Friday, January 30, 2009

The Makings Of A Terrific Book

I'm in a class right now on church conflict management with Dr. Carlus Gupton. We've been reading lots and lots of different approaches and models for how to analyze, prevent, and deal with conflicts.

Some of my favorite books to read are collections of short stories. Incidentally, one of my all time favorites is by Jimmy Buffett--yes, that Jimmy Buffett--called Tales From Margaritaville. It's a highly entertaining read. But I love the idea of developing a set of characters, and rather than looking at everything from one person's view or experiences, giving importance to a wide assortment of people, enjoying the way they bump into one another through life's experiences.

In my class, we got to one place in our reading where Goodman and Maultsby have put together a list of different types of irrational thinking. This is published in their Emotional Well-Being Through Rational Behavior Training.

When I'm done with Grad school, I've always wanted to write. Part of why I've continued to blog is because I want to develop my skill in this regard. Most likely, I'll continue to develop classes, sermons, and didactic works, and perhaps I'll get something published at some point. But I would love to compose a set of short stories, whether I could ever find anyone to publish it or not.

So for you writing types, if you can't find some good character/conflict inspiration from this set of irrational thinking traits, I don't know what else could possibly inspire you. I laugh to myself just reading through this list, imagining the possibilities.

Types of irrational thinking
1. Inconsistency: The person expects high standards from himself or others some
times, and not at others.

2. The non sequitur: His reasoning has gaps in it, hence the use of the term non sequitur, Latin for “it doesn’t follow.” He concludes that he will not believe what someone says because they have long hair or are late for an appointment.

3. Generalizing from a few particulars: The person makes general conclusions based on a few isolated facts, as in the case of deciding that all people belonging to a certain group have qualities that he has found in one or two members of that group.

4. Exaggeration: The person describes a moderate failure as a catastrophe or an inconvenience as a terrible problem.

5. Building a case: The person selects only those observations about someone or something that fits his preconceived conclusion—favorable or unfavorable.

6. Shifting responsibility: Instead of assessing responsibly for a given situation to one or more possible causes, the person arbitrarily assigns it to a person he has selected or a condition he has decided, in advance, is the cause.

7. Viewing feelings as facts: The person believes that because he reacts to something or someone in a certain way that is emotional, this means, therefore, that something or someone actually is the way he views them.

8. Viewing memories as present-day realities: The person persists in thinking, feeling, and acting today as if certain past events or conditions were still in effect and still governing his behavior.

9. Perceiving remote possibilities as imminent probabilities: The person fails to distinguish between these two very different situations. He cannot see the difference between “could” and “is likely to.”

10. Trying to reconstruct reality: The person thinks in the “as if” mode, declaring that a person or situation “should” be different than it is, simply because he wants it to be that way, failing to recognize the antecedents for something being the way it is.

11. Expecting immediate or rapid change: Impatience, in itself, can lead to irrational conclusions about the speed of changes in situations or other’s or one’s own behavior. The emotional desire for change interferes with clear perception as to its feasibility and its speed.

12. Following established habit patterns: The satisfaction derived from repeating behavior interferes with clear perception as to whether the behavior is personally or socially desirable. The person reasons that because a behavior was gratifying in the past, it deserves to be repeated in the future, regardless of consequences.

13. Assuming one’s behavior is externally caused: This assumes a direct relationship between outside events and one’s own feelings, thoughts or actions, ignoring one’s own role in creating behavior.

14. Assuming one is responsible for whatever happens: This is the opposite of No. 13 above and is based on the arbitrary concept of self-blame, rather than an objective weighing of various causes. This is also the opposite of No. 6, wherein one shifts responsibility to others arbitrarily, resulting in “other-blame,” and ultimately to paranoia.

15. Perfectionism: The person thinks in terms of “always,” I never,” “have to” and “must not” with respect to his own behavior and that of others, or in regard to conditions and situations he either insists be achieved or demands be maintained. He does not recognize fallibility as an inescapable quality of human beings.

16. Magical thinking: The person believes that something will or might happen because he dreams, feels, or thinks that it should, according to some preconceived “system” of ideas he has adopted. Astrology, superstition, witchcraft, and other arbitrary ideologies are classic examples of the magical way of perceiving and interpreting the world.

17. Mind reading: The person believes he can “feel” what other people are thinking or that they can feel what he is thinking. He thus imagines many reactions that may be totally at variance with reality.

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