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A man can dispose of his agency or of his birthright, as did Esau of old, but when disposed of he cannot again obtain it—those who despise the proffered mercies of the Lord … have their agency abridged immediately and bounds and limits are set upon their operations … evil, when listened to, begins to rule and overrule the spirit God has placed within man.

Cited in Widtsoe, , pp. Talmage, , p. Their only opportunity was to choose evil and perpetuate it; therefore, they were destroyed. In support of this Joseph Fielding Smith , p. Hence it was better to destroy a few individuals, than to entail misery on many. And hence the inhabitants of the old world and of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, because it was better for them to die, and thus be deprived of their agency, which they abused, than entail so much misery on their posterity, and bring ruin upon millions of unborn persons.

This must mean that under the right conditions it is possible to totally control human behavior. We know that men can come under the bondage of sin if they choose evil. A final evidence that agency can be severely limited and that this can occur without the person himself making wrong choices is indicated by our knowledge that child-rearing events can shape future responses so powerfully as to virtually eliminate personal responsibility.

This is supported by scriptures that declare that small children are not responsible for their acts and cannot be held accountable for them and that if parents do not properly teach them, the eventual sin is put upon the heads of the parents. It is interesting that no such parental control is implied in relation to positive behavior. This is logical in that positive child rearing induces agency, that is, self-control in the child; whereas negative child rearing induces the bondage of Satan, which eliminates choice unless there is outside intervention.

There are numerous scriptures supporting this view. The term natural in the foregoing sentence probably can be interpreted as natural psychological processes such as imitative learning, conditioning, and repression. The existence of such losses of control or agency have been brought forcefully to my awareness during long hours of counseling as a psychotherapist and as a bishop. I have been convinced by many years of experience that every human being suffers defects of agency and control to some degree and that in a minority of cases the level of control has been so seriously reduced by biological defects or malignant childhood training that they are, in effect, not responsible for their behavior.

I am not speaking here of the normal cross-section of human weaknesses, even though they limit agency to some degree; because if we had perfect agency, it is doubtful that this life would be a test for us. Certainly, no one should be encouraged by these remarks to justify his misbehavior.

Our goal should be to resist the history of evil, to reverse the sins of our fathers, and to initiate a benign cycle that will traverse the generations and help people establish new levels of self-regulation. There is nothing more pitiful than the person who wants to control his behavior but is unable to do so.

Such individuals are buffeted by their own fears and impulses; their behavior is dominated by Satan. In such instances self-effort alone will not suffice. I would like to share with you two examples from my own experience. In both cases the presenting problem was compulsive or uncontrollable homosexuality. I found that a complex set of factors was operating in each of these cases. Not only was there a compulsive symptom but there were common underlying predispositions. As personal involvement with a member of the opposite sex increased, anxiety increased until feelings of panic ensued and the relationship was disrupted.

In addition, each of these persons lacked an adequate repertoire of social skills appropriate for engaging in normal male-female contacts and for deepening such relationships. And finally, each person had made the error of seeking warmth, security, and intimacy exclusively with members of the same sex and had permitted this pattern to develop into a powerfully reinforcing biological relationship. In doing so, their behavior became dominated by the immediacy of needs for affection and bodily satisfaction to the point that the ability to consciously choose was virtually obliterated.

We thus had three factors contributing to a serious diminution of agency: a phobia, a deficient social repertoire, and weakened impulse control. Our treatment of these cases cannot be documented in detail here, but it consisted first of reducing fears of the opposite sex by means of a technique called systematic desensitization. This gradually increases control, in that panic is no longer the invariable and automatic response to the formerly phobic events.

Secondly, we trained these persons by means of role playing or behavioral rehearsal in appropriate social skills because we soon learned that the removal of the phobic symptoms merely brought about the possibility of heterosexual adequacy. That is, systematic desensitization reduced an inhibition but did not provide a program of positive approach behavior. Once the new skills were learned, a third problem remained, namely, that there was still a compelling sexual impulse that persisted due to a lack of self-control and the strong biological reinforcement inherent in the act that made the arousal of control difficult.

We therefore instituted a self-control training procedure to assist in the agonizing struggle with the impulses which these clients had determined to overcome. Everything we had done up to this point prepared the way by gradually developing new controls and effectiveness in previously weak areas, but the critical difficulty still lay before us.

