Posts tagged “mental health

Epiphany at the Urinal

The single page flyer taped to the wall above the urinal caught my attention with the headline – Can We Choose to Be Happy? Part of a wellness emphasis on campus, flyers like these were not uncommon, and placing one above a urinal certainly would get someone’s undivided focus. I contemplated the message before me. Is it that easy? Can I choose to be happy?

Standing there, the porcelain receptacle and shiny, chrome flushing hardware barely inches away, I had an epiphany. Choosing to be happy, I concluded, is like choosing to have an ulcer, or like choosing to be thin. I can’t choose to immediately be thin. I can just make choices and behave in a way that results in my losing weight. Similarly, I can’t choose to be instantly happy. I can however make choices and behave in a way that results in happiness.

Eating the right kinds of food, in the right amounts, at the right time of day will lead to my losing weight. But what about being happy? What kinds of thinking and behavior will lead to happiness? How about –

+ Choosing to be grateful.
+ Choosing to nurture a forgiving spirit.
+ Choosing to really love people, especially the important people in your life.
+ Choosing integrity, and being the person you want to be.
+ Choosing to include fun in your life? Go to the movie. Go on the bike ride. Meet a friend for tennis.
+ Choosing not to procrastinate. Get the project or assignment done, whether it is organizing the garage or doing your taxes. Whatever your tough task is, it may not be as tough as you think if you just get started. And once completed you will smile as a burden is lifted from your shoulders.

You don’t have to do all of these things to be happy, but you have to choose to embrace some of them. The list isn’t comprehensive, but it still is a pretty good list. The more of these ways of being you choose, the happier you will be.

The flyer above the ‘you know what’ wasn’t asking a bad question, just a question that easily misleads us. We can’t choose to be immediately happy because happiness is a feeling, and human beings cannot directly control feelings. What we can control is what we think and how we act. And yes, what we think and what we do will have an effect on what we feel, so in that way the flyer is on the right track.

Some might say this is a technicality, but this distinction is much more significant than a mere technicality. A person can become focused on and mired in his feeling state and then become driven to affect or change the feeling. This is what drives all self-medicating behaviors. Whether the behavior involves alcohol, drugs – both legal and illegal, food, porn, shopping, gambling, or sex (to name a few), it is about changing brain chemistry in a way that affects how the person feels. Self-medicating does indeed provide a high or moment of release, but it is temporary, and always increasingly so, which leads to the self-medicating habit cycle repeating, again and again, the never ending habit becoming a prison of addiction and private shame. This distinction is vital to understand!

Happiness is an inside job.
Don’t assign anyone else that much power over your life. 

Trying to achieve the feeling of happiness is illusive and confusing. It is as undoable as my choosing to immediately self-clean my arteries of plaque. Feelings and physiology are in the realm of the “not directly controllable.” Feelings are important, mind you, much more so to some than to others, but they come out of and into alignment with my thinking and my actions.

Who knew urinals can be the sites of such epiphanies?

What Makes Choice Theory So Hard To Do?

It has been said that Choice Theory is easy to understand, but hard to do. What do you think? And if this is true, what makes it so hard?

There’s good news in Choice Theory, like the fact that it means –

+ I no longer have to control everyone around me.

+ I can talk to people in a way that helps us work through a problem and stay connected in the process.

+ I can self-evaluate my own behavior and make a new plan for the future.

So what makes these three “good news” pieces of Choice Theory hard to do? Consider the following –

+ I no longer have to control everyone around me.
This Choice Theory truism should come as a relief, and when you first hear it in a workshop setting or read it in a book, it does feel like a relief. Then you drive home after the workshop or head to your classroom the following day and suddenly it feels more like a restriction than a relief. Control, we come to realize, isn’t something from which we really want to be relieved. Of course, it’s more about the feeling of control, since Choice Theory reminds us the only person we can control is ourselves. This feeling of control is more than alluring, though; it can become a part of our identity.
It is hard to let go of something that means as much to us as being in control, even if it is pseudo-control. It is hard, too, if we don’t yet feel skilled in how to live without controlling others. The skill lies in identifying our own needs and boundaries and then living a caring, connecting life within them.

