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Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom

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Overview

Dr. William Glasser offers a new psychology that, if practiced, could reverse our widespread inability to get along with one another, an inability that is the source of almost all unhappiness.

For progress in human relationships, he explains that we must give up the punishing, relationship–destroying external control psychology. For example, if you are in an unhappy relationship right now, he proposes that one or both of you could be using external control psychology on the ...

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Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom

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Overview

Dr. William Glasser offers a new psychology that, if practiced, could reverse our widespread inability to get along with one another, an inability that is the source of almost all unhappiness.

For progress in human relationships, he explains that we must give up the punishing, relationship–destroying external control psychology. For example, if you are in an unhappy relationship right now, he proposes that one or both of you could be using external control psychology on the other. He goes further. And suggests that misery is always related to a current unsatisfying relationship. Contrary to what you may believe, your troubles are always now, never in the past. No one can change what happened yesterday.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert H. Schuller
A few weeks after I received this book, I showed it to my television audience and said, 'This is a fabulous book.' I was impressed with its clarity, its many examples, and how we can all use it to improve our marriages, get along better with our families, and persuade our children to do well in school. Choice theory, as Dr. Glasser explains it, is a new psychology of health and joy.
Robert Lefever
Choice Theory is absolutely superb both in its ideas and in the way that it is presented in this book. It is in a class of its own in clarity and depth of understanding and is exceedingly helpful in clinical practice.
Richard L. Foster
Bill Glasser has always demonstrated insight and understanding in describing human behavior. In Choice Theory he has deepened his perspectives and shows the reader alternatives of appropriate behavior. This book is the best of Dr. Glasser's distinguished works—a must for people in the helping professions.
Kirkus Reviews
Feeling really blue lately? Sweeping aside decades of research on brain chemistry, Glasser concludes that you're not depressed; rather, you're choosing "to depress." Much-published psychiatrist Glasser (Stations of the Mind: New Directions for Reality Therapy, 1981 , etc.) believes that choices about human relationships are at the heart of almost all psychological problems and that what governs such interactions is "external control psychology." In other words, people generally try to coerce or manipulate others to achieve their goals. One of the more dubious tenets of his worldview is that most individuals believe "it is right, it is even my moral obligation, to ridicule, threaten, or punish those who don't do what I tell them to do." Today, the author posits, relationships at home, work, and school should be characterized by a total absence of effort to control or even judge, that the focus should be on improving the relationship alone. This makes for an ultra-laissez-faire approach to much human interaction. For example, Glasser argues that failing students is inherently "abusive," that a student who can't understand Shakespeare should be switched to James Herriot instead. Whatever happened to innovative approaches to learning, to teaching young people to persevere when facing difficulties? Granted, Glasser's pragmatic approach, which is elaborated in only the most general terms, may sometimes be more helpful than much psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy. In general, however, this is a grating book, for the author makes grandiose claims on behalf of his one-dimensional theory (which happens not to be terribly new at all). And Glasser relentlessly touts choice theory, evenenvisioning, in a community he's trying to transform, "homeless people getting together for dinner and a discussion of [this] book." Wouldn't it be better if the townspeople, and the country, chose instead to deal with the roots of homelessness?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060930141
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/28/1999
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 146,527
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Meet the Author

William Glasser, M.D., is a world-renowned psychiatrist who lectures widely. His numerous books have sold 1.7 million copies, and he has trained thousands of counselors in his Choice Theory and Reality Therapy approaches. He is also the president of the William Glasser Institute in Los Angeles.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


We Need a New Psychology

Suppose you could ask all the people in the world who are not hungry, sick, or poor, people who seem to have a lot to live for, to give you an honest answer to the question, "How are you?" Millions would say, "I'm miserable." If asked why, almost all of them would blame someone else for their misery--lovers, wives, husbands, exes, children, parents, teachers, students, or people they work with. There is hardly a person alive who hasn't been heard saying, "You're driving me crazy. . . . That really upsets me. . . . Don't you have any consideration for how I feel? . . . You make me so mad, I can't see straight." It never crosses their minds that they are choosing the misery they are complaining about.

Choice theory explains that, for all practical purposes, we choose everything we do, including the misery we feel. Other people can neither make us miserable nor make us happy. All we can get from them or give to them is information. But by itself, information cannot make us do or feel anything. It goes into our brains, where we process it and then decide what to do. As I explain in great detail in this book, we choose all our actions and thoughts and, indirectly, almost all our feelings and much of our physiology. As bad as you may feel, much of what goes on in your body when you are in pain or sick is the indirect result of the actions and thoughts you choose or have chosen every day of your life.

I also show how and why we make these painful, even crazy, choices and how we can make better ones. Choice theory teaches that we are much more in control of our lives than we realize. Unfortunately, much of that controlis not effective. For example, you choose to feel upset with your child, then you choose to yell and threaten, and things get worse, not better. Taking more effective control means making better choices as you relate to your children and everyone else. You can learn through choice theory how people actually function: how we combine what is written in our genes with what we learn as we live our lives.

The best way to learn choice theory is to focus on why we choose the common miseries that we believe just happen to us. When we are depressed, we believe that we have no control over our suffering, that we are victims of an imbalance in our neurochemistry and hence that we need brain drugs, such as Prozac, to get our chemistry back into balance. Little of this belief is true. We have a lot of control over our suffering. We are rarely the victims of what happened to us in the past, and, as will be explained in chapter 4, our brain chemistry is normal for what we are choosing to do. Brain drugs may make us feel better, but they do not solve the problems that led us to choose to feel miserable.

