Tag Archives: reality therapy

Life’s Lemons

By:  Maria E Trujillo alias Manual DeVie

Growing up I had my share of life’s lemons. I did my best to make what I thought was the best of it. Following the old adage I attempted to make lemonade out of lemons.

However, my batch of lemonade was filled with toxic mixers that I added. I used my own negative thinking and faulty beliefs combining it with and unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships.

It’s difficult to learn how to make a healthy batch when I wasn’t born into a family with a healthy skill set. In fact, I learned to operate as an ostrich and to sweep problems and difficulties under the rug.

Courageously I entered a new class in lemonade 101, more commonly known as couple’s counseling. Our counselor followed the structured couples counseling session advocated by Dr. William Glasser. As a couple we never made it past the crucial fourth session. This is the session where we each needed to make a commitment to continue. That ended couple’s counseling.

lemonsI knew there were always going to be lemons in my life. I knew I wanted a healthy batch of lemonade. I wanted to learn how to change and use my own healthy mixers to make a healthy batch of lemonade. I continued forward with individual counseling.

With the help of this counselor who practiced Reality Therapy using choice theory psychology I found a better recipe for making lemonade. I have gained healthy skills in the process.

These skills include knowing which lemons are worth squeezing and which are best left for the compost pile.

 

Emotional Realities

By Dr. Ken Larsen (Originally posted November 14, 2013)

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

bowlingballs

One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.

I was born in a dysfunctional family

by  Dr. Ken Larsen

It was in Nashville.  I was in my Practicum Supervisor certification group.  Dr. Bob Wubbolding, director of Training for the Wm. Glasser Institute,  came striding into our

dysfunction

room, looked around, and then stated, “Let’s get it over with.  We ALL come from dysfunctional families!” We all laughed, sensing immediately the truth in that proclamation.  We all carry unpleasant memories, even scars, from our growing up.  Some are worse than others.  Many of us just carry on, having adjusted to the ways we think about those memories.  Some of us, however, have difficult memories that have become a part of our perceptions in how we see the world.  These memories intrude on our present experiences and can even have an undesirable impact on the ways we relate to others and deal with the normal challenges of life.

Dr. Glasser has made the point clearly that while past events affect our present lives, all we can work with is what is happening now.  We cannot go back to fix the past.

Does that mean we are stuck with the perceptions and memories of past scars that affect our present behavior?

I think these memories will always be with us.  What we can do is shift our focus.  This takes some effort based on insights we can gain from the wisdom of “Choice Theory” and “Reality Therapy”.

This shift involves movement.  Movement toward what we want, and away from what we don’t want.

What we don’t want is to be trapped in maladaptive patterns from our past.

What we do want is the mental health and happiness that comes from making choices that help us get our needs met.

I think our primary need is to be connected to others in caring, life giving relationships.  Some of us have discovered that making those connections requires a certain amount of skill.  Skill in noticing and responding appropriately to social cues.  Sensitivity to what is appropriate and what is not.  If we recognize that we are lacking in some of those skills, we can learn.

Most of us know the story of Temple Grandin.  I read one account of how she worked to learn a basic social skill.  It seems that she did not have a good sense of comfortable social space.  She would sometimes make people uncomfortable by moving too close.  What she did to learn how to maintain a comfortable interpersonal space was to go to the local supermarket where they had doors that opened automatically.  As you approached the door, the door would open when you got within a certain distance.  She learned that the distance required to open the door was just the right distance to maintain an appropriate space between her and others in a social setting.  So she practiced and practiced opening the door until she was able to reproduce that distance in her contacts with others.

The point here is that we can learn what we need to know to move toward what we want in life.

We know that we are influenced by our past, but we also know that there are no future facts.  We are free to make choices that will take us toward the life that we want.

And we can look at our dysfunctional family with an understanding and forgiving point of view, realizing that all of us only do what seems to be the right thing to do at the time.   We are free to shape our future with new choices, having learned the lessons of our past.

Symptoms or Causes?

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Imagine a situation where a man, wounded and in pain, staggers into your local emergency room.

The ER doc begins the intake workup.

“Are you in pain?” the doc asks.

“Yes, it hurts a lot” the patient replies.

“When did it begin?” the doc asks

“When I got shot with the arrow in my back–that really hurt.” the patient replies

ER doc strokes his chin, “Hmmm”

“So you’re in pain because of that arrow in your back?” The doc proclaims with great insight.arrowinback

“Yeah, that’s what I said” The patient looks a bit puzzled as he replies.

Doc says, “I’ll be right back.”

The doctor returns in a short while, gives the patient a prescription for Motrin and has the nurse give him instructions for how to put on his shirt over the arrow.

Admittedly this scenario is a bit preposterous but I use it to illustrate a point.

Your immediate reaction is to recognize that the cause of the patient’s distress was not effectively dealt with.  He left with the problem that he came in with.  The arrow in his back.  What’s wrong with this picture?

There is a growing concern that this sort of event is happening far too frequently with the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues.