+ I can talk to people in a way that helps us work through a problem and stay connected in the process.
It is easy for us to agree that using the Caring Habits (accepting, trusting, listening, encouraging, supporting, respecting, and negotiating differences) is better than using the Deadly Habits (criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to manipulate) when it comes to how we relate to others, but it is still hard to do. One of the things that is hard is to really listen, to really focus on understanding what your child, your student, your spouse, or your colleague is saying. We listen to reply, rather than listening to understand. As a result, we are quick to tell a child or student what to do, rather than helping them arrive at and verbalize a plan. Maybe a desire for expediency urges us to tell and direct her/his behavior; maybe it is a way to meet our own need for influence and power. Whatever the case, it is hard to focus on asking good questions, rather than telling what we think are good answers.

+ I can self-evaluate my own behavior and make a new plan for the future.
For me, this is one of Glasser’s most important contributions to the field of mental health, that being that people can learn to monitor their own psychological health and make choices to maintain or improve it. It is hard, though, to escape the gravitational pull of stimulus-response thinking. Stimulus-response is an outside-in world. In other words, we are what the circumstances around us make us. There is a strong appeal to this way of thinking because somehow we are drawn to being the victim. Somehow there is something need-satisfying in victimhood.
Choice Theory is about an inside-out world in which people choose their course of action and choose their responses to circumstances, whatever they may be. Living in an inside-out world means recognizing our own responsibility for our thinking and our actions. This, you may have noticed, is hard to do.
It is easy to blame and to criticize, especially when we do it silently and resentfully, all the while building a case for our rightness. It is harder to look into our own psychological mirror and admit that we are criticizing or blaming to try and get what we want. It is harder to choose to be positive and caring, regardless of what people do in return.

It is hard to escape
the gravitational pull
of stimulus-response thinking.

It is hard to switch from a stimulus-response approach to a Choice Theory approach to life. Glasser felt that it took him two years to make the switch. I think it is taking longer for me. In fact, I think I think I will always need to stay intentional about this switch. More and more I come into an awareness of the ways in which I choose irresponsible misery, rather than responsible joy, and I want to change that. If a Choice Theory approach is taking longer for you, I want to encourage you to stay on the journey. Insights will continue to dawn in your thinking; breakthroughs will emerge in your experience. Resist the pull of stimulus-response.


I finished the Anatomy of Peace book, by The Arbinger Institute. I can very much recommend it. It describes a Choice Theory approach to life from a unique angle that even experienced choice theorists will benefit from. Again, I want to thank my friends at Livingstone Adventist Academy for sharing the book with me.



I’ve recently been alerted to the message of Michele Borba and her work surrounding the topic of empathy. Have you heard of her? Looks very good to me so far. More on her work later.

Tools for Auditing Ourselves


Book titles can get my attention, so, ok, this one got my attention. In fact, I bought a copy. Although irreverent and even funny, it turns out the book has substance. As the book’s subtitle announces, it provides practical advice for managing all of life’s impossible problems. A tall order, although advice can be cheap. The first two chapters of the book – F*ck Self-Improvement and F*ck Self-Esteem – have been interesting and even choice-theoryesque, but my jury is still out on the book’s overall value. While I am still weighing the book’s advice, I can certainly agree that life has impossible problems and that help is needed in learning to manage them.


It seems like more than ever people are suffering from the effects of anxiety, fear, and anger. Glasser used to say that a person couldn’t be seriously unhappy for more than six weeks without beginning to experience psychological, and even physical, symptoms. To combat these symptoms, which often involve various forms of chronic pain, Americans have turned to drugs, both legal and illegal, to numb the discomfort. The numbers bear this out. Although making up less than 5% of the world’s population, Americans use 80% of its opioids. One hundred and twenty nine Americans (over 47,000 annually) die every day from drug overdoses, about 60% of them linked to opioids. For the first time since 1986, suicides are on the rise as well. Sally Curtin, a statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics, notes that “While other causes of death are on the decline, suicide just keeps climbing – and it’s doing so for every age group under 75. (A heartbreaking statistic from her data reveals that the age group with the sharpest increase is for girls between the ages of 10-14.) So, yes, there are a lot of people searching for advice and direction on how to manage life’s problems.


As I read the chapter entitled F*ck Self-Improvement, I came upon a statement, really just a phrase, that jumped out at me. The author was talking about how to help another person change an addictive behavior. “If you’re trying to get help for someone who doesn’t yet want it,” the authors begin, “keep in mind that such help seldom is effective, because it doesn’t work when someone is attending treatment for you rather than for themselves. Instead of taking responsibility for another person’s recovery, give them tools for auditing themselves, and challenge them to use those tools to decide for themselves whether they need sobriety and help.”

”  .   .   .   give them tools for auditing themselves.”

