Monday, November 17, 2008

"CHOICE" and how not to be "Tied To Te Whipping Post"

I just deleted a "post", titled "Tied To The Whipping Post", named after a song by the Alman Brother's Band. I saved it in a document for later posting. It wasn't time. Perhaps it will never be the right time.
I was definitely strongly challenged regarding an understanding I live by that explains perfectly, all human behavior. I am going to put it out here for your considerations. I have touched on this in earlier posts. Here goes: This is founded in William Glasser's 'Choice Theory' upon which the counseling style 'Reality Therapy' was developed. For this writing the focus will be an explanation of 'Choice Theory', earlier referred to as 'Control Theory'. To validate my right to even explain this I will tell you I am certified in this theory, on the Board of Directors of The New England Assocition of Reality Therapy and live freely, not blaming or as a victim by knowing its rationale.

What motivates a behavior? We are internally driven not externally driven to meet our basic psychological needs, no different than our basic survival needs for food, shelter, procreation, these needs are encoded within us. They are: 1- love and belonging, 2 - power and control (meaning that we believe what we do has value to ourselves and at least one other person, 3 - fun and 4- freedom (to choose to live our life as we desire, such as sexual orientation, style of dress, and so forth). Every day from the day we are born until the day we die every behavior is our best attempt at the time to meet one or all of our basic psychological needs.

Let's take for example a baby. What behavior does it use to meet all it's needs. Right, crying. Eventually, when that doesn't work the baby may try cooing or whatever and so begins the process of each person storing, what is referred to as "need satisfying behaviors to meet our needs". We all have what I will call, a "picture album of behaviors that meet our needs". These "pictures" change over time and the one's we no longer find need satisfying become memories and new pictures are put into our albums for easy access. The best way to explain this is with the following example. When I was three my Dad brought home a little red tractor that he made for me. That tractor met all my needs, it was fun, I had belonging because other little kids came over to ride it, I had power because I felt quite grown up and in charge when I rode it and I was definitely having fun. When that tractor no longer served to meet my needs I replaced it with a bike and eventually a car. The tractor was now a memory of what used to work. Otherwise I would be riding it to work! Right? :-) Moving along. A little about how we are internally motivated to behave to meet our needs and not externally driven. This seems to invoke the most resistance. I understand as I resisted too because in embracing this I could never blame anyone for my behavior and as unsettling as that is I will tell you it is truly empowering and freeing beyond measure. Examples: If you are stopped at a red light and it never turned green would we find your decayed body at that light years later. Of course not. One stops at the light because they are choosing not to break the law. So yes, the external prompted the thought but meeting one's internal needs drove the behavior. I, like you, have gone through many red lights. Another example - when the phone rings do you always answer it? No,I am sure you don't. SO the ringing does promote the thought or feeling but the behavior/choice to answer is internally motivated. We are bombarded by many external factors but what we choose to do in response is ALWAYS about us. No one can make another person behave/act. Breathe............

Okay - phew.............


Next -, "What is a behavior?" Every behavior is broken down in to four parts. 1-thinking, 2- feeling, 3-doing, 4- physiology (as in increased heart rate or tears just flow, etc.). Of the four the ONLY part we are 100% responsible for all the time is the DOING. Every day we are bombarded by external stimuli that forces us to' choose a behavior in response to the external stimuli and what we do in response is always about the one doing the behavior and not about their external world. Here is a very personal accounting to make my point for you, my readers:


When my daughter was seven she was tested and labeled mentally retarded. The language back then was harsh. This label opened up a whole set of discriminatory events, one of which being she had to ride the "special bus" to another school to learn in the 'special needs program'. Those buses were a big red flashing sign that might as well have just flashed "retard". Quite unkind. Anyway, her 'special bus' would pull up around the same time as the 'normal bus'. One kid in particular targeted her. He was older, 14 or 15, a "Jock" type, my little girl was 10. He would do such things as call her cruel names, pull her hair, bump her, pull on her back pack and so forth. She came home crying, often. I spoke to the school, the bus driver and even his Mother - I did all the right things. I would stand on the hill looking down to where the buses stopped. One day my daughter got off the bus and he came up behind her, tore her back pack off so aggressively that she fell face down. In seconds I was charging down the hill, I, without skipping a beat, threw him off balance and right on to the ground, I had my knee in his shoulder while yelling, "you wanna try that with me?" Now, who was responsible for what I CHOSE to do? Certainly not him, that was 100% about me. Did his behavior provoke angry thoughts? Yes! Did his behavior provoke strong feelings? Yes! Did his behavior create an immediate physiology in me? Absolutely, my heart was racing, my hands were clenched. But he DID NOT make me run down that hill and put him on the ground. That made sense to ME at the time. I could have been arrested, thank God I wasn't. And clearly, he never bothered her again and I was known from that point on as the 'crazy lady who waited on the hill!' I share this to make a point. I would never even consider crediting him with my behavior. It is not his to own. And so we are faced with choices every day that are stimulated by many factors. Again, what we do is always about us and our internal drive to meet our basic psychological needs. And by the way, we can never assume which need another person is meeting by their behaviors, it is unique and individual to each of us based on the "pictures we have stored in our album of need-satisfying behaviors.

