Lead with behavior and let feelings follow?

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It has been my experience that direct attempts to change feeling states and overcome symptoms only serve to strengthen them. I have been able to overcome social anxiety by accepting my feelings and physiology as they are and concentrating on my purpose or behavior. Some emerging therapies--notably Morita therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)--counsel the same thing. They say give up your attempts to control your feelings and concentrate on the only thing you can control--your behavior. A feeling centered lifestyle, they say, leads to a miserable, innefective life. I see Reality therapy as being in agreement with these ideas as RT says that thoughts and feelings follow behavior and that behavior is the only element of Total Behavior completely under our control. Do I understand RT correctly?

Thanks, Tom

-- Tom Cheney (tcheney@pacbell.net), April 15, 2003


Hello Tom! I think you do show accurate understanding of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, and you may want to reflect on same by reading the chapter on "Total Behavior" in the Choice Theory text. I think it can be very true that to work on a feeling in isolation can have a paradoxical effect and increase the fear or anxiety (or feeling state whatever that may be). Some folks have stronger, more intense social needs perhaps than others: Bill would call this a "genetic intensity," and you may ask yourself whether you are trying to change your essential nature. Of course, you can also use paradoxical techniques to reduce your fear. You could, for example, just name that part of yourself (like "Nervous Nellie" or "Terrified Tom") and actually work on it pretty directly. Most behavior is a best attempt to get needs met, and your "fearing" behavior may be very wise. I found myself wondering about the wisdom of it and what is it that you want increased comfort with? Maybe your hankering for something else "out there" isn't so good for you. Lots of folks seem to want to fit in when, in fact, what they want to fit into isn't in their best interests. I hope you can find an RT counselor for a session who can assist your sorting this out and making a good decision for yourself which will be effective and more comfortable. All the best to you.

-- suzy hallock-bannigan (suzyatdonegal@aol.com), August 12, 2003.

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