That phrase, “give them tools for auditing themselves,” zapped the creative center in my brain and I instantly thought about what our students, from Kindergarten through 12th grade, need from us – tools for auditing themselves. Children need coaching and mentoring on how to be aware of their thinking and their feeling, and even their physiology, and then on how to behave more effectively. This is one of choice theory’s core elements. People, whether in elementary school at the beginning of their life or in a retirement center much later in life, can learn to insightfully self-evaluate and make a new choice, a better choice. This is why Dr. Glasser saw mental health being a public health issue. People can learn to monitor and take care of their own psychological health.


At the heart of public health is the element of education, the element of teaching people a healthier way. This is why the presence of choice theory concepts in schools can be so powerful. The cycle of externally controlling students, with its emphasis on rewards and punishments, must be broken. Rewards and punishments may produce a semblance of compliance, but it is also producing an adult population incapable of managing themselves and dealing with life’s problems. Rather than being controlled through threats, sanctions, and punishments, students need to be given the tools to audit themselves. There is no greater gift than the gift of self-control and self-management.

Jim Roy and Dave Hanscom

Jim Roy and Dave Hanscom

Self-improvement has become an industry taking in more than 11 billion dollars a year. People may say they don’t want to be addicted to pills or behaviors that numb and distract, but they seem to want them more than they want to deal with pain and frustration. There are ways to manage psychological and physical symptoms, though. If you made it to adulthood without yet learning the tools to “audit yourself,” there are helpful resources. One approach I am appreciating more and more is one espoused by Dr. David Hanscom. His book, Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Road Map Out of Chronic Pain, is an inspiring, detailed, and step-by-step guide to managing the stresses of life and decreasing the pain, often without surgery. (Find out more about this road map at As I discussed with Glasser before he passed away, I am now in talks with Dave about how to get self-management tools into schools. It is best to begin the quest for self-management early.


While mentoring students toward self-management is a caring, skilled, and delicate process it isn’t rocket surgery. Well, actually, rocket surgery is easier. Much easier. Working with a rocket is about understanding laws related to physics, engineering, and electrical circuitry, and applying them accurately. Working with a child to help him understand his own thinking, feeling, and behaving, and further to help him know when he needs to adjust a thought or a behavior, is a much more challenging task. But as parents and educators that is our wonderful challenge. Each of us is on a spiritual journey, and learning to manage life is an essential part of that journey.


The book that described “the better plan” for SDA educators and parents, although its message can help anyone in leadership.

The Fox and the Chicken Coop

A Robert Whitaker blog title, Psychiatry Through the Lens of Institutional Corruption, recently got my attention.

I first heard of Robert Whitaker when Glasser told me about a book Whitaker wrote called Mad in America. Glasser was particularly excited about the book, which led to me buying the book for myself, and which further led to me strongly agreeing with Glasser’s assessment of it. Mad in America was a really well-written book on the history of mental illness and the bad medicine and science that has attempted to treat it.


My interviews with Glasser, which took place between late 2003 and early 2008, often began with him catching me up on what his latest brainstorm was or what his latest idea for a project was or what article or book had caught his attention. Mad in America was such a book. Glasser’s biography includes several illustrations and quotes from Whitaker’s book as the two men, although not colleagues who had worked together or communicated at all, and although looking at the topic from very different perspectives actually saw mental health in very similar ways.

Robert Whitaker

Robert Whitaker

Whitaker’s Mad in America, published in 2002, and Glasser’s Warning, which came out in 2003, were highly complimentary views on what ailed the mental health industry. Both Whitaker and Glasser saw psychiatry as part of the problem, rather than contributing to the solution. Glasser pointed out in Warning that “The unwillingness of the medical profession to come to grips with the creativity of an unhappy brain costs billions of dollars every year. If we wait for the medical profession to take the lead here, we will wait forever.” Warning took direct aim at psychiatry and at the pharmaceuticals that benefitted from psychiatry’s treatment strategies, but it was a role Glasser didn’t relish. He was more into the good fight of mental health than the bad fight of mental illness. During one of our interviews when I questioned him about not staying in a more aggressive stance, he explained that “I’m damning psychiatry as much as I’m gonna damn it. I’m saying they diagnose diseases that don’t exist, they give drugs that can harm you, and they tell you that you can’t help yourself. That’s about as good as I can do.”


Glasser came to believe that psychiatry was perpetrating a medical fraud on the American people, a belief that Whitaker appears to have arrived at as well. In his 2015 book, Psychiatry Under the Influence, Whitaker writes about his investigation of the American Psychiatric Association through the lens of institutional corruption. Working with Lisa Cosgrove, a professor at UMASS Boston, through a grant to the Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, he looked at the bigger picture of the APA’s role in current practice.