Before proceeding, I should parenthetically point out that if attempts at self-control of impulses had been initiated without these other changes, they probably would have failed; failure is the usual result when self-effort responses alone are implemented. Self-effort is admirable but ineffective in severe cases where so much control has been lost.

Toward a Theory of Human Agency

In these instances it is essential to reduce the strength of factors maintaining the undesirable behavior before proceeding directly to enhancing will power. This usually requires the assistance of others who temporarily aid the person in establishing new levels of control that could not be achieved by self-effort alone. At the same time, it is equally important to build up positive behaviors that can provide prosocial satisfactions as alternatives to the negative behavior that is being inhibited.

We next proceeded to develop and apply a method of direct training in control Bergin, This technique involved, first, a careful assessment of the events immediately preceding a loss of self-control. It was explained that failures in self-control often occurred because the effort to control was applied late in the sequence when the impulsive pattern had already reached a high level of intensity. Thus, the unexercised and undeveloped control ability was weak compared to the strength of the impulse, and it had to be applied early in the sequence to insure success.

The clients were then instructed to pay close attention to environmental situations and to personal reactions that might set off the undesired chain of events. It was evident that in the past they had not been aware of these events until they had reached an intermediate or high intensity; therefore two or three therapy sessions were devoted to repeatedly going over the chains and making them as explicit as possible.

Techniques for interrupting responses to stimuli early in the chains were discussed and, in imagination, practiced during the sessions. These included methods such as immediately switching to thoughts or activities unrelated to the chain, but it was always emphasized that this be done promptly so as to apply the greatest strength of control to the weakest strength of impulse.

Following this procedure was difficult for the clients at first, presumably because it totally reversed a strongly reinforced habit, but by persistence and encouragement they were soon able to practice it regularly. The clients reported their experiences in much the same terms in which addicts do. They described it as a feeling of climbing a very steep hill with a large pack on their backs.

Each effort at control was like another step up this impossible incline; but almost unexpectedly they seemed to reach a crest and the effort was then downhill and easy the rest of the way. The potency of this technique seems to lie in applying it to a specific problem that arises from an inadequately developed self-regulatory system. The emphasis here is on the assumption that there are such things as primary developmental defects in self-control that are responsive chiefly to techniques that emphasize the self in self-control, namely that the defect lies in the unpracticed will, in the self that does not consciously and vigorously regulate.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these cases is the phenomenon of impulse weakening as a direct result of consistent exercise in self-regulation. The result of this effort was that the clients soon gained control of their behavior in the presence of formerly compelling stimuli.

It also appears that the feelings and fantasies formerly associated with this range of stimuli actually disappeared as responses to them. Then the Savior turned his back on Satan with finality and commanded him to get hence. The management of self-effort responses has been applied in a number of additional cases, both normal and pathological, with relative success.

The process seems to follow a regular pattern that permits theoretical interpretation, although the notions I will now offer should not be dignified by the term theory. Mini-theory will suffice. Our thesis is that when a person consciously selects a behavioral goal and then finds his pathway to that goal obstructed by habits, impulses, or feelings over which he has little control, he can overcome these obstacles by the exercise of self-effort.

Technically it may be stated thus: The power of a consciously perceived stimulus to evoke an undesired response is directly proportional to the frequency with which the undesired response occurs. Decline in the power of such a stimulus complex is a direct function of the frequency with which the individual consciously and effectively resists acting out the usual response.

A corollary hypothesis is that stimuli early in the chain of behavior will evoke a weaker response and that responses of that order will be more readily inhibited than those of a higher order. If inhibition occurs more frequently at that level, breaking of the main, over-arching stimulus-response connection will be more frequent and more successful.

A growing substantive literature provides us with an increasingly useful picture of what it means to possess and maintain positive self-control within the context of an effective life-style. This moves us beyond the specific details of clinical pathology into the broad sweep of everyday life where control responses are harmoniously blended with expressive behavior into a balanced, self-regulated life.

The first quality of self-control is that it consists of voluntary action, and voluntary behavior requires a choice situation in which at least two incompatible acts are possible. The scriptures tell us that if there were no opposition, no law of opposites, there could be no agency.

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A second quality is the prominence of awareness or consciousness in self-control and the mediation of this control by language or other symbolic processes. A person is responsible when his behavior can thus be guided by symbols. Children, for example, acquire responsibility as they acquire control of action through language. A similar process occurs in all forms of psychotherapy.