Some of the more horrific external stimuli are quite difficult to apply to choice theory. It is so much easier to blame, I know. Having been a victim myself I take responsibility for what I did in response,. Of course I wish the stimuli never happened. We are powerless over other peoples behaviors and powerful in our own, even in the worst of circumstances. When I think of the sexual abuse I endured I know what he did was not my fault. I did what I could in that horrible situation to survive the encounters. I give him NO credit for how I survived him, that was about me. Yes, he is to blame for his actions and why that made sense to him will remain a mystery. What pictures did he have in his album? As one who survived I take all the credit for surviving him.

Sometimes the pictures we have stored in our albums are harsh as they meet the demands of our internal world. I had need satisfying pictures no 10 year old should ever have to have, not ever. Again, as a survivor and not a victim I take great pride in my choices and I hold him to nothing. The list could go on of behaviors people have stored in their albums that are so unfortunate and horrid, times of war, assaults, violence, all types of abuse, illness, and the list goes on. I wish with all my might such things didn't exist and that everyone had picture albums filled with gentle behaviors to meet their needs at any given time. Again, I am writing this to empower you. To let you know that no one can ever blame you for what they did nor can you hold anyone accountable for your behavior. Yes, they, sadly, are responsible for their actions and you are then able to create a picture of a behavior that will work to meet YOUR needs. Even in the worst of times. The on going argument is always, "if they didn't do whatever then I wouldn't have done whatever"> I get it, I do. I guess if we wait for the world to be okay so we only have to choose 'nice behaviors' we will be waiting until we die. There will always be powerful events that provoke a strong reaction, it is just that what we DO in response is about the one doing the doing.
In new situations we are forced to find a way to meet our needs by creating a new behavior and then storing it in our album until it no longer works to meet our needs. When I think of the work I do with addiction every client is there because what they were doing no longer works and they are searching for new behaviors to replace the old ones, i.e - using drugs or alcohol. Each person is deciding if they can get high once more or drink again without consequence. Every one is deciding if they have had enough pain. Pain and pleasure are powerful internal motivators that promote changing pictures of need satisfying behaviors. It happens in marriages all the time and certainly applies well to addiction. If people couldn't change the 'picture' of who they choose to love then there would never be a divorce. It is really no different than my red tractor story - in theory. You keep the picture and thus the behavior until it no longer works to meet your needs.

At the risk of beating a dead horse I will conclude. I hope you have been empowered by 'Choice Theory" and that you at least will consider that your behaviors are just that, your behaviors. You are 100% in charge, not of what the world hands you but what you do in response despite the challenge. I am sure this has raised a few eye brows and I understand why. When I think of how I started this post referencing the title "Tied To The Whipping Post" I am aware of my own internal conflict of what will be most need satisfying. My own basic needs are in conflict over this which is often the case. for all of us. Consider, if you will, the wondrous uniqueness and freedom in the above writing. It will only be so if YOU decide it is in your best interest in meeting your basic needs at this time.

Gail
peace.....

14 comments:

Utah Savage said...

WOW! This has taken me at least an hour to read. I have had to take breaks. I can say I behave this way because... And the only possible reason is that I chose to behave this way. This isolation is my choice. This self medicating is my choice. This lack of trust is my choice. This unwillingness to give up the behaviors that keep men at bay is my choice. Okay, I get that. I get the moment by moment choice thing. Yet... If our abuser started when we were first born and abuse continued and intensified into our... I guess as long as we allowed or chose we must own that?

I'll be back to see what you have to say.

Fallen Angel said...

Allman, association, ongoing.... I have chosen to correct your spelling because it fills a need in me to correct your spelling. I am not proud of this but the external stimulus of your incorrct spelling has enraged me I admittedly chose the behavior to correct your spelling. I own it. I am empowered. Thank you for freeing me.

Gail said...

F A
oh, you are quite welcome, quite welcome indeed.

gae

Gail said...

Hi Utah,

thanks so much for writing. I know this post was a lot to absorb. And yes, all of the choices you mentioned are just that, your choices. I know, all too well how hard it is to apply this understanding to outcomes to surviving abuse.
I will say this, whenever I choose a behavior that is causing me more harm I am empowering my abuser(s) and when I choose behaviors that are life-giving I am empowering me and disempowering them. And this healing did not come over night Utah, it took time. Once I figured it all out I stopped empowering them by blaming them which justified whatever.
All the behaviors you mentioned are your best attempt at any given time to meet your needs. Only YOU can decide what is not working for you.
I really like how your processed all this. It speaks well to your amazing sense of self and on going determination for balance.
Love,
Gail
peace.....