I’ll tell you of a personal experience.  About 20 years ago I was unhappy.  I talked to my personal physician who asked me some questions.  I met the criteria for a diagnosis of depression.  I was given a psychiatric referral.  When I met with the psychiatrist he asked me some questions and gave me a prescription for Prozac.  This meeting took 20min.  The fee was $250 plus the cost of the prescription.

What was I to conclude from that experience?  Was I suffering from a Prozac deficiency?  Was that the cause of what had been labeled “depression”?  I didn’t have enough Prozac in me?

Dr. Wm. Glasser, author of “Choice Theory” and “Reality Therapy” has stated that “many people are diagnosed with a disease they don’t have and given brain drugs they don’t need.”

Unhappiness is the most common presenting complaint for depression.  That unhappiness usually has a cause and that cause is most often associated with a close relationship that is not working right.  I have to ask if giving drugs that allow the accumulation of serotonin in the brain changes the circumstances that caused the unhappiness.

There is growing concern that this is not the answer.  In fact there is growing concern that some of these brain drugs that have been so freely administered have made the problem worse or have caused more serious problems.  And most importantly, they leave the person with the arrow in his back.

The issue of mental health looms ever more urgently in our culture, reinforced every time we read about another senseless act of violence.   One report suggested that some of these guys are not necessarily loners but failed joiners.   This is one possible explanation.   All too often these are people who want to be connected in caring relationships but somehow have not been successful.

helpinghandsAs a civilized society we are at a crisis point.  Do we continue to dispense drugs that are non-solutions to lonely, isolated people in distress or do we focus our attention and energy on reaching out with care and love to those we see that are not able to get their needs met.    

The pharmaceutical industry and many psychiatrists have tried to convince us the solution lies in brain altering drugs while ignoring the causes.  I believe this is like the guy who was given Motrin for the arrow in his back and instructed on how to put on his shirt over the arrow.    I appeal to all of us, ordinary folks and especially those we trust with our health care.  Let’s shift our focus from medicating symptoms to discovering and dealing with causes.

One Key to Happiness

By Dr. Ken Larsen

Happiness is not something ready made.  It comes from your own actions. — Dalai Lama

I gained a bit of wisdom when I first realized that happiness was a byproduct and not something to be sought for itself.

happinesskeyDr. Glasser points out that if we are connected to people we want to be with and are getting our needs met in those relationships, we will probably be happy.  He also points out that if we are not getting the good feelings of happiness that come from needs satisfying relationships, there is a tendency to turn to addictions, violence and unloving sex.  These describe efforts to feel good when feeling bad and often involve seeking pleasure as a substitute for happiness.

Mike Rice, a seasoned Choice Theory therapist, underscores the difference between the right kind of happiness and the isolating efforts to feel good through the pleasures of addictive substances.  He works to help his clients see the difference so they can make better choices that lead to better relationships and a better chance at happiness.

Mike offers a helpful distinction between pleasure and happiness.  He points out that pleasure can be found in isolation, not needing anyone else.  Happiness is a byproduct of needs fulfilling relationships with others.

In his first book,  Reality Therapy, Dr. Glasser gave us a succinct statement of what we need to be mentally healthy and happy.  He said that we need to fulfil our basic need to “love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and others.”

It seems to me that the key to happiness lies in understanding our need for one another.  Then we need to find ways to relate to one another in ways that bring us closer together.  Finally we need to learn to avoid the kinds of things we do to separate ourselves from one another.  [There are articles on this web page that discuss the seven deadly habits and the seven caring habits.  Refer to them for more.]

The wisdom in the Golden Rule transcends time and cultural, ethnic and religious differences.  Our challenge is to learn to apply that golden rule in all that we do.

If you are looking for more of the kinds of thinking you are seeing here, I recommend reading Dr. Glasser’s  Choice Theory. If you have already read it, read it again.  I guarantee you’ll gain fresh insights each time you read it .

Characteristics of Mental Health & Happiness

By Dr. Ken Larsen

One of the characteristics of mental health and happiness is getting our needs met in and through our relationships with caring other people.

Dr. Glasser describes these needs in a couple of ways.  One, from his first best selling book “Reality Therapy” he points out that we need to “Love and be loved, and to feel worthwhile to ourselves and to others.”

Later, when he wrote “Choice Theory” he listed our basic needs as “Survival, Love and belonging, Freedom, Power and Fun.”

bowlingballs

One way I meet my fun needs is by learning.  Recently I was reading a book entitled “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, MD.  One paragraph jumped out at me because it spoke to ways to grow closer to the ones we love.  Having a wife, three daughters, and five granddaughters, the more I can understand the female experience of life, the closer I can be in these very special relationships.

This is a quote from the book: “If she’s married or partnered with a male brain, each will inhabit two different emotional realities.  The more both know about the differences in the emotional realities of the male and female brain, the more hope we have of turning those partnerships into satisfying and supportive relationships and families.”

I highly recommend this book.