Posts tagged “perceived world

Reality Influences Perception; Perception Creates Reality


Sophie Sims-Stapleton turned onto her street and could see them as plain as day. It wasn’t day, of course. It was actually twilight, the evening fast approaching as street lights started to come on, the darkness slowly draping the neighborhood. Her commute had taken a bit longer this evening, which had prompted her to abandon her plans to stop at Safeway on the way home, but even in the twilight she could clearly see them. All three of them, standing in front of her house like sentinels – the brown one, the green one, and the blue one. Except they weren’t sentinels; they were trash cans, standing somewhat askew after the trash truck had emptied them with its robotic arm and unceremoniously dropped them back onto the pavement. And now they were chiding her with a message as clear as their bold colors, that message being, You don’t matter!

As she neared the house she could see her husband’s car already parked in the driveway, which seemed to grind salt in her festering wound. Hadn’t she and Greg, her husband, talked about this at length last week, after the cans had sat in front of the house for three days following trash day, both of them expecting the other to bring the cans to the side yard where they were stored during the week. The two of them had quietly and sullenly dug in, both acting like they hadn’t noticed the cans in front of the house, even though it was difficult to park with them sitting where the trash truck had ditched them.


“Why can’t you just bring them in?” she pleaded. “You usually get home first.”

“I usually do,” he retorted, “but why can’t you bring them in once in a while? I help around the house, seems like you could help with some of the outdoor stuff now and again.”

Truth be told, she felt that her job was more stressful, and basically more important than his, and that he should pick up more of the chores at home. It bothered her that he could act, through his ignoring of the trash cans, like he was somehow equal to her. He had reminded her of the things weighing on him at work, as well as at church, with all the time he was donating to the needs of the building committee, and she had momentarily relented, even as she harbored a sense of resentment toward his laziness and stubbornness. In the end, they had gone out and brought in the trash cans together, which kind of felt good, like they had solved a problem through communicating and respect.


Yet now, just a few days later, the trash cans once again were askew in front of the house, with big grins on the front of them (at least as far as she was concerned), driving home the point that her needs didn’t matter. As she navigated around the blue recycle can to park in her usual place, her thoughts were not positive.

I kind of hate him, she thought to herself. Why can’t he just bring in the freaking trash cans? Seeing his car parked in its usual place she got even angrier. He’s been home for how long? A half hour? An hour? That’s plenty of time to bring in a few trash cans. Jeez! Why do I have to nag him? His laziness makes me crazy!

The thought occurred to her to bring in the trash cans herself, but she responded gruffly to such an idea. That would be totally non-supportive of her goal. There are responsibilities for which he needs to step up to the plate, and this is one of them. She laughed at herself for even entertaining the thought of bringing the cans in herself. True, during last week’s discussion on this very point she had agreed that sometimes she could bring in the cans, too, but she pushed this memory aside now. Instead, the thought occurred to her to place one of the cans directly behind his car so that he would have to move it in the morning.


The front porch was dark, which added to her anger fuel. If he gets home first, can’t he at least turn on the porch lights as a courtesy to others that come home later? How did I marry this jerk? What was I thinking?

She put the finishing touches on her anger and frustration, all of it completely merited and defensible, as she covered the final steps to the front door. Which persona to be she wondered as she unlocked the door – should I go with lashing-out anger or should I go with the silent treatment? Full of appropriate disgust she entered a dark house. What’s going on? she thought.

“Greg,” she called out. “Greg,” she tried again. But only silence in return. What in the world?

And then a memory slipped across her mind. Her brow furrowed as the audio memory tape in her brain wound into position. She almost declined to press the play button, but her brain seemed to have an automatic play option. Faintly, but growing stronger, the tape said, Honey, I will be home late tonight. Roger is picking me up in the morning, as we have a joint meeting in Forrest City tomorrow for work, and then we are both part of the special board meeting this evening at the church. It may be close to 10:00 when I get home. She recalled the look on his face as he explained his schedule, the way he regretted being away from her for the evening, and a pang of awareness began to overtake her.

