Monday, November 17, 2008
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, was 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.