Quality Worlds or Fantasy?

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If Choice Theory and Reality Theropy have been so successful in creating a quality world, why is it that we have more violence, higher suicide, higher disconnection between adults and children (and at an younger age in life) and higher rates of low self-esteem amongst children and young adults?

This all started around the early 70's and yet 30 years later we seem to be heading into some major problems with behaviour management in our schools. Forgive my scepticism but a certain amount of External Control when I was a child, gradually transferred to me over my childhood until I was of age to be responsible for my actions (by law) made me and most people my age fairly well balanced and adjusted members of society.

Is there any research to support Choice Theory as having a positive affect on society and is there any supporting the opposite? Has anyone else besides me started to questions this?

-- Scott Goldsmith (sgold@austarmetro.com.au), February 20, 2002



In Choice Theory the phrase "quality world" is used in a very specific sense referring to the collection of perceptions that drive our behaviour, our wants. That of course would include the way an individual wants the real world to be. These very powerful wants are naturally different from what we normally get in the real world. Your question does of course cover a much greater issue, that of the success of Choice Theory in the world.

Glasser himself constantly refers to the stark contrasts between a rapidly advancing technological progress (even in our own time) and the almost non-existent progress of human relationships. Marital difficulties, violence, drugs and so on are the evidence of this. He claims that this lack of progress is due to the unthinking adoption of External Control Psychology as the "common sense" of the world.

By way of a more hopeful alternative he offers Choice Theory based on the central ideas that no human can really control another and that the only person I can control is myself. As children we all received doses of "external control" even from loving parents but, from a Choice Theory interpretation, it was the love that triumphed and not the attempts at control. I smile at the memory of adults who tried to "beat" manners or knowledge into me and, in most cases, I forgive them. Their intentions reached me and I choose not to copy their methods.

When we who use Choice Theory speak of its success, we are normally referring to our own experiences of using it rather than to its effects on a country or major population. It would be wonderful if we could claim to have made a major impact in a broad social context. If any country comes close to this it would in my opinion be Croatia. During the war and in the years since then, Choice Theory has had a very big following there especially among the country's education and health personnel. They used it as the guide to many programs they developed for refugees and displaced persons. Wars do not allow much space for fantasy and I think it was the very practical nature of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy that appealed to the Croatians.

Indeed it is probably a useful exercise to compare the different colonial powers the world has seen. In some cases the "invaded" countries eventually took their invaders' culture to their hearts while in others the rejection of the invader has lasted centuries. What was the difference in the colonnial styles of these two groups? (Obviously I would leave out those powers that simply destroyed the target culture and planted their own followers on the foreign soil.)

I live in Ireland and tonight I saw a report on British television about the new Scottish parliament's attempts to outlaw the smacking of children by their own parents. The most eloquent support for this move came from the Scottish children they interviewed for the programme. All of those presented in the programme regarded violence as inappropriate.

Glasser has a new book due out in May about "unhappy teenagers" and it will give a lot of practical ideas on how to apply Choice Theory in the home.

Regards Brian Lennon

-- Brian Lennon (blennon@indigo.ie), February 21, 2002.

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