Parenthetically, it is important for students to know that Freud stood for such ideas rather than the libertinism with which his name is associated.

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He was a great man and one not to be ignored by LDS scholars. The aspect of self-control role of beliefs or convictions. Convictions imply a concept of something beyond self, beyond individual need that regulates the processes of goal direction, achievement, and management of a positive life-style.

A large number of research studies permits us to outline additional specific dimensions of self-control and self-regulation. These include:. This includes the ability to tolerate tension, discomfort, and frustration. It is the inability to maintain awareness of means-ends sequences, that is, to anticipate consequences, that commonly characterizes the impulsive behavior of delinquents and criminals.

The more one is capable of long-range planning, the better is his control. Self-regulatory deficiencies often arise in persons who feel that they are the passive subjects of the forces of fate surrounding them. Their external locus of control leads them to behave in ways that only reinforce their belief in fate. Guilt aids us in preserving the integrity of our controls just as pain assists us in preserving the integrity of our bodies. If pain did not alert us to physical dangers and diseases, we would soon die. If our guilt mechanisms are not alert to moral dangers, we die just as certainly in a spiritual sense.

While it is possible to overdo guilt and become neurotically obsessed with seeming misdeeds, this is not usually the case. Cultivating a positive guilt response is therefore adaptively in the service of effective self-regulation. A number of additional factors influence degree of control, and I will merely list some conducted at Teachers College, Columbia University.

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Regulation is influenced by the subjectively evaluated importance of the task. Subjectively evaluated liking or disliking for task influences regulation. Existence of external deadlines or other concrete demands affects regulation. Formally structured role requirements are similar and affect self-regulation. Short-range schedules, lists, goals, deadlines, routines. This can yield over-control and eventual loss of control due to unadaptive rigidity. Long-range planning that imposes structure on the general course of life and task behavior.

Overcoming inertia to perform a task diminishes difficulty in performing or resisting the task on later trials. Positive or negative social reinforcement influences control in either direction, depending on whether approval or disapproval is involved and which behavior it is contingent upon. Control or expression may be involved. How important the social evaluator is influences the potency of this variable. A sense of responsibility and obligation to others influences self-control.

Self-Control

Feeling loved, accepted, and nurtured by significant others influences degree of regulation. The degree of confidence, competence, self-esteem, assurance, and security with regard to tasks and decisions influences regulation. Degree of sickness-health or good-bad physical feeling influences control. Interludes of diversion, relaxation, self-expression, or gratification during periods requiring regulation may facilitate or restrict self-regulation, depending on circumstances.

Feeling in control and being able to control seem to increase with age although there appear to be individual developmental fluctuations. In many ways the rejection of scientific psychology in the s, s and s was a backlash to the dominance of the behaviorist approach in North American psychology.

For example their belief in free-will is in direct opposition to the deterministic laws of science. Also, the areas investigated by humanism, such as consciousness and emotion are very difficult to scientifically study. The outcome of such scientific limitations means that there is a lack of empirical evidence to support the key theories of the approach.

However, the flip side to this is that humanism can gain a better insight into an individual's behavior through the use of qualitative methods, such as unstructured interviews. The approach also helped to provide a more holistic view of human behavior, in contrast to the reductionist position of science. Maslow, A. A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review , 50, Rogers, C. Significant aspects of client-centered therapy.

Toward a psychology of being 2nd ed. New York: D.


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Van Nostrand. A theory of therapy, personality and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework. In ed. Koch, Psychology: A study of a science. New York: McGraw Hill. McLeod, S. Toggle navigation. Self-actualization concerns psychological growth, fulfillment and satisfaction in life. Rogers and Maslow placed little value on scientific psychology , especially the use of the psychology laboratory to investigate both human and animal behavior.

Humanism views human beings as fundamentally different from other animals, mainly because humans are conscious beings capable of thought, reason and language. Key Features. Humans have free will; not all behavior is determined. All individuals are unique and are motivated to achieve their potential. A proper understanding of human behavior can only be achieved by studying humans - not animals. Psychology should study the individual case idiographic rather than the average performance of groups nomothetic.

Ignores biology e. Their belief in free will is in opposition to the deterministic laws of science. Humanistic psychology satisfies most people's idea of what being human means because it values personal ideals and self-fulfillment. Qualitative data gives genuine insight and more holistic information into behavior. Highlights the value of more individualistic and idiographic methods of study. Download this article as a PDF.