In Control, by Redford Williams, M.D. and Virginia Williams, Ph.D. -- Book Review

Book Classification : Health - Psychology - Self-Help - Stress & Anger Management

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In Control : No More Snapping at Your Family, Sulking at Work, Steaming in the Grocery Line, Seething in Meetings, Stuffing your Frustration
by Redford Williams, M.D. and Virginia Williams, Ph.D.
Hardcover - 288 pages
First Edition, March 7, 2006
Published by Rodale Books

ISBN-10 : 1-59486-256-7 / ISBN 1594862567
ISBN-13 : 978-1-59486-256-4

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Book Review

The unique perspective of behavioral experts Redford Williams, M.D. and Virginia Williams, Ph.D. is that, for a modern person to be stressed is our default condition. Stress is the condition of not possessing a certain learnable skill. To be free of stress is to have developed a particular kind of habit through practice.

They further identify eight steps that need to be followed to become one of the habitually happy and self-directed individuals. These steps are presented in the form of an eight-week program.

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Redford Williams, M.D. and Virginia Williams, Ph.D.,
In Control :
No More Snapping at Your Family, Sulking at Work, Steaming in the Grocery Line, Seething in Meetings, Stuffing your Frustration

In Control begins with a brief overview of what is now known about the mind and body connection, in terms of such measureables as cholesterol and the low-serotonin gene, that may send the stressed-out person on the path of a weakened immune system and heart disease. Then a self-assessment quesitonaire establishes a individual profile to helps to make the subsequent program more specific for the personality type.

The remainder of the book is an action plan structured as eight chapters in eight weeks.

During the first week, the reader becomes aware that feelings and moods are, more often than we might have expected, a matter of bodily sensations. Recording these signals in a log is recommended, which will inevitably give you a wake-up call.

About the Authors

Redford Williams, MD, is director of the Behavioral Medicine Research Center, professor of psychology, professor of psychiatry, and professor of medicine at the Duke University Medical Center. He has served as president of the American Psychosomatic Society, Society of Behavioral Medicine, and Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research, and he is president-elect of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine.

Virginia Williams, PhD, is the president of William Lifeskills, Inc., in Durham, North Carolina, and has organized and led workshops teaching the In Control process to thousands of individuals, corporations, and government agencies around the world.

The Williamses also co-authored Anger Kills , a bestseller, and Lifeskills . They live outside of Durham, North Carolina.

- From the Publisher

The second week of practice teaches you to weigh factors like a jury. The internal "volcano" tends to cools off when you know how to analyze whether your negative emotions are important, appropriate, and modifiable.

The following week includes several exercises that free oneself of the tendency to remain overly vigilant and overreact. It's possible to terminate thoughts that interfere, and to react in a situation, and in a manner, that you have consciously decided is important for you.

Week 4 covers the skill of choosing solutions and actions. The challenge of each moment in life is to make the transition from a set of "all possible solutions" to making a decision. One must also use outcomes to readjust actions.

The objective of week 5 is to apportion your time, thereby restoring equilibrium to your life. Frequently this involves the skill of knowing when and how to say "no" to other people. You must handle the requests and demands received from others. It takes a little practice to express a "no" that is simple, unaccusatory, unambiguous, and doesn't require you to offer a justification. It's also helpful to realize when it's appropriate to delay before answering.

Communication skills are practiced during week 6. While one part of the problem is acquiring the spontaneity to "just go ahead and speak", "just do it" [172], it's a bit more complicated than that. You must also know how to "help others stay open to what you have to say" [166], to "speak up for the right amount of time" [171], to "speak from personal exerience" [176], and to "be specific" [177]. The chapter also includes lessons in listening effectively, which includes reading the subtle cues of other people's body language.

Table of Contents
Introduction : Life's Winnersxi
Chapter 1 -- The Scientific Perspective: The Skills You'll Learn Could Save Your Life3
Chapter 2 -- Are You in Control?32
Chapter 3 -- Week 1: Recognize Your Emotions45
Chapter 4 -- Week 2: Weigh the Evidence68
Chapter 5 -- Week 3: Gain Control of Your Reactions89
Chapter 6 -- Week 4: Resolve Problems and Implement Solutions108
Chapter 7 -- Week 5: Assert Yourself and Learn to Say No128
Chapter 8 -- Week 6: Improve Communication When Speaking and Listening166
Chapter 9 -- Week 7: Empathize with Others196
Chapter 10 -- Week 8: Learn to Look Up211
Epilogue: Welcome to Life More Under Your Control233
Appendix: The Self-Assessment Quiz235

The activities of week 7 promote empathy, and awareness of the reason for what the other person feels, says and does. The others around you have their own vulnerabilities, the certain things that they're proud of, and special circumstances at home. Empathy will improve both family and career relationships.