She turned the kitchen light on and immediately saw the note he had written, after she had left for work.

Just a reminder that I will be home late tonight.
More meetings at the church.
I’ll get the trash cans in when I get home, though.
Love, Greg.

She stared at that simple note for a long time, her eyes growing wet as the recognition regarding her own anger became clearer and clearer. A tear dropped on to the note, quickly blurring the ink of trash and cans. She had created a story and nurtured it into a reality that she had fully embraced. Her reality had led her to think terrible things about her husband, but she was beginning to see that she had made it all up. All of it. For some reason, she realized, her version of reality applied the worst interpretation to Greg’s behavior, while applying the best interpretation to her own behavior. Another tear dropped onto the note, this time obliterating the word Love.

That can’t happen she thought to herself. Our love can’t be so easily blurred. And with that she returned to the entryway, turned on the porch light, and headed into the night air to get the trash cans and put them away.


It is true that reality influences our perceptions. Our circumstances can affect any part of our total behavior – our thinking, our acting, our feelings, or our physiology. Information and events external to us may or may not matter. A ringing telephone, as Glasser used to say, lets us know that someone wants to talk with us, but it can’t force us to answer it. An angry, threatening person may convince us to comply with his demand, or it may not. We decide. In fact, we make a ton of these decisions every day. Circumstances constantly hit us with data; we process the data and decide how to respond.

It is just as true that our perceptions create our reality. In fact, this may be one of the most important of the elements of choice theory. It is probably more accurate to say that our embraced perceptions create our reality. When we settle on a value or belief, everything we experience passes through our values filter. The result of this filtering is our version of reality. Our actions are always based on our view of reality, so the importance of this process cannot be overstated.

It can be hard for some to come to grips with the idea that people create their own version of reality. Reality is reality, some say; it isn’t a matter of opinion. For each of us, though, reality is formed in the frontal cortex of our brains, which continuously takes in millions of bits of information and turns it into pictures and sounds and smells. A danger lurks in the belief that our personal pictures and sounds and smells represent total, all-knowing, crystal-clear reality. Such a view cannot tolerate new information and limits itself to shrunken interpretations. Sophie had embraced faulty pictures of Greg, but she was able to admit this when new information corrected her version of reality. This is not always easy to do – Has anyone’s mind been changed, for instance, because of all the political information and articles being shared on Facebook as Election 2016 nears? Exactly, we choose to ignore some articles, even as we consciously click on links to other articles we consider more trustworthy or accurate. Having values is fine, even preferable, but staying open to new information is a healthier state of mind.

Just remember not to jump to conclusions when you round the corner and see those pesky trash cans still sitting out by the road.


What You Feel Can Change What You See

One of the great insights that we gain from choice theory is the realization that we are constantly in the process of creating our reality. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this concept, since all of our views, our fears, our responses, and our plans are based on our perception of reality.

In a sharp, concise TED talk, Issac Lidsky explains “how what we see is a unique, personal, virtual reality that is masterfully constructed by our brain.” He acknowledges that what we see can change how we feel, but he goes further by also explaining that “what you feel can change what you see.” Citing fascinating studies he points out how subjects’ estimates as to how fast a man was walking was influenced by whether or not they were shown a picture of a cheetah or a turtle; or that subjects believed that a hill was steeper if they had just exercised; or that a landmark appeared farther away when subjects were wearing a heavy backpack. His 11 minute talk follows –

Coming from his own amazingly unique perspective, Lidsky makes a strong case for the way in which “we create our own reality.” Because of this he urged his audience to “hold themselves accountable for every moment and every thought.” This view is one of choice theory’s most important contributions. William Glasser didn’t invent the way in which we create our own reality, but he was one of the early “recognizers” of it. Isaac Lidsky is one of the many who are also recognizing this feature of our human design.

