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MIND

Don't Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training

by Karen Pryor

A groundbreaking behavioral scientist and dynamic animal trainer, Karen Pryor is a powerful proponent of the principles and practical uses of positive reinforcement in teaching new behaviors. Here are the secrets of changing behavior in pets, kids--even yourself--without yelling, threats, force, punishment, guilt trips...or shooting the dog.


Read An Excerpt

A reinforcer is anything , occurring in conjunction with an act, that tends to increase the probability that the act will occur again.

Memorize that statement. It is the secret of good training.

There are two kinds of reinforcers: positive and negative. A positive reinforcer is something the subject wants, such as food, petting, or praise. A negative reinforcer is something the subject wants to avoid--a punishment, a frown, an unpleasant sound. (The warning buzzer if you don't fasten your seat belt is a negative reinforcer.)

Behavior that is already occurring, no matter how sporadically, can always be intensified with positive reinforcement. If you call a puppy, and it comes, and you pet it, the pup's coming when called will become more and more reliable even without any other training. Suppose you want someone to telephone you--your offspring, your parent, your lover. If he or she doesn't call, there isn't much you can do about it. A major point in training with reinforcement is that you can't reinforce behavior that is not occurring. If, on the other hand, you are always delighted when your loved ones do call, so that the behavior is positively reinforced, the likelihood is that the incidence of their calling will probably increase. (Of course, if you apply negative reinforcement--"Why haven't you called, why do I have to call you, you never call me," and so on, remarks likely to annoy--you are setting up a situation in which the caller avoids such annoyance by not calling you; in fact, you are training them not to call.)

Simply offering positive reinforcement for a behavior is the most rudimentary part of reinforcement training. In the scientific literature, you can find psychologists saying, "Behavioral methods were used," or, "The problem was solved by a behavioral approach." All this means is that they switched to positive reinforcement from whatever other method they were using. It doesn't imply that they used the whole bag of tricks described in this book; they may not even be aware of them.

Yet switching to positive reinforcement is often all that is necessary. It is by far the most effective way to help the bed-wetter, for example: private praise and a hug for dry sheets in the morning, when they do occur.

Positive reinforcement can even work on yourself. At a Shakespeare study group I once belonged to I met a Wall Street lawyer in his late forties who was an avid squash player. The man had overheard me chatting about training, and on his way out the door afterward he remarked that he thought he would try positive reinforcement on his squash game. Instead of cursing his errors, as was his habit, he would try praising his good shots.

Two weeks later I ran into him. "How's the squash game?" I asked. A look of wonder and joy crossed his face, an expression not frequently seen on a lawyer.

"At first I felt like a damned fool," he told me, "saying 'Way to go, Pete, attaboy,' for every good shot. Heck, when I was practicing alone, I even patted myself on the back. And then my game started to get better. I'm four rungs higher on the club ladder than I've ever been. I'm whipping people I could hardly take a point from before. And I'm having more fun. Since I'm not yelling at myself all the time, I don't finish a game feeling angry and disappointed. If I made a bad shot, never mind, good ones will come along. And I really enjoy it when the other guy makes a mistake, gets mad, throws his racquet--I just smile...."

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Trauma and Serious Mental Illness

by Steven N. Gold

For decades, the idea that serious mental illnesses (SMIs) are almost exclusively biologically-based and must be treated pharmacologically has been commonplace in psychology literature. As a result, many mental health professionals have stopped listening to their clients, categorizing their symptoms as manifestations of neurologically-based disturbed thinking. Trauma and Serious Mental Illness is the groundbreaking series of works that challenge this standard view and provides a comprehensive introduction to the emerging perspective of SMIs as trauma-based.

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Schizoid Phenomena, Object-Relations, and the Self

by Harry Guntrip, Ph.D

Sometimes we struggle without knowing why. The reason we don't know why is a psychological phenomenon called splitting or dissociating, or as psychiatrist Guntrip calls it, schizoid phenomenon. The book was a real eye opener for me in my crusade to shine the light of awareness on difficult to access emotional issues. Highly recommended for anyone wrestling gremlins but a must for five, eight and seven types in the Enneagram expert at hiding from themselves. Published in 1968, many of the chapters were papers originally presented at psychoanalytic conferences during the early 60s but the books remains a viable reference for the inner travelers today.

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Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples

by Harville Hendrix

The all-time classic to help deluded humans understand why we choose the people we do to love, and why it goes as poorly as it does. A must-read for anyone considering embarking on a romantic partnership or marriage. —MR

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Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse

by Mary Oliver

Writing poetry supports metabolization of emotion, inner knowledge and self-expression, spiritual growth and healthful relaxation. By the winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, here is a concise and engaging introduction to sound, rhyme, meter and scansion and why they matter. "True ease in writing comes from art, not chance/As those move easiest who have learned to dance," wrote Alexander Pope. With an anthology of 50 poems representing the best metrical poetry in English.

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Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within

by Byron Brown

Written by a student/teacher of the Diamond Approach, this book teaches its readers how to wriggle free of the grasp of the superego, so that spiritual growth can occur.

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Love Honor and Negotiate: Building Partnerships that Last a Lifetime

by Betty Carter & Joan Peters

Celebrated marriage and family therapist Betty Carter helps people see the effect of the Golden Rule on their marriages, i.e. "whoever has the gold makes the rules." Her insights and practices help women and men create a more balanced process of family decision making. She gently guides couples through getting in touch with and freeing themselves from the patterns they each learned in their family of origin, so they can be truly present for themselves and each other, hearing what the other person needs. In this way, readers learn how to negotiate honestly and fairly to resolve disagreements and help both parties get his and her needs met. This dissolves resentments and allows love and happiness to flourish.

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The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation

by Chögyam Trungpa

If you substitute the word "anxiety" for the word "suffering" in the title you will get a better sense of what I believe Siddhārtha Gautama was actually talking about. In fact, I feel he invented psychotherapy! "The Buddha" wasn't trying to start a religion any more than your average mental health counselor. He didn't say there isn't a god. He said that's NOT what I'm talking about. He was just trying to show folks how their minds worked and how, through a cognitive behavioral approach, how you can change how you think and operate to feel a whole lot better.
Author Trungpa was a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who popularized Buddhism in the last century in the West. While he was little crazy from chronic pain and PTSD which reflected in his personal life, this collection of talks (edited by Judith Lief into a book) is an excellent explanation of Buddhist contemplative practice and philosophy. Highly recommended!---MR

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