“The basic concept of institutional corruption is this,” Whitaker explained. “There are economies of influence that create incentives for behaviors by members of the institution that are antithetical to the institution’s public mission. When this happens, the corrupt behavior may become normative, and even go unrecognized as problematic by those within the institution.”

The year 1980 was significant for the APA in that, due to the 3rd edition of the DSM being published, it became the year in which they created a disease model for diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders. Once the disease model was adopted, it laid claim to having societal authority over three domains: 1) diagnosis of psychiatric disorders, 2) research into their biological causes, and 3) drug treatments.


1. Diagnosis of psychiatric disorders
2. Research into their biological causes
3. Drug treatments

These domains created economies of influence that included the influence of the pharmaceutical industry, and the influence of psychiatry’s own guild (profession) interests. This guild then had a need to inform the public its diagnoses were valid, that its research was producing an understanding of the biology of psychiatric disorders, and that its drugs were effective. In other words, the psychiatric “fox” was now guarding the psychiatric “chicken coop.”


This is a big deal. “If science supported these stories,” Whitaker points out, “there would be no problem. But if science did not support the stories, then the [psychiatric] guild would be tempted to tell society stories that were out of sync with science and betray its public mission.” This is what is meant by corruption. His investigation was not over whether psychiatric disorders are real, or about the risks vs benefits of psychiatric drugs. Instead, Whitaker’s inquiry focuses on whether the institution is fulfilling its duty to the public.

Whitaker concludes with “The institution of psychiatry, with its disease model, has dramatically changed our society over the past 35 years. It has given us a new philosophy of being, and altered how we view children and teenagers, and their struggles. It has touched every corner of our society, and this societal change has arisen because of a story told to the public that has been shaped by guild and pharmaceutical influences, as opposed to a record of good science. That is the nature of the harm done: our society has organized itself around a ‘corrupt’ narrative.”

This is what Glasser was trying to tell us when he wrote the Warning book. This is why he wanted us to see mental illness as a public health issue centered around education rather than drugs. Using a baseball metaphor, Glasser kept his eye on the ball throughout his career. Writers like Robert Whitaker are helping us keep our eyes on the ball, too.


Click on the book to access the Glasser biography through Amazon.

Quickly order the biography from Amazon. Click on the book to access the Amazon link.

Quickly order the biography from Amazon. Click on the book to access the Amazon link.

Well . . . this is frustrating . . . in kind of a good way


I just learned about a new book by Allen Frances that Harper Collins has published. It is called Saving Normal: An Insider’s Revolt Against Out-of-Control Psychiatric Diagnosis, DSM-5, Big Pharma, and the Medicalization of Ordinary Life.

The Harper Collins ad for the book proclaims that it was written by “the most powerful psychiatrist in America” and that it is “a deeply fascinating and urgently important critique of the widespread medicalization of normality.”

Dr. Allen Frances

Dr. Allen Frances

The actual description of the book, when you find it on Amazon, reads as follows –

Anyone living a full, rich life experiences ups and downs, stresses, disappointments, sorrows, and setbacks. These challenges are a normal part of being human, and they should not be treated as psychiatric disease. However, today millions of people who are really no more that “worried well” are being diagnosed as having a mental disorder and are receiving unnecessary treatment. In Saving Normal, Allen Francis, one of the world’s most influential psychiatrists, warns that mislabeling everyday problems as mental illness has shocking implications for individuals and society: stigmatizing a healthy person as mentally ill leads to unnecessary, harmful medications, the narrowing horizons, misallocation of medical resources, and draining of the budgets of families and the nation. We also shift responsibility for our mental well-being away from our own naturally resilient and self-healing brains, which have kept us sane for hundreds of thousands of years, and into the hands of “Big Pharma,” who are reaping multi-billion-dollar profits.

Frances cautions that the new edition of the “bible of psychiatry,” the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5), will turn our current diagnostic inflation into hyperinflation by converting millions of “normal” people into “mental patients.” Alarmingly, in DSM-5, normal grief will become “Major Depressive Disorder”; the forgetting seen in old age is “Mild Neurocognitive Disorder”; temper tantrums are “Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder”; worrying about a medical illness is “Somatic Symptom Disorder”; gluttony is “Binge Eating Disorder”; and most of us will qualify for adult “Attention Deficit Disorder.” What’s more, all of these newly invented conditions will worsen the cruel paradox of the mental health industry: those who desperately need psychiatric help are left shamefully neglected, while the “worried well” are given the bulk of the treatment, often at their own detriment.