The only thing worse than being blind
is having sight with no vision.
Helen Keller

Consider showing this TED talk to your middle school or high school students. Afterward viewing it, you might consider processing some of the following questions with them –

+ Helen Keller once said that “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight with no vision.” Does Isaac Lidsky have vision and if so, provide examples.
+ What did Lidsky mean when he said that we create our own unique, virtual reality?
+ To what extent do you agree with Lidsky that what we feel can change what we see?
+ What does it mean to hold ourselves accountable for every thought?
+ At one point during his early life, Lidsky referred to his view of his life being “a fiction of his fears.” Is his story just one more feel-good yarn, or is he on to something? To what extent do you relate to the possibility that your view of things is a fiction born of your fears?

Hold yourself accountable for every thought.
Isaac Lidsky


Another excellent video that demonstrates reality being a product of our own creative interpretation is the Season 1: Episode 1 edition of Brain Games, entitled Watch This. Very well done. Your students will be impressed. Lots of material to talk about afterward, as well as a lot of activities to try in your own classroom. You can easily access the episode on Netflix.



On a personal note –

Ok, so I have recently been diagnosed with a non-Hodgkins form of lymphoma, a cancer known as Waldenstroms, named after a Swedish physician who discovered the disease in 1944. Waldenstroms (WM) is rare, affecting approximately 1,500 people a year in the US (which represents 1/10 of 1% of the 1.6 million people who are diagnosed with cancer in the US each year). It is incurable, but treatable. It affects the body’s ability to create mature, healthy blood cells. In my case, due to a bone marrow biopsy, they know that 70% of my cells are affected by the lymphoma. One of the results of this condition is a lower amount of energy, which I have been experiencing for some time.

I have kept on the run this summer, though – teaching summer school classes, and giving choice theory in-services in Oregon, North Dakota, and Indiana, as well as presenting at a choice theory conference in Japan – and I plan on that to continue. My energy is lower, but not gone. Over the coming weeks I will be considering treatment approaches and schedules. Because we are looking at an immunotherapy approach, rather than a chemotherapy approach, I hope not to miss work or other appointments.

The reality of the situation is still sinking in, but I have incredible support from family and close friends. My faith is strong, which is the most important thing, however I know that my choice theory beliefs will also contribute to my working through this, wherever it may lead.
Like Jesus says –

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.   John 16:33

How Can I Be Wrong when I Think I’m Right?

An 11 minute TED talk provides insights into how people can get to the point of being so wrong, all the while thinking they are so right. It turns out motivated reasoning is to blame.

I first wrote about motivated reasoning in November of 2013 in a blog post titled Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? One of the key points of the post is that people choose what to believe. Choice Theory proposes that we are always involved in the process of creating and maintaining a reality that works for us. Check out that post below –

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?


Two other blog posts also commented on our being “right” and our having a direct pipeline to Truth.

Three Types of People – Awesome, Dangerous, and Run

Melting Self-Justification

Three Types of People

Julia Galef, the TED talk speaker, explained the difference between a warrior mindset and a scout mindset. The warrior is driven toward one goal, to survive through defending or attacking, while the scout is driven to understand and to gain a complete and accurate picture of the facts. The book I recently completed, The Anatomy of Peace, explained the difference between a heart at war and a heart at peace. As choice theorists we can be thankful that more and more people are coming into an awareness of the human ability to create our perception of reality, and more importantly, our ability to choose a more effective reality.


Teaching the Quality World

Today’s blog post is authored by Banning Lary, who I met at the Toronto conference last month. I want to create a page on The Better Plan website at which people can find Choice Theory instructional ideas. This article does just that. The article has previously appeared in The International Journal of Choice Theory and is used with the permission of the author. Thank you, Banning, for sharing this.

