Don’t Always Believe What You Think
The concept of the basic needs is one of the core beliefs of choice theory. As you read today’s blog post you will come to see just how basic and how important these needs are. A quick review – choice theory describes how everyone is born with a unique set of basic needs. I believe these needs include a physiological need, that being the need for survival, and several psychological needs, that being the need for purpose and meaning, the need for love, belonging, and connection with others, the need for success and the power to achieve worthy goals, the need to be free, and the need to experience fun and joy. From the moment we are born, all of our behavior is an attempt to meet one or more of these needs. During the Soul Shapers workshop, after we have more carefully reviewed the basic needs, I ask the question, “Which need do you think ultimately is in the driver’s seat? Which need do you think has the greatest influence on our behavior?” Usually, the responses quickly indicate that the survival need would have the last word when it comes to our behavior. The feeling is that we are programmed to survive and the survival mechanism would therefore have the greatest influence.
Headlines from this past week reminded us that this is not the case. New sobering and disturbing statistics reveal that more people are taking their own lives than ever before in the U.S. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that over the last year more people died from suicide—38,364—than in motor vehicle accidents—33,687. That is nearly 5,000 more deaths. It is significant, too, that it is middle-aged Americans, the baby boomers, making by far the biggest leap in the suicide increase.
One thing we can take from this statistic (and this is a statistic that should very much get our attention) is the incredible power of the psychological needs. Our logic wants to believe that the need for survival would ultimately hold sway, yet this data is a stark reminder that this just isn’t true. Each of the psychological needs, when perceived as not being met, could lead a person to overrule his/her need to survive.
One of the reasons I so strongly believe in choice theory is that people who understand it’s principles and begin to implement the principles in their lives enter into a kind of personal stability from which they can process life more effectively. Choice theory doesn’t offer a perfect stability, but it helps. I personally have melancholy tendencies and am very capable of choosing to get “down in the dumps” or of choosing to depress, yet coming to understand and appreciate my choice power has helped a great deal. It is this choice power, including the concepts of the basic needs and the quality world that I so much want teachers and students to understand and practice, as well.
From a secular perspective, choice theory offers hope. We can come to recognize when a basic need isn’t being met and begin to take steps, no matter how tiny those steps might be, that will bring us closer to stability and happiness. When choice theory is understood and implemented from a spiritual perspective the results can become even more hopeful and even powerful. Students can be taught about the basic needs and the ways in which those needs urge us to behave. Students can be taught the concept of the quality world and the central importance of the pictures we place in our quality world. I see this kind of understanding as preventive mental health of the highest order.
A bumper sticker worth noting read, “Don’t Always Believe What You Think.” Choice theory helps us to understand how this bumper stick, especially relevant regarding today’s topic, might be true.
Remember to sign up for the upcoming Soul Shaper workshops taking place next month at PUC. Encourage your colleagues to experience the workshop, too. When more than one teacher or staff member at a school understands choice theory, significant changes can occur. Soul Shapers 2 is designed to be re-taken more than once. Get in the habit of taking Soul Shapers 2 each summer and re-charge the choice theory battery.
Soul Shapers 1 meets from June 17-20
Soul Shapers 2 meets from June 24-27
Sign up for either course at www.puc.edu/summer-teacher
Let others know about The Better Plan blog. After close to six months of being in existence there are 67 people officially “following” the blog. I think more than the 67 are reading the blogs, but let’s try to get the number higher. The goal is to create and support a non-coercive, choice theory community. I’m always glad to hear from you. Let me know if you have helpful ideas.
Thanks Jim. You have presented a thoughtful view on a dreadful and tragic topic. I have always thought that suicide is the result of a bad situation or “feelings” gone wrong. Thought and action, thought and action, how many healthy and productive years of life and the grief of loved ones could be saved by more consideration of their significance?
I’ve heard Glasser say that when someone ends their own life, it is like they are taking themselves out of their own quality world. Your point is an important one. Our thought patterns and our behavioir is very significant. Understanding that significance is a key to mental health.
Jim, has it ever troubled you to use the concept ‘theory’ with choice? Who considers it still a theory? How about the ‘power of choice’ or ‘you have choices’ or ‘not to chose is to choose’ or . . .
Wow! Great question.
Where to begin on that one.
I think a lot of people agree that human beings have the power of choice. What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is the extent to which we have choices or the ways in which our power to choose actually works. Why, for instance, do so many struggle with addictions of all sorts? Why do so many marriages become dysfunctional? Why can’t countries get along? Is there such a thing as mental illness and if so, how is it defined? (I don’t know if you have heard, but the DSM V, which was scheduled to come out has now been jettisoned.)
One of the reasons I am ok with the term choice “theory” is that I can’t prove the elements and details on the Glasser chart of how the brain works. The model works as far as my experience has tested the elements, but I can’t prove them beyond that. Whether we really do have a set of basic needs and a place in our brain called the quality world will remain to be seen until some of us begin our heavenly research projects. Referring to the choice elements as a theory also gives people the freedom to choose to accept the theory or not.
I am convinced that understanding our power of choice and the freedom with which God designed us is one of the major spiritual frontiers for us to consider. Really, we need to more than consider it. We really need to get the hang of it, this power of choice thing.
Just another thought about the use of the word, “theory” . . . . I have found it very useful vocabulary because it provides an excellent contrast to “external control psychology.” The way we come at life is primarily modeled through living with external controls ~ people, words, events, that we believe can and do control us. Using the term Choice Theory gives a whole set of dynamically new ways of thinking about life that enables us to step away from external control living into choice theory living.
I, too, did not believe that survival was not the major factor as it relates to our needs. I say this because many people today have the material goods to survive. Food is more available to us and other “wants” as well. However, many do not survive because of the missing “inner peace”. Also, it is my contention that many do not survive because of a “choice.” Yet I believe strongly in “choice” when it comes to depressing; I also believe that some of us have a gift from God when it comes to motivation. I am not bragging but I am excited about making “change” in the lives of children and no matter what comes my way when it comes to adversities, I seem to get up each morning with a positive attitude. I have concluded that it must be God and Choice, in that order. I also want to be humanistic and say that perhaps I have just not had the trials that others have faced. But if and when they come, I pray that I “choose” to stay positive and still praise God for what he has done in my life and the life of others.
Johnny Holliday, Prinicpal Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy
It is important and exciting to support and guide students toward positive change in their lives. Teaching them about their own power to choose and modeling that power for them is one of the best gifts of all.I think of you often as you each day take on the challenges of school administration. Continue to stay in touch!