Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom

Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom

by William Glasser
     
 

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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

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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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
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.
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:
9780062031020
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/16/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
108,624
File size:
2 MB

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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What People are saying about this

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."
Dr. 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."
Dr. 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."

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