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Take an honest look at your life, and you will see no evidence that your children will have happier marriages; that you and they will get along better; or that they will do better in school or at work than you, your parents or your grandparents. Dr. Glasser claims that, lacking good relationships, more and more people choose mental illness, psychosomatic disease, drug abuse, senseless violence and sex without any thought of love.
For progress in human relationships, he explains that we must give up the punishing, relationship-destroying external control psychology that is by far the dominant one in the world. For example, if you are in an unhappy relationship right now, your unhappiness is caused by one or both of you using external control psychology on the other.
But he goes further. If, for example, you are depressed, your 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.
In one of this century's most significant books on psychology, Dr. Glasser offers choice theory, a non-controlling psychology that gives us the freedom to sustain the relationships that lead to healthy, productive lives. Through clear, vivid language and numerous examples, he makes this vital new psychology come alive. Learning it could change your life.
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.