Category Archives: blame

Practicing Happiness

By Charlotte, Whellen, NBCT, Basic Intensive Instructor
Murray High School

I teach at the first Glasser Quality public high school in the world, Murray High School.  Not only do I teach English, but I’m in charge of teaching Choice Theory to everyone in the school: staff, students and parents. I work constantly to improve my own skills at making use of Choice Theory in my life, and I can see a steady progression in my ability to connect with those I love and to achieve an inner happiness from successfully meeting my needs without hurting those around me.

That said, I get many opportunities to see where external control is still lingering in my thoughts.  For instance, this past Friday, at our weekly Community Meeting, we were introducing some new students who have joined us for the second half of the school year.  The staff requested everyone to get up and participate in some icebreakers and some connecting games.  Most students leapt up and immediately began to participate.  However, there were some resisting students, who just wanted to sit on the sidelines. Our wonderful PE teacher, who had organized the games, gently herded almost everyone into the fray and they got up and got involved.  There was a happy excitement in the gym as new and current students intermingled and began to connect.

I was participating, too, when I noticed one boy lying against the wall, propped up on his backpack, with his hoodie pulled down over his face, seemingly asleep.  I walked over to see if he was okay.  He told me he was having trouble readjusting his sleep schedule since our recent snow days off and that he would be fine if he could just sleep there a few minutes.

At this point, I had a choice to make, but I was not aware of my choices.  I just allowed myself to move into “external control mode” and reminded him that he had made a commitment to participate and that everyone else was doing that.  I encountered immediate resistance.  He began to argue with me that I should be flexible enough to let him do what he wanted to do.  I told him that if he didn’t want to do this and didn’t feel well, that was not a problem, but he’d need to go check in with the nurse and see if she’d let him nap for a few minutes on the bed in her office.  Not surprisingly, I encountered more resistance.  I, also became resistant.  I didn’t raise my voice, or get excited (thanks to my practice with Choice Theory), but I didn’t move away from external control.

Luckily, the student did not insist, but he grumbled that this isn’t what Murray was supposed to be about and packed his stuff up and stomped off.  I went back to the games and later spoke with our astute  principal, Ashby Kindler, about the situation.  She, in true Reality Therapy fashion, asked me a question — how much choice does a student have about getting involved in an activity?

Since then, many more questions along those lines have occurred to me:   Is there ever any room for someone to just feel like watching?  Is watching not participation at some level?  How is sending someone out for not participating helping them learn to participate?  Did my interaction with the young man bring me closer to him, or push us further apart?

Both the young man and I knew that this situation wasn’t what we wanted.  He was blaming me for the problem and I was blaming him.  You might argue, in a way, that we were both right — he should have participated and lived up to his commitment to be actively involved in community meetings and I should have avoided external control and trusted that with time and creating as many strong connections with him as possible, he would eventually make the choice to get involved on his own.

canstockphoto4130228

However, I have often heard Dr. Glasser, in his inspiring talks, refer to our habit of “shoulding” on each other.  I don’t believe he invented that term, but he explained that if we tell someone what we think they should have done, or tell ourselves what we should have done, we are using external control on them (or on ourselves) and damaging our relationships.  He asserted that if we could just become aware of whenever we were using that word, we would soon be able to think of new ways to get what we need without the “shoulding,” and without pushing those we love and need away from us.

I have found this to be superb advice for maintaining my own personal happiness and I teach all my students about “shoulding,” which, of course, they love because it sounds very close to another phrase they  enjoy, but which isn’t necessarily school appropriate.

I have written an email to the young man today, explaining my thoughts since our interaction and thanking him for his willingness to engage me in a discussion about the principles of our school.  I didn’t mention his own commitment to participate in community meetings as a Murray student because I have learned, finally, that his choice in this regard is his own and the happiness of our school community depends upon our each deciding to learn more and more choice theory and choosing to practice using it in our daily lives.

You Made Me Do It

By Mike Rice, LISAC, CTRTC

If it rains, will the rain have an emotional effect on you?

Some of you may say, “Yes” and others may say, “No.”

Some may show emotions of anger, depression, disappointment, or even anxiety.  Others may welcome the rain and be happy, smile, or even be joyful over it.

Why the two different reactions?  It’s the same rain in the same city.

The difference lies with your perception of how the rain affects your plans or needs.  Personally, I love when it rains.  We get so little of it here in Arizona and it turns many things green and smells nice afterwards.

If your phone rings and you answer it, did the ringing make you say, “Hello?”  Have you ever not answered a phone when it rang?