The seeds of almost all our unhappiness are planted early in our lives when we begin to encounter people who have discovered not only what is right for them--but also, unfortunately, what is right for us. Armed with this discovery and following a destructive tradition that has dominated our thinking for thousands of years, these people feel obligated to try to force us to do what they know is right. Our choice of how we resist that force is, by far, the greatest source of human misery. Choice theory challenges this ancient I-know-what's-right-for-you tradition. This entire book is an attempt to answer the all-important question that almost all of us continually ask ourselves when we are unhappy: How can I figure out how to be free to live my life the way I want to live it and still get along well with the people I need?

From the perspective of forty years of psychiatric practice, it has become apparent to me that all unhappy people have the same problem: They are unable to get along well with the people they want to get along well with. I have had many counseling successes, but I keep hearing my mentor, Dr. G. L. Harrington, the most skillful psychiatrist I've ever known, saying, "If all the professionals in our field suddenly disappeared, the world would hardly note their absence." He was not disparaging what we do. He was saying that if the goal of psychiatrists is to reduce the misery rampant in the world and to help human beings get along with each other, their efforts have hardly scratched the surface.

To begin to approach that goal, we need a new psychology that can help us get closer to each other than most of us are able to do now. The psychology must be easy to understand, so it can be taught to anyone who wants to learn it. And it must be easy to use once we understand it. Our present psychology has failed. We do not know how to get along with each other any better than we ever have. Indeed, the psychology we have embraced tends to drive us apart. In the area of marriage alone, it is clear that the use of this traditional psychology has failed.

I call this universal psychology that destroys relationships because it destroys personal freedom external control psychology. The control can be as slight as a disapproving glance or as forceful as a threat to our lives. But whatever it is, it is an attempt to force us to do what we may not want to do. We end up believing that other people can actually make us feel the way we feel or do the things we do. This belief takes away the personal freedom we all need and want.

Choice Theory. Copyright © by William Glasser. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Customer Reviews

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( 15 )
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  • Posted February 18, 2011

    changed my life

    Changed my way of thinking. I have read this book many times. Each time I process another piece of the theory that I can use to help me deal with life and help me build strong relationships with others.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    A book full of choices!

    This book is relevent for students or therapists who are intersted in reality therapy or choice theory. Mental illness is a choice. Clients can either wallow in their sympoms or they can choose to find a new way to live! and we, as therapists, can help them do it...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2001

    Clearer than ever - it's about relationships

    As a non-psychologist who read several prior books from Dr. Glasser, this is the most direct and simple book I have read from him. From the first sentence, Dr. Glasser asserts that poor relationships are at the root of all human problems. He then explains the needs-pictures-choices-total behaviors cause/effect chain that determines how we feel. Our deepest suffering is invariably the outcome of believing that someone else's behaviors are indispensable to the satisfaction of our needs. Dr. Glasser also reaffirms his revolutionary views of most mental illnesses as chosen behaviors. His examples of dramatic successes helping people through Reality Therapy are compelling. If you enjoy blaming circumstances and other people for your troubles, don't read this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

    DR. Glasser has not only organized his own "terminology" for the diverse subject matter of mental health, but has presented the language in every day situations and easy to follow case studies. It is a book which can be referenced at a moments notice and will not wear it self out.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2007

    This book saved my life!

    Suffering from clinical depression for the first 12 years of adulthood, it was suggested I read this book written by Dr. William Glasser. Because the symptoms of my depression were debilitating and tired of going in and out of institutions while trying one medication after another, (not to mention the dozens of psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists, counselors who suggested things that seemed to have no positive effect) I was willing to try anything that may give ANY relief. I read it----Choice Theory-----then my new life began! I was free of depression and darkness. Finally! I survived long enough to find the answer. It was that simple. He clearly explained what depression is, how to eliminate it and what choices I could make to become happy and create meaning. This is NO self help book---it is a solution to something that almost killed me. It has been five years since I read Choice Theory. Five years of wonderful life that I have enjoyed thanks to Dr. Glasser's revolutionary concepts! If you can't afford to buy this book go to the library!!!! I have recommended this book to every person who has told me about his/her depression. The people who have not read it still suffer from their illness. The people who tell me they have read it have stories similar to mine and have totally recreated the way they live and think. It is amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2005

    A good idea at the bottom of a lot of dross

    Choice Theory contains a few genuinely good ideas that come wrapped up in extraordinary, unproven claims that ultimately mar the message. The sections on improving relationships probably can work to better most school and workplace interactions, and even marriages or romantic involvements. The (untested) suggestions that, in the mental health field, Choice Theory can replace the need for medication makes Glasser come off as a kind of quack, and its actual applicability in domestic violence situations ranges from questionable to downright dangerous. As with any book, read for the good ideas, and strain out the more outrageous claims.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2004

    FINALLY-- SOMEONE WHO TELLS IT SIMPLY

    Dr. Glasser tells in simple English the basis for most of unhappiness in life--faulty human interaction. I have been studying both current and dawn of the subject university text for years on psychology, but Dr. Glasser's approach is so simple, it almost seems too simple--but his approach to detangling how we think and interact with those around us works in everyday life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2002

    I was glad I chose this book to read!

    I was so relieved to see this information in writing as it makes perfect sense and it follows the heart of being human. This book makes you look at the things that puzzle you and be honest with yourself about issues that can make or break your mental health. I plan to reread some parts as it may have had some parts that I want to rethink - I think it was having to do with religion...have to check. I liked the psychology of choice and hope it gets used more in terms of employers doing their part...

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    Posted June 29, 2009

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    Posted January 18, 2011

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