Masterfully charting the history of psychiatric fads throughout history, Frances argues that whenever we arbitrarily label another aspect of the human condition a “disease,” we further chip away at our human adaptability and diversity, dulling the full palette of what is normal and losing something fundamental of ourselves in the process. Saving Normal is a call to all of us to reclaim the full measure of our humanity.

It is a little bit frustrating for me (not a lot, but a little bit) that Harper Collins is pushing Saving Normal. I contacted the editor at Harper Collins when I had the Glasser biography manuscript halfway completed, a book that covers the same topics as Saving Normal, and was told that no one was interested in the life story of William Glasser. I disagreed, pointing out Glasser’s long and well-known career, the many books he had published, some of them huge sellers, the worldwide organization he had formed, the over 65,000 people that had participated in Glasser training workshops, and the many Glasser Quality Schools he had inspired throughout the United States.

I contacted this same editor when the manuscript was finished and he surprised me by saying he would love to read it, although he reminded me that he didn’t see Harper Collins getting involved. Still, I was a bit buoyed by his interest in the book. He ended up being very complimentary of the manuscript, emphasizing that it was very well written. I took it as a compliment when he expressed that he didn’t think it needed much editing. In spite of his belief that it was well written and interesting, he wished me luck in finding a publisher.

Since Harper Collins didn’t want to publish the book, or at least one of the editors didn’t want to publish the book, I have very much wanted to prove him wrong. I very much want a lot of people to be interested in Glasser’s story and the development of his ideas. Allen Frances, it turns out, is known for chairing the taskforce that produced the DSM-4, so his prominence is earned. Still, I see Glasser’s contributions to psychiatry, psychology, and education as so much more significant. That Harper Collins would jump on Frances’ bandwagon after so many years of working with Glasser, well, it’s just a bit frustrating.

It is good, though, that Saving Normal has been published. It is now one more voice reminding readers that the ups and downs of life, the challenges and disappointments, the sadness and grief, are not indicators of mental disease. It reminds us that human beings possess a resiliency capable of working through problems, rather than running to Big Pharma. It’s not a cheap book at $45, but I welcome it to the “discussion.” Did I mention that it’s presence is a tad frustrating?


Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been uploaded so far.

Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been uploaded so far.

The eBook version of William Glasser: Champion of Choice can be accessed at the following link –

The paperback version can be accessed at the following Amazon link –

For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
Please include your email address, just in case I have questions about your order. My address is P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508

Get a signed copy of Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Teachers for $17.


You Are Missed, Bill Glasser!

Bill, at home, ready to visit about whatever is on your mind.  (Photo by Jim Roy)

Bill, at home, ready to visit about whatever is on your mind. (Photo by Jim Roy)

William Glasser passed away a year ago today. His legacy includes a long and successful career in which he influenced countless people on how to be mentally healthy and happy in their relationships with others. As the creator of Reality Therapy, Glasser challenged the therapeutic status quo and began to melt the complexity of human psychology; as the creator of Choice Theory, he provided a model of human behavior that even a child can understand, a model that acknowledged basic human needs and wants.

Everybody needs one essential friend.   William Glasser

Although anticipated, his passing left a void organizationally and more importantly, left a void personally within the hearts of those who were seeking and continue to seek to understand his ideas about motivation and behavior. Organizationally, people have stepped up to maintain and even grow the structure of Glasser, Inc. Time will tell regarding the extent to which the organization flourishes or not. For many of us personally, though, this same process is going on within our own hearts and minds. In what ways and to what extent are Glasser’s ideas flourishing within us as individuals? What do his ideas mean to us personally?

Relaxing in the living room with the TV on, although still ready to talk about life. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Relaxing in the living room with the TV on, although still ready to talk about life. (Photo by Jim Roy)

For me personally, the principles of Choice Theory continue to influence my thinking a great deal. Of course, it is one thing to think something and quite another thing to consistently apply that thinking in your life, but Choice Theory brings me back to a good starting point when I get off track. Before becoming acquainted with Choice Theory, I was very capable of choosing to depress and to withdraw in general. Now, after learning about Choice Theory, not so much. Glasser’s ideas have been a kind of psychological immunization against the common mental distressers for me.