When driving and you come to a stop sign or a red traffic light, did that sign or light make you stop?  Have you ever purposely run a red light or stop sign?

If you said “no” the phone didn’t make me answer it  and the stop sign/light didn’t make me stop, then you might be inclined to say that you were not controlled by those outside stimuli because you chose not to answer or stop . . . because you didn’t want to and you were aware of the possible consequences if you didn’t.  Your decision was a choice.

So why is it that when someone says something or does something that you DON’T agree with or like that you blame them for “making” you feel angry, disappointed, sad, or even fearful?  Conversely, why is it that when someone says or does something that you DO like you may react with laughter, happiness, or pleasure?  It all comes from within yourself based upon how you perceive the situation.  Is it meeting your wants and needs . . . or not?  If not, then you want to do something that will make the situation meet your wants or needs.  You take measures to control and change someone to do or believe what you want done or believe.  The other person didn’t “MAKE” you to try to control or change them.  You chose to do so.

How do you usually react when someone tries to blame, change, or control you?  Do you like it when that happens?  No?  Then what makes you think others will like it when you do it to them?

choice

When we get outside stimuli that matches what we want, need, or believe, we choose to react in a positive and cheerful manner.  I use the word “choose” because what some people may react to with positive cheerful behaviors may find others choosing negative and unhappy behaviors even though the outside stimuli is the same for both.  The only difference is the perception each person has about the outside information they received.  People can choose how they will respond.  If they want to feel miserable and unhappy and/or want you to know just how miserable and unhappy they are, they will show you with their behavior just as the happy and pleasant people would do with their different perception.

You, and only you, are the master of your emotions.  If you believe that others can control your emotions by the things they may say or do, you are actually giving up your own emotional control to someone else and giving them your power to control your emotions and behavior.

If you don’t want to feel angry or tense, or any other negative emotion, why would you choose to do so?  Choosing to remain happy or content is as easy as refusing to accept one’s offer for another cup of coffee when you don’t want any more.  It’s a choice.  No one is forcing you to have another cup just as no one is ever making you react in an unhappy manner except you.

We live in a world of criticism and judgment as well as those who will coerce us to do things we may not like or want to do.  They do so because they know we will give them our control.  If we don’t relinquish it, then they go away.  As the saying goes:  No one can walk over you if you don’t lie down.  You can’t control them and they cannot control you.  Allow others who think and behave differently than you to do and think as they please.  It is not your responsibility to change and control others to your way of thinking and doing nor is it the responsibility of others to, blame, change, or control you to their way of thinking and doing.

None of us can be all things to all people.  We cannot please everyone because we all have different wants and needs.  When someone blames, criticizes, or judges you without really knowing you, or if they don’t have all of the facts, their words and behavior are based on no more than their short-sighted perception and/or lack of information.  You will always have a choice on how to react to them.

Several years ago, when I was a married man, I had moved our family to AZ.  We purchased a home and bought a luxury car.  My wife wanted to drive the new car to the store so she asked me if there was anything that I wanted as long as she was out and about.  I requested that she get a jug of muriatic acid for the pool.  When she returned, I helped bring the groceries in and noticed the absence of the acid.  When I asked about it, she informed me that she had placed it  on the floorboard, behind the driver’s seat.

I shuddered to think what could have happened.  As I opened the back door of the car, my fears were confirmed.  The bottle of acid had fallen over and acid leaked out and had dissolved the carpet down to the bare metal of the floorboard.  When I asked her why she would place a bottle of acid in such a position as to ruin the carpet, she replied, “It’s your fault, not mine.”  Astonished, I repeated, “My fault?  How is it MY fault?”  She answered, “If you hadn’t asked me to get it, it wouldn’t have happened.”

In my dumbfounded expression to her response, I had a split moment to process what she had said.  It became clear to me, in that moment, that she was indeed correct.  Silly me for expecting her to have known better.

Before reacting to others, you may choose to give them more information and if this doesn’t work, you can always  (reframe your perception) decide that arguing or getting upset over the other person’s behavior or words are just not worth the effort or unhappiness and walk away or change the subject.  When discussing differences, ask yourself, “Is what I am about to say or do going to bring me closer to agreement with this person or will it drive us further apart?”  One doesn’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to come up with the correct answer that will result in the least resistance and unhappiness.

If someone were to call you a horse’s ass . . . that is merely their opinion.  However, if three or more people call you a horse’s ass, you may want to start shopping around for a saddle.  If this offends you, I hope you didn’t hurt your feelings.