The lesson for week 8 has to do with a fascinating observation: the group of people who have long-lasting marriages has been found to be correlated with the group of people who have been measured to have a five-to-one ratio in their optimistic versus pessimistic comments. The text explains how to acquire the habit of being one of those five-to-one individuals. When you make more positive and fewer critical remarks, not only will you "catch the happiness habit" [215], but you will also be more effective with a partner, in parenting, and in a career.

The authors, who previously wrote the books Anger Kills and LifeSkills , worked subsequently with clients in high stress occupations. This led them to the decision that they must go beyond the more internal and emotional subject matter of their previous books, and develop a new program more focused on outward, externally visible, progress, such as success in diverse activities, including "sustaining relationships" and "worldly success." [8] They call their newer program In Control .

Like good scientists, the authors borrow from the work of others; for example, they cite results from the "self-efficacy" research of psychologist Alfred Bandura of Stanford University.

If you find yourself, as the book's subtitle says, snapping, sulking and seething, try practicing Williams' and Williams' new program for eight weeks. Just implement the exercises, and then let yourself be surprised when you notice the changes in your mood, and the improvements in the relationships that you have at work or at home.

Book review by Mike Lepore for

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Book Description from the Publisher

Have you ever lost your temper over trivial matters? Stuffed your anger deep inside? Sulked because you didn't get your way? Felt lost in an increasingly confusing modern world? If so, you may not be in control.

Redford Williams, MD, and Virginia Williams, PhD, are internationally recognized as experts in behavioral medicine. Together, they have developed a clinically proven program that reduces depression and helps people to lead healthier, more successful lives.

You'll start by taking a 30-question self-assessment quiz, which will pinpoint your trouble areas. For eight weeks, you'll then focus on each of those areas, learning to control your reactions, problem solve with creativity, assert yourself, and respond to difficult situations with poise and confidence.

Based on cutting-edge research by Redford and his colleagues, In Control draws on the most exciting developments in the field of behavioral medicine. With this easy-to-follow book, you'll learn to handle anything -- from stress at work to traffic jams and grocery store lines.

Book Reviews

"Most of us have never received emotional training. As a result, our emotions drive us rather than serve us, impairing our relationships, work, and life. Redford and Virginia Williams have come up with tested methods for changing this situation. They share their findings and very practical advice in this well-researched book."

-- Andrew Weil, MD, best-selling author of
Healthy Aging : A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being

"Few authors outline the adverse health consequences of anger as well as Redford and Virginia Williams. Their new book relates their years of research in the field, study of behavior skills, and real-life examples so that readers may ultimately recognize their emotions and remain as their title suggests -- In Control."

-- Congressman Tim Murphy, PhD, and Loriann Hoff Overlin,
authors of Overcoming Passive-Aggression: How to Stop Hidden Anger
from Spoiling Your Relationships, Career, and Happiness

"This excellent book makes a strong case for changing your emotional style to help yourself feel happier -- and maybe even healthier. The authors, international experts on the topic, outline clinically proven strategies in a highly readable format. A thought-provoking book about reshaping your life!"

-- Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD., S. Robert Davis Chair of Medicine,
professor and director, Division of Health Psychology,
Department of Psychiatry, Ohio State University of Medicine

" In Control is based on solid scientific research and the exceptional professional skills and experience of the authors. Research has shown that the programs described in this volume have proved effective in helping people to overcome depression, hostile feelings, and social isolation while increasing emotional intelligence, self-efficacy, and self-esteem."

-- Charles D. Spielberger, PhD, ABPP, Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology;
director, Center for Research in Behavioral Medicine and Health Psychology, University of South Florida;
past president, American Psychological Association

"The balance we learn from In Control can have positive ripples in our work life, family life, and physical health -- especially our heart health. Williams helps us to heal our free-floating rage, redirecting that anger toward a healthy assertion -- and a healthy surrender. Reap the benefits of In Control , and you will live a vastly healthier life, in mind and in body."

-- Henry Dreher, director of Cancer Guide Consultations
and author of Mind-Body Unity: A New Vision for Mind-Body Science and Medicine

"Redford and Virginia Williams draw upon research, as well as their marriage of 40 years, to develop this evidence-based program. Readers interested in living a happier, healthier life will want to learn these skills."

-- Paul T. Costa, Jr., PhD, professor of behavioral biology,
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns-Hopkins University of Medicine;
and chief, Laboratory of Personality and Cognition Intramural Research Program,
National Institute on Aging/NIH

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