It is almost impossible for anyone, even the most ineffective among us, to continue to choose misery after becoming aware that it is a choice.   William Glasser

His explanation of the importance of the relationships in our lives has been very significant for me, especially the idea that our ability to influence a person is directly dependent on our level of connection with him/her. For parents and teachers this is the gold standard of advice. As long as we are connected to our kids we have influence with them. When that connection is severed, usually due to our anger or disgust or coercive approach, so, too, is the influence. It is crazy how flippant we can be with this kind of connection!

Glasser and Albert Ellis, 2005. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Glasser and Albert Ellis, 2005. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Glasser’s biography, Champion of Choice, became available less than four months after his death. So close. People that knew him and worked with him for many years have affirmed the book’s accuracy, which means a lot to me, and people that thought they knew him well have indicated they learned new things about his life from reading the biography. Of special importance to me, though, is the possibility that readers will learn about the principles of Reality Therapy, Choice Theory, mental health, and the whole idea of getting and staying happy.

If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for anyone else, the world would be a much happier place.   William Glasser

Today (Saturday, Aug. 23) also happens to be my Sabbath, a day designed for rest and contemplation. Glasser’s ideas have certainly been a part of my spiritual journey and have strengthened and enlarged my concepts of total well-being, love, freedom, purpose, and joy. He has been a mentor to me and I will take solace in reflecting on our time together and the positive ways he influenced me – cognitively, emotionally, and even spiritually.

You are missed, Bill. You are missed.

Glasser's writing space, minus his computer, where so much of his creativity was put to the page. (Photo by Jim Roy.)

Glasser’s writing space, minus his computer, where so much of his creativity was put to the page. (Photo by Jim Roy.)

I invite you to respond to this post and share what Glasser or his ideas have come to mean to you since his passing a year ago. I think you need to register on WordPress to submit comments, but the registration is super easy. No big deal. I encourage you to do it and share.


Now priced at $18.20 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been uploaded so far.

Now priced at $18.20 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been uploaded so far.

Solitary Pleasure and Mental Health?


The words solitary pleasure and mental health would not seem to go together, yet a case can be made for just that. The August 12 post at describes how people need to cultivate a solitary pleasure as a way to nurture a relationship with themselves. This is interesting and important on several levels.

When I was a young man I remember hearing that you had to be a me before you could become a we. I took that to mean that it’s important to establish your own identity and to be strong within yourself before you attempt to meld your life with a significant other. Even as we connect with others socially and even if we are in a relationship with a significant other, though, there is something very solitary about the human condition. Mental health seems to require an inner personal strength that is comfortable with solitude. Me before We also conveys the importance of learning how to be fulfilled and secure within yourself, rather than being dependent on another person fixing your insecurity.


Another way in which solitary pleasure can be healthy is described in Positive Addiction (1976), where Glasser described how people can be “addicted” to an activity that is actually good for them. After visiting with and surveying runners, he concluded that if certain conditions were met, the act of running could bring the runner into a special mental state where contentment, confidence, and creativity flourished. The runners admitted that if they could run with ease for around an hour, and if the element of competition was not present, they would experience a kind of runner’s “high” that strengthened them and seemed to prepare them to meet their responsibilities even more effectively. They also admitted that when they didn’t run for awhile they began to feel less healthy – physically and emotionally – and wanted to get their running shoes on and get back on the road. Glasser noted that other activities besides running could lead to this Positive Addiction (PA) state as long as the conditions were met. The key is that rather than detracting from our life forces and literally imprisoning us, like negative addictions do, a positive addiction adds strength and creativity to our lives.

And so there is a kind of solitary that is healthy. As humans we need to be able to handle, and even tap into the benefits of solitude. That being said, though, let’s remember that not every kind of solitary is good for us. Choice theory points out the importance of relationships in our lives, and how so much of our emotional distress is created when a relationship suffers. Our mental health, to a great degree, is tied to the quality connections we have with others. So what’s the difference between a healthy solitary and an unhealthy solitary? For me the answer boils down to: Is my solitary a way to escape or is it a way to empower?


The story is told of a man that went out to the wood pile to cut wood, and how at first he cut the wood quickly and made great progress. He had a lot of wood to cut and he was pleased at how easy it was. As the days went by, though, he seemed to cut less wood in the same amount of time. Rather than getting stronger and cutting even more wood, he was cutting less. It got to the point where he seemed unable to get the saw through the wood at all. Discouragement and frustration became his companions as he went out to the wood pile each day to wrestle with the few pieces he could now handle. When a friend stopped by to visit and noticed how slow he was now cutting the wood, the friend suggested that he ought to sharpen the saw. Indeed, the saw was sharpened and the experience became doable and efficient once again.

