Refund check

In this post we will cover the WANT part of the phrase – We Want to Feel Good.

The income tax refund sat on the kitchen counter dwarfing the rest of the mail and beckoning for someone to come up with a way to spend it. Jack and Jill Hill, marriage partners for 12 years and the recipients of said check, are each beginning to lock in on a vision for its use. Jack, ever the romantic, envisions a get-away vacation to an exotic location; Jill, on the other hand, envisions something closer to home, like say, a new couch. As they tinkered in the kitchen, part putting groceries away and part putting something together for supper, Jack found himself assuming that Jill’s lack of excitement regarding a trip meant that time together wasn’t important to Jill – in fact, he wasn’t important to her.  At the same time, Jill found herself assuming that Jack didn’t understand that her home was an important reflection of herself.  She wanted it to be beautiful and was embarrassed by the stained, sagging couch they had had since they got married.  Not only does Jack not care about my feelings, he doesn’t really care about me.

One of the ingenious elements of choice theory is a place in our brains called the quality world. Not only ingenious, it may be the most important element of all the pieces that make up the choice theory model. Its genius lies in the simple way it describes the complex process of why we do what we do. Understanding the concept of the quality world, especially our own personal quality worlds, leads to understanding what motivates us.

Ted Miller, who teaches Math at a high school near you, is frustrated that only a few of his 2nd period students seem to care about doing well in his class. Hector is one of those students. It’s like it satisfies a need inside of him when he does well in class. Gavin, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite. He cuts up and clowns around in class constantly. It’s like .  .  . (a light bulb is about to go on in Ted Miller’s head), it’s like it satisfies a need inside of him when he gets attention for being the clown.

As said before, every person is born with a unique set of basic needs, but unlike many animals, humans do not arrive with a set of instructions as to how to meet those needs. From birth, human beings begin to learn how to meet their need for purpose and meaning, love and belonging, power and achievement, freedom and autonomy, joy and fun, and survival and safety. A behavior that results in a need being met is then stored as a picture in our personal quality world. This picture book is like a scrapbook in our heads in which we store the people, places, activities, beliefs, and things that help us meet one or more of the needs or that brings us a greater feeling of control. We put these behavioral pictures into our mental scrapbooks; we can also take pictures out of our scrapbooks. In other words, this process is purposeful.

Karina just about slams the plastic mixing bowl into a sink already cluttered with other mixing bowls from the supper she has created. She got the idea for a special meal this evening as everyone was headed out the door, scattershot, to school, to work, quick yells of good-by thrown over shoulders, earlier that morning. She planned the menu throughout the day. They needed to be together more as a family she thought. Now, as her husband finished mowing the lawn and her kids lingered in their rooms upstairs, the food was getting cold on a beautifully set table. A dish towel clenched in one hand, a serving spoon clenched in the other, Karina fumed as she pondered how to convey her anger.

It is important to understand that putting and keeping a behavioral picture in our quality world creates a target that we want the events in our lives to hit, or put more accurately, that we want the significant people in our lives to hit on our behalf. Putting a behavioral picture in our quality world is like setting a thermostat for a certain temperature. The thermostat monitors whether or not the desired temperature is present. If it isn’t it sends a signal to a heater or an air conditioner to do their thing. The temperature is the focus; that preset level of cool or warm becomes the target to achieve and maintain. Similarly, by putting a picture in our quality world we have formed a picture of the expected behavior of others, we have formed, at least in our mind, the way events or circumstances must go. Like the thermostat, when our quality world pictures aren’t fulfilled we send a signal to another place in our brain, the behavioral center, to do something about it. This moment, the moment when we are urged to do something often involves us trying to change the behavior of another person so that he or she will show up in a way that matches our preset picture. The behavioral center, though, we will save for another time.

For now, just think about the quality world pictures you have in your own brain. Some of those pictures are wonderful, like a relationship with a grandchild or an accomplishment at work, and lead to personal needs being satisfied. Other of our pictures, though, like expectations we have of a spouse or the way we want other drivers to navigate the road around us, are the cause of a lot of frustration and even anger. When an unmet need is important enough, given time, it can lead to emotional and physical distress. It is easy to get in the habit of thinking that these quality world pictures, these expectations, just arrived in our head somehow, almost like we are the victim of an expectation. Choice theory explains that rather than being a victim, we intentionally place certain pictures in our head for a reason. Understanding the quality world process can go a long way toward releasing the pressure within us and putting a smile back on our face.


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Keep in mind that the Soul Shapers workshops at Pacific Union College will take place next month.

Soul Shapers 1   June 17-20

Soul Shapers 2   June 24-27

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