Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom
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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 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.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #9768 in Books
- Published on: 1999-02-01
- Released on: 1999-01-06
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: .88" h x 5.64" w x 7.84" l, .64 pounds
- Binding: Paperback
- 368 pages
- ISBN13: 9780060930141
- Condition: New
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Southern California psychiatrist William Glasser, the author of Reality Therapy, believes that almost all human misery is caused by people trying to control others. In fact, he says, the only behavior we can control is our own; by the same token, no one can make us do anything we don't want to. It's only when we give up spending our energy trying to force others to conform to our ideas or to keep them from doing the same to us that we are able to live the way we want to. Glasser makes this somewhat difficult material easier to understand with examples and case studies from his own practice. For instance, he tells a man whose wife has left him that his only choices are to change what he wants her to do or to change the way he is dealing with her. While doing these things will not necessarily bring his wife back, Glasser says, it will certainly make him feel better. "When we actually begin to realize that we can control only our own behavior, we immediately start to redefine our personal freedom and find, in many instances, that we have much more freedom than we realize," Glasser writes.
Glasser has worked with choice theory for half of his 40 years of psychiatric practice. Basically, choice theory helps its users avoid confrontation and ask pertinent questions. It sees conscious or unconscious desire for external control as the main problem in the four major personal relationships: husband-wife, parent-child, teacher-student, and manager-worker. If you think you can control others, it counsels, you are in for trouble, for the only person you can control is yourself. So all personal problems are both present problems and relationship problems. Glasser urges anyone in a relationship to ask, before taking a step, whether that step will keep the two related persons at least as close together as they are now; if it will, it may be worth taking. Combining choice theory and reality therapy in his practice, Glasser has been able to shorten the durations of his treatment programs substantially. As he presents them here, his theories and approaches can be applied in education and business as well as for self-help. William Beatty
From 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, even envisioning, 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? -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Most helpful customer reviews
42 of 45 people found the following review helpful.
Choice theory brought home to me just how free I really am.
By A Customer
Can a book about psychology bring a new measure of personal freedom to the reader? Indeed it can! In his latest book, psychiatrist William Glasser offers freedom from widely accepted ideas that play havoc with good relationships. This is a book about relationships. It shows how all of us can improve every personal relationship in our lives, and, thereby, help us solve many of the problems that plague our times. Best of all, this is a wonderfully readable book. The reader gets acquainted, up close and personal, with real people who present real problems-problems all too familiar to most of us. Within the privacy of the counseling room, we are treated to word-for-word accounts that demonstrate how Dr. Glasser sets the stage for those who are troubled to open new and liberating doors for themselves. We are even treated to a view of the psychiatrist-writer counseling literary characters, such as Francesca in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY.
The book, REALITY THERAPY, published in 1965, brought Dr. Glasser to international prominence. A book about counseling, it pioneered a movement, now widely followed. The current style of counseling is no longer aloof and mysterious, no longer rooted in futile attempts to re-live the past, but rooted in the here and now and directed toward need-fulfilling involvement with others. This new book demonstrates, in a most persuasive way, the startling idea that we choose all that we do. What a liberating idea! We even choose misery at times, but usually we have better choices, and the author shows us graphically that we are free to make these.
Much of the unhappiness that most of us endure-at least, periodically-stems from the widespread belief we hold that people can be forced, through threats or rewards, to do things they do not want to do. Glasser refers to this massive tendency toward coercion, ever present in our society, as external control psychology. Choice Theory is the exact opposite of domination and invasive power. The new choice theory is, indeed, a remedy for all this misery. Without resorting to threats or bribes, we can vastly increase the likelihood that people will do what we want them to do if we learn and apply choice theory. Glasser's convincing explanation of this practical way of improving our relationships is the great achievement of this book.
Though not a book about religion, we find here a consistency with the Golden Rule, as the author himself points out. This remarkable book explores the relationships that most affect the quality of our lives: love, marriage, work, and family relationships. The author shows how schools can be true centers for quality learning. In a chapter on management in the workplace, Glasser shows why W. Edwards Deming met with such stunning success, first in Japan and later in America. Glasser also gives his view of why Southwest Airlines has been so extraordinarily successful in a highly competitive industry. Having pointed the way to quality in our most important relationships, Glasser offers a bold proposal for creating quality communities. His proposal for vast social impact is not just a remote ideal; he describes the steps that are now being taken in one American city. If Corning, New york can do it, why not your community?
Dr. Minor Morgan is an attorney and practicing psychologist in Dallas, Texas.
41 of 46 people found the following review helpful.
THE book for resolving intractable relationship problems
By Daniel R. Greenfield
About 14 months ago, I was in the midst of an insoluble relationship problem. It was absolutely intractable. I sought help from numerous sources, including a psychologist. It was finding and reading this book, however, that brought every aspect of this problem into crystal clear perspective, and brought home to me that I was choosing to be miserable, and that I could make better choices. The great wisdom of this book resides in that one very simple fact: we choose how we think, and what we do, and indirectly also how we feel. And we can choose to make better choices. This is a dangerous book. It is a book for lives in crisis. But it is also a book that everyone should read, and read again. The sooner you read this book, and re-read it, the sooner you will find the freedom to finally choose happiness, without guilt. Possibly the most important self-help book you will ever read.
52 of 61 people found the following review helpful.
The theory is valuable, but may be harmful to some.
The book outlines Choice Theory, a belief that all problems we face are "relationship problems" -- employee/manager, teacher/student, spouse/spouse, etc. It states that when we give up the notion that we can control anyone else but ourselves, our problems will disappear, including psychiatric disorders, bad marriages, and failing schools. While mostly valuable, the theory shows its seams in its treatment of the most distressed populations -- those with mental illnesses and those experiencing domestic violence. The former assertion -- that all mental illness is a chosen behavior -- is puzzling at best; the book's short treatment of the latter, however, is particularly grating, stating that traditional, "external control" methods of dealing with those choosing to abuse -- such as treating domestic violence as crimes, I suppose -- are ineffective, and that "diversion programs" to get offenders into Choice Theory counseling are the only real way to end the problem. There is nothing to back up such a wild claim (disproven by dozens of models showing that treating domestic violence as a crime is the only effective deterrent) save for a citation of a program in Ohio which shows a certain "success rate" for those completing a Reality Therapy program -- failing to mention what a "success" is, who goes through it, how it is measured, how long it lasts, how much safer the victims of abuse actually feel after their abusive partners finish the course, and so on. Because the book makes such grand claims about improving realtionships, and because abuse in relationships is unarguably the biggest challenge that the two people can face, such short shrift undermines belief in the theory. When the author and his theory stick to standard, common-sense suggestions, the book is a welcome addition to the self-help field; when it is stretched by more serious problems, however, it merely appears naive.