We each need to be aware of the ways in which our “saws” are sharpened. It could be meditation or morning devotions, prayer, cycling, walking, knitting, gardening, or hitting golf balls. If life is marked by difficulty and drudgery, it may be that our saw is dull and that we are trying to cut the same amount of wood with it. Caring for ourselves is not a selfish act. Ultimately, we can care for others and do our jobs even better when our “saws” are sharpened. When solitary activities empower us to face our responsibilities and connect with others in the process, they are healthy and needful.

One of the important benefits of “sharpening the saw” activities and healthy solitude is becoming more aware of and accepting of ourselves. As the post suggested, we need to develop and nurture a healthy relationship within ourself and learn how to meet our own needs in the process.

So, in review –

Me before We

Positive instead of negative addiction

Empowerment rather than escape

Keep that saw sharp


14 Amazon reviews; can we make it 20?

14 Amazon reviews; can we make it 20?

For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
Please include your email address, just in case I have questions about your order. My address is P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508

Get a signed copy of Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Teachers for $17.

Amazon reviews would be helpful here, too.

Amazon reviews would be helpful here, too.


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The Future of Choice Theory Is In Our Hands

In the last Better Plan post I shared the questions that people would ask William Glasser himself, if he were still with us. (If you have insights or answers to one of the questions, please share them with us.) Today I will post the results of the other assignment I gave during the Toronto talk, that being – What suggestions do you have to get Glasser’s ideas out to the public more effectively?

Those in attendance at the Toronto talk were asked to work with a partner and think of things that could be kept in mind as the organization moves forward. If there was more than one suggestion for the same idea I placed an “x” after that idea. Some ideas have quite a few x’s by them. If we had more time in Toronto we could have refined these ideas even more. However, here they are in their more raw form.

TED talks. x x x x x x x x x

Create a YouTube channel with strategic key words that will attract people when they do searches. x x x x x x

Use social media more. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. x x x x x x

Writing reviews on Champion of Choice. x x x x

Choose a business model and concentrate our efforts to market choice theory, including hiring people who know marketing. Develop a recognizable brand and logo. x x x

Establish and support the William Glasser Foundation. x x

Model the theory and walk our talk. x x

Training to certification must be quicker for the millennial generation. x

Research. x

Create partnerships with different people, communities, or businesses. x

Let people know about x

Be clearer about what is required to be certified.

Keep reality therapy in the discussion – don’t limit it to choice theory.

Reach out to universities and textbook writers. Get the word out to academics.

Develop a graduate curriculum for reality therapy.

Develop a reality TV show on reality therapy and choice theory.

Talk shows – Ellen, Oprah, Saturday Night Live, etc.

Market “Choice Theory in Motion” more aggressively.

Create a database of supporting evidence (annotated) of studies supporting choice theory.

Create marketing for Take Charge of Your Life.

WGI members need to be attending and presenting at other conferences, like the ACA.

Make a movie of Champion of Choice.

Never give up.

Write a book about Rochester School and the experiences we had implementing choice theory in our community.

Find a young person to be his (Bill’s) champion.

Focus on youth.

Providing funding to offer training to principals and teachers.

Produce a film or documentary on Bill and his ideas.

Massive book launches.

Effective one-day workshops.

Filming teachers who are effectively applying RT/CT in the classroom and publishing these examples.

A focused voice from each discipline using choice theory.

We’re getting too old as an organization. We need to connect to youth.

#choice theory

Create a presence on maternity wards and geriatric centers – e.g. material that would help new parents

Introduce CT concepts in the school system at an early age – embed in the curriculum.

There are some very good ideas here. Some of them we can do as individuals, while some of them would need to be addressed at an organizational level. Do you want to lobby for one of these ideas? Respond in the box below and let us know what you are thinking. Thank you to each set of partners during the Toronto talk who came up with these suggestions.


“If you don’t like something, change it;
if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”
Mary Engelbreit

Questions for Bill


It’s hard to believe that two weeks ago today the 2nd International Glasser Conference was just beginning, and that I kicked off the conference by talking about his just published biography – Champion of Choice. Thanks to Banning Lary, that talk was posted in the last blog. I still have such positive memories about the conference and the time I was able to spend with so many of you. Although traveling can be a hassle and expensive, I am so glad I attended. Thank you to WGI – Canada for such a wonderfully planned event.

Carleen Glasser speaking at the Toronto conference.

Carleen Glasser speaking at the Toronto conference.