Utah Savage said...

There is a biochemical aspect to certain types of ongoing abuse or trauma in infants if it continues. Eventually what is lost is the ability to cope. I have been told over and over again (by those who test me in evaluating my shrink needs) that I have no coping skills. I have also done a lot of reading on the consequences of certain types of early trauma. What they are learning is that there are neural pathways that develop in response to trauma that is repeated for years. The neural pathways become deep groves and are triggered long after the abuse stops. You smell a scent and the fight or flight response is triggered, you system is flooded with adrenaline. There is also the fact of repetition compulsion. Trying to get it right. I tried over and over to get the relationship with men right. I kept choosing men who were in some ways like my father. Now I chose to exclude men. I do not trust myself where men are concerned, but this leaves me without a partner. I have chosen to be alone.

Gail said...

Utah-

I respect every thing you said. I honor your journey and your wisdom and knowledge. I only can speak to my own journey, that's all I have.

I so appreciate your sharing your understandings of your experiences.
Love,
Gail
peace.....

Utah Savage said...

Of course we are Okay. I think this is an interesting conversation, but I don't mean to band you over the head with my thinking on this subject. And maybe everything I've said is mere rationalization for choosing to isolate myself. My computer has become my best friend and has opened new worlds to me.

It's interesting to me that my first love/last love who never would read anything I wrote when we were together is now addicted to my writing.

I hope you try the music meme. I was bored last night, and the showoff in me decided to make it more difficult than is needed, but click on the title of the piece and read Boarder Explorer's version of the meme--it's really very simple. And we will all be in the running for a Bloggers Album. There's no pressure from me, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. I hope you join in, but will not hold it against you if you don't. Often these memes open me to new experiences and I meet new bloggers to add to my blog roll.

Gail said...

Hi there Utah-

a BIG Phew.......... :-)

I will re-read 'the music rules'. Even in your kind re-explaining my mind was snapping! :-)

I never even heard the word "meme" before this. What rock have I been under, huh?

All good thoughts to you Utah and more.
Love,
Gail
peace......

(clearly, I am big on salutations)

PENolan said...

At the moment, I can't even read more than a few paragraphs because I've got to get ready for my Reading tomorrow night and this is a h-e-a-v-y one for me because I'm having to own the fact that I look at everyone I meet as a potential abuser due to the incident with my grandfather when I was three.

It really sucks. And I can't even be angry for myself.

I'm really glad you tackle this shit with such intensity, Gail.

Gail said...

Hi Trish-
I hear ya, big time! For the same reason(s) you said, I fought this understanding too. Please remember that everything you did was your best way to survive. It really sucks that some of the choices (pictures) we have/had due to what happened are so awful.
I have fought hard to not empower my abuser(s)any more - muc easier said than done. Be kind to yourself Trish. You are one of the one's who 'get's it' and is more 'real'than most.

Please let me know where you are 'reading'. I told my son that you do that and he attends readings often and asked me where you do it.
Stay warm.

Love,
Gail
peace.....

PENolan said...

Actually, this "choice" and "picture" idea is not so new to me. Both my parents were very big on the concept that everything we say and do is Decisional. I bucked that idea for a long time - opting for the more gentle explanation that I never acted like an asshole. I merely reacted like one on account of someone else's much greater assaholic behaviors.

What I'm working through now is that my entire emotional gestalt was fucked up on account of my grandfather sticking his dick in my mouth while I was a sleeping three year old. So much of a person's ego identity is still in flux at that age that it's going to take me a while to see how to fix that one.

One thing is sure: it's no accident I work with preschoolers. I'm good at it, and every day is healing. It's the grown ups I can't handle very well.

I can't even trust my mother loves me. Even now I can sit here typing and will stop to wonder if she loves me. I'm wondering if my sister's conviction that she is The Bad Seed goes back to my grandfather too. I wouldn't be surprised, but she's never mentioned it even though we've talked about other instances of abuse in the family at length. She may not remember. I can't think about that right now.

Gail said...

Hi Trish-

Your words go deep. I understand, as you know. And YES!! It is so good and right that you teach preschoolers, good indeed.

I watched a movie last night and figured out what movie star I think you look like - "Liv Campbell" :-)

Love,
Gail
peace

PENolan said...

Google only shows me photos of Liv Campbell so I may never know who you mean. I'll still take it as a complement, though.

Gail said...

Trish-
A compliment indeed. Look up the movie "Wild Things". She co-starred in it. I saw it last night and thought of you immediately. You "cutie-pie" you!! :-)

Love,
Gail
peace