Have you ever had a not-all-that-well-fleshed-out theory that turned out to be something someone else already thought of? I have, many times. Of course, it might just be a trick of the imagination... an opportunistic ruse performed by an over-active ego... and not something I actually thought up on my own. I do that often enough, I suppose.
I have long held a belief that we have more power over our lives than we usually think. But I am not rich and/or famous so who would pay attention to my take on such things? If I had a doctorate in psychology, perhaps, but as just a mope in the crowd? No chance.
Even so, every so often, one finds support for one's hair-brained theories in the world of those who do, apparently, matter. Saturday, I came across an instance of this when I read about Dr. William Glasser's death at age 88. It brought back a number of memories about my own simple, somewhat parallel, theory. The doctor was ahead of me by at least 4 years. I began considering my version on New Year's Eve 1969.
In case you are interested, Dr. Glassman called it "Choice Theory"... a good name for it. The foundation for my version was in the observations at a New Year's party at a house in Ontario, California but the basic tenets formed much earlier, I believe, as I am sure Dr. Glassman's did. I was raised to believe that the choices I made were under my control. And that these choices were not limited to which toy to play with or other trivial matters but also affected how I would live my life.
On New Year's Eve in 1969, I drove up to Ontario, California from Long Beach with a few friends to attend a party. The events that night triggered my version of Choice Theory. At the time, I just considered it to be a theory on how we understand and interact with the immediate world around us. How we choose friends, how we evaluate events, how we form opinions... Of course, I was loaded on LSD at the time so examining one's navel was pretty much what I was preoccupied with.
I listened to some friends talk about the "disaster" the party had become when a group of bikers crashed it. A group of us had left rather than stay and I was the one with a vehicle which meant I pretty much had to go along. I had had no desire to leave. To me, the bikers had brought some life to a party that had deteriorated into dullness. When we returned after the bikers had left (about 2 hours later and after midnight), there was no evidence the "disaster" imagined by my friends had occurred. Still, that did not stifle their feelings about the party and that "disaster." Only I had a contrary view but I kept it to myself. I did not want to offend anyone.
I had decided the problems that afflicted my friends were much more self-imposed than they thought. They viewed life as something to battle, a war to be waged against external forces, rather than something to be appreciated. It's the old "glass half full or half empty" test.
This difference in approaching life had much to do with the problems of my first marriage. She seemed to think my purpose in her life was to make (and keep) her happy. Since she could not define what "happy" meant, it was an impossible task. And, so, I was doomed to failure. Once I realized this, the marriage was doomed... And I stopped caring whether she was happy or not.
Here are the basic tenets of Choice Theory:
- The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
- All we can give another person is information.
- All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
- The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
- What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
- We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.
- All we do is behave.
- All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.
- All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
- All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.
My own theory is simpler:
You create your own misery.