During the talk I had people work with a partner and answer a couple of questions. The first invited those in attendance to consider – If Bill were still with us, what question would you like to ask him? The second question asked – What can the organization or individuals do to get the choice theory word out to the public better? Today’s blog is going to focus on the first one and share some of the questions that are on your heart and mind.

Some of you will know the answers to some of these questions. If so, I invite you to respond to this post and share your knowledge. Some of the questions are answered or commented on in the biography. If so, I will indicate that. And some of the questions we can only wonder what Bill might say. The questions definitely invite us to think and reflect.

There were too many questions to list all of them, but here are a few –

In looking back on your life do you have any regrets? (A number of you asked this question in one form or another.)

What is the role of the unconscious mind in choice theory? (At first glance, I thought this question had an obvious answer, since Bill consistently wanted us to focus on the conscious mind. That being true, though, this question is still valid.)

What would you suggest that we do to promote choice theory in education and to get it into all the schools?

How did you come to realize that external control doesn’t work? (In the biography.)

How can RT/CT help understand autism?

How did your childhood, and specifically your relationship with your mother, contribute to your outlook, beliefs, and success? (In the biography.)

What would you like to say that you’ve never said before?

Do you think homosexuality is genetic or by choice? (In the biography.)

How difficult was it to apply your theories to your personal life? (In the biography.)

Which components of the choice theory framework are the most important?

What do you still want to accomplish professionally?

What do you wonder about currently?

If you were a politician, what would your first project be?

How long did it take you to move from external control to internal control in living your life? (In the biography.)

In looking back, would you have used other ways or methods to further your ideas?

What does freedom look like for you?

You seem uncomfortable with religion, but have you ever had, or come close to having, a spiritual experience?

Was it you or your ideas that had the greatest influence?

When working with young children who find it extremely difficult to verbalize, or even truly understand their emotions, what successful approaches can be implemented to assist them in terms of their behavior choices?

How did you get to the analogy of the car for Total Behavior? (In the biography.)

How did political and cultural activities of the 1960s affect your theories? (In the biography.)

What other career would you pursue if you had your time over?

What do you think about sexual addiction/compulsion?

What has brought you the most joy in your life?

That last question is a great one to end on. As I said at the outset, some of you have great responses to certain of these questions. I encourage you to take a moment and share your thoughts with the rest of us.

One thing the questions do is remind us how much we miss Bill and how much we wish he was still with us to answer the questions himself. Toronto represented the first international conference without Bill and it will be interesting to see how his ideas move ahead on their own. Of course, his ideas are not alone. They aren’t orphans. His ideas have us to care for them and proclaim them.


As of July 24, the Amazon reviews for Champion of Choice remains at –



“Happiness is when you feel good about yourself without the need for anyone else’s approval.”


Cancer and “How Should I Live My Life Now?”

I don’t know how many of you will take the time to watch Jeff Tirengel’s talk about his life as a cancer patient, but if you do you will be emotionally moved and your thinking about life will be deepened.

I thought about titling this blog post, Cancer and Choice Theory, but this talk can’t be pigeon-holed that neatly.

Pretty much all of us have been affected by cancer, either personally or by its affect on family and friends, and I believe Jeff’s story will be a help to each of us, whatever our involvement with it may be. His calmness, his humor, and his brutal candor all contribute to the power of the talk.

Jeff is a dear friend, so I was naturally drawn to his story. However, as I began to watch and listen it became more than a friend thing. The content is powerful on its own merit.

Jeff believes in the ideas of choice theory, yet there is no pressure in this talk, not even an invitation, for you to believe in choice theory, too. In giving this talk he is doing something much more important than preaching.

Jeff was a personal friend of Glasser and continues to be friends with Carleen Glasser, who was in attendance at the talk. I first met Jeff when we were in the same reality therapy/choice theory certification class in 2003 and we have stayed in touch ever since. He weaves choice theory principles throughout the talk, especially the basic needs.

I mentioned Jeff in a special blog from last year, the one entitled The Rest of the Story, Pt. 2, which was posted on Sept. 5, 2013. Check out this video and you will come to understand why I treasure Jeff. Many of you have loved ones and friends you treasure, too. I have a feeling Jeff’s story will resonate with you as deeply as it did with me.



Jeff Tirengel, PsyD, MPH is a Professor of Psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. He also directs psychological services for the Preventive and Rehabilitative Cardiac Center, Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute. Dr. Tirengel began his career in Washington, DC, serving public and private organizations including the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the National Association of Community Health Centers.

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