There are two quotes from Counseling with Choice Theory by Dr. William Glasser, that I have been ruminating about. They are:
“None of us can wish the past away. All any of us can control is our own present behavior. We all want a perfect world populated by perfect people like us, but that world has never existed.” (Counseling with Choice Theory, p. 32)
“It is the constant trying to force the other to be different or to punish each other for real or perceived wrongs that causes almost all the problems.” (Counseling with Choice Theory, p. 48)
It seems to me that we are always being pushed to acquiesce or cry, “Uncle!” to the external control world around us. It is usually couched in attractive terms but the attempt to control others is always underlying. As proponents of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, I think we must carefully guard against these attempts. Our struggle to teach the world Choice Theory will always be an uphill struggle.
I was raised in a very religious home- my dad was a pastor. I followed his footsteps for a few years but found myself being drawn to a more expansive understanding of grace and love. I was pastoring a small nondenominational church (2001). When I encountered online some pastors who were exploring the same direction (They happened to be gay.), I was excited that I could break the mold of the usual church culture and really love and accept everyone into our fellowship.
On a Sunday when I returned from a conference of gay evangelical churches in Denver, I announced to our congregation that we would not be judging gay people (or anyone else) when they came to worship with us. About half of the congregation walked out on me because they were attached to some unreal concepts that we could judge others as sinners while excusing ourselves.
The church basically folded then, and I was out of work. Since I had an education degree and high school experience, I stopped at a charter school down the street in December to ask if they had a job opening. I started part- time and was challenged by working with ‘at-risk’ students, who had been unsuccessful at school before. It became evident that I needed to learn how to work with these kids. In the school’s training manuals, there was a brief introduction to Choice Theory and how this chain of charter schools was based on Glasser’s works. I was curious and began to study. The rest is history, as they say. I now see everything through Glasser- colored glasses!
In that chain of schools, I pushed the Glasser concepts at every meeting and conversation. They paid lip service to it but didn’t really live it. They created the position of Director of Leadership and Student Engagement for me, and I traveled the country (a Glasser evangelist). I found that even if the organization claims to be a Glasser organization, it doesn’t necessarily translate to action. Because another branch of the owner corporation was heavily invested in Applied Behavioral Analysis and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, I was asked to blend Choice Theory with these concepts. Those two things are quite external control and since we are focused on intrinsic motivation, I couldn’t do it. I asked Steve Tracy about it and found that the founder of PBIS said they were incompatible. I told the CEO of my company, and I was soon asked to retire.
Through all this experience, I have found that if you are passionate about the importance of a concept, like Choice Theory and Reality Therapy, there are times when others will reject the message. I still have a deep, strong spiritual life but I don’t attend any church.
There are organizations and popular themes that will try to get us to compromise, or water it down, but I believe that the more we can thoroughly live, model, and teach the Glasser concepts to our world, the better the world will become. We may never totally overcome extrinsic models of motivation but the more individuals we can influence, that see this powerful message, the better the world will become. The obvious result of what we teach will be people who have their freedom, accept total responsibility for their own actions, and don’t fall for the latest thing to manipulate and control others.