accepting someone while maintaining the boundaries that keep you safe. DEBUNKING OLD IDEAS ABOUT BEHAVIOR CHANGE I used to believe that willpower was the answer, that my mind was in charge. Do you tend to blame yourself (Me) or other people or circumstances (Not Me)? Here are some examples: Scenario #1: One of your friends hasn't called you back. Me: I've done something to offend her. Not Me: She's busy. Scenario #2: You and your teenage daughter have been arguing more lately.

Me: I've been less patient with her lately. Not Me: She's going through a phase. Scenario #3: Your marriage has lost physical intimacy. Me: I don't make time for him. Witness this statement of a student who had just completed the first student-centered course of his experience -- a course in adjustment counseling. I believe the effect upon me was therapeutic, and this may be why the struggle for expression of my fresh attitudes becomes so difficult to objectify. I say therapeutic even though I was not conscious of any deep need for help. I did not feel disturbed at all at the beginning of the quarter; I say therapeutic and I want the word to convey a slightly different meaning than it usually does; Probably a simpler way of putting it is to say that I experienced growth of some kind. The two words are intimately related. Yet I feel that even to connote this nonpathologic meaning, the word therapy is more concrete and descriptive of what happens when one feels an eventful, inspiring change within himself. I can remember the first meetings -- tension . It was so hard for us to take over. That since I wanted to lose weight so badly, I could just think myself out of eating dinner. Self-control was my thing. Studies on willpower9 suggest that's not how it works. Just do it might motivate in the short term, but not lastingly. Willpower works, in other words, only until it doesn't. We are masters of self-control only until something stressful comes up.

Then, our prefrontal cortex, the brain structure doing the thinking and planning, gets kicked offline, and we're suddenly subject to our primitive brain. Those urges we were willing away now become more powerful. The doughnuts we resisted all week suddenly own us when we confront the looming threat of a utility bill. Don't blame yourself. Not Me: He doesn't make time for me. Are you more of a Me or a Not Me? You're probably thinking that it depends on the situation, and it does. But each of us has a default setting or bias toward one or the other. So again, consider the kind of thinker you are: Me or Not Me? Knowing this will help you see if you are falling into a personalizing or externalizing trap, and enable you to use your new skills to see the other side of things. When you think about a problem, do you tend to settle on causes that will be around for a long time or ones that will pass? Take a look at these examples: Scenario #1: One of your friends hasn't called you back. Always: She's insensitive and uncaring. We were so dependent upon the customary leadership. We rebelled at taking the responsibility for our own learning. We wanted to get something from you. We wanted to get something from the course. Thus our needs would be met. Thus we would be one step nearer to our educational goal.