Self-Help Advice Books Your Erroneous Zones

About the self-help book Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne Dyer, history and advice from the book.



The Head Man: Wayne Dyer, formerly a practicing therapist and an associate professor at St. John's University in New York, is now occupied almost exclusively with writing and lecturing. In addition to the bestselling Your Erroneous Zones, he has written four other books and many professional articles. His latest book is Pulling our Own String.

Overview: A humanist, Dyer belongs to the here-and-now school of living (which once was the grasshopper, or live-today-for-tomorrow-we-die, school); believes in choosing growth situations rather than in sticking with rigid, unexamined routines; and says that you can choose your own behavior, do anything you want to do. His book covers about a dozen "erroneous zones" (areas of self-defeating behavior), including approval-seeking, being hung up in the past, feeling guilty, being afraid of the unknown, seeking justice, procrastinating, being dependent, and displaying anger. In each case, Dyer describes the behavior, gives the historical reasons for it, shows by example how it operates, tells its neurotic payoffs (usually safety or security), and then lists specific strategies for dealing with it. The book is heavy with details, with common sense, and with quotes from sources as diverse as Mark Twain and Carlos Casteneda.

Help-Yourself Advice: The following are general strategies for eliminating self-defeating behavior, without Dyer's specific applications.

1. Live in the here and now, realizing that you cannot change what has been. Ask what you are avoiding by engaging presently in behavior you want to eliminate. Whatever you want to do, do it now!

2. Love yourself. Decide you are too important to engage in self-destructive behavior. On occasion, indulge yourself.

3. Select new responses to triggers that come from others. Eliminate from your vocabulary sentences that signal self-defeating behavior (for example, "I'm too old to . . .") and replace them with others.

4. Assess the real consequences of what you are concerned about risking. Ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that would happen if . . ."

5. Engage in desirable behavior for limited periods of time; then extend the periods. Pick specific times to do things you want to do. Meditate at 4:15 P.M., for example.

6. Label your behavior out loud. Tell people what habits you are trying to break and ask them to remind you when you slip--perhaps by using a signal like tugging at an ear.

7. Assign to others attitudes that belong to them with sentences beginning with "you"--for example, "You are angry that . . ."

8. Deliberately seek out a situation that requires the behavior you want to encourage in yourself.

9. Become aware of what you do. Examine it. See what lies behind it.

10. Make lists. For example, if you are trying not to be too conventional, make a list of the rules you abide by, then revise them in terms of what you really believe in.

11. Keep a journal in which you write down the details of occasions on which you have displayed certain behavior.

12. Break a circle of self-defeating behavior at its weakest point.

13. Remember that you have no responsibility to make others happy, just as they have no obligation to make you happy.

14. Don't equate performance with self-worth.

15. Consult with others about things you want to change.

16. Set your own standards. Expect disapproval.

17. Risk doing something you never dared to do before--saying "I love you" to someone, for example.

18. Decide to stop undesirable behavior right at this moment.

19. Reconsider your own value system.

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