Explaining Glasser’s ‘Quality World’
by Banning Lary

During the process of learning about Choice Theory / Reality Therapy (CT/RT) to a level worthy of certification, I found the “How the Brain Works” chart to be intimidating in its complexity. My first instinct was to change the chart and make it more palatable. But, as I began to understand CT/RT the chart began to make more and more sense and I eventually fell in step with the many who have come before me whose minds were positively altered by this sublime and workable model. As certification requires selecting a portion of the chart and preparing a presentation, I wanted to choose an area I wanted to know thoroughly, to the extent that I could explain it to others. I searched Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory (1998) until I came upon this quote:

“Learning what is in a person’s ‘Quality World’ and trying to support it, will bring us closer to that person than anything else we can do.” (p. 51).

If our work is to help others self-evaluate, learning about their Quality Worlds (QW) seemed not only critically important, but possibly a good place to initiate a dialogue to find out about a person. I thus selected the Quality World portion of the chart as my certification project and developed a PowerPoint presentation, slides of which are incorporated into this article.

As I was setting up my computer to begin my presentation, I passed a white index card to everyone in the class and asked them to read the card and write a one-sentence answer. Every card contained the same set of instructions:

What is a table?

Picture a table you know in your mind. Then
write a one sentence description on this card.

The purpose for this will become clear in a moment.

I started my presentation macroscopically and worked inward. I described the Real World as being made up of phenomena, appearances in time and space that can be apprehended by the senses. The Perceived World was described as being a subset of the Real World, comprised of only what we as individuals see, smell, touch, taste or hear. This was further illustrated using the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

Five blind men approached an elephant for the first time and tried to describe it to others. “It’s flat and floppy,” said the blind mind who came in contact with the elephant’s ear. “No, it’s round and heavy,” said the man with his arms round a leg. “It’s like a tapered tube,” said the man holding the snout. “It’s thin and ropelike,” said the man with its tail. “It’s broad and wide,” the fifth blind man said, his arms outstretched spanning the elephant’s torso.


I then asked my colleagues to read what they had written on their cards. “A table is wooden, rectangular and usually found in a dining room.” “A table is round with a thick glass top.” “A table is made of columns and rows of numbers, like an accountant would use.” “A green felt covered piece of slate housed in a heavy frame with bumpers used for billiards.” And so on.


From one simple word, all these different perceptions. Now what would happen if you asked a group of different people to explain their perception of words like power, love, freedom, physical health or fun: the five basic needs of Choice Theory, their fulfillment ideally represented in a person’s Quality World. Therefore, each person’s Quality World is a subset of their Perceived World which is a subset of the Real World.


According to Glasser, a Quality World is made of pictures (people, places, things, activities, ideas and belief systems) we perceive as being need-fulfilling whether anyone else may regard them as need-fulfilling or not. These pictures relate to our past experiences, future aims and ambitions and relate to our idealized selves. Our personal Quality World pictures direct our efforts to fulfill our vision of our basic needs and thereby direct our behavior. Behavior, as Glasser sees it, is comprised of thinking, doing, feeling and physiology (Total Behavior), but that is another area of the chart outside of this discussion.


Pictures in our Quality Worlds are changing and changeable as we go through life. Pictures in an infant’s Quality World may just be his or her parents as they fulfil the infant’s five basic needs. These pictures can vary in levels of intensity or in the possibility of attainment, such as personal goals of becoming a doctor, having a family, building a vacation home or even winning an Oscar. The composite Quality World of a young adult will be more complex and contain more pictures. A Teenager, for example, may have a composite Quality World that looks like this:


Or like this:


Notice how the size and span of the images can vary, how one picture can fill one or more of our basic needs. Notice also the change in the size of the pictures in the second example from the first example. Assuming these are Quality World composites from the same individual, notice how the importance of athletic achievement diminished as the desire or want to smoke dope and hang out with pals increased. This acknowledges Glasser’s observation that Quality Worlds are not always comprised of pictures we (others) might ethically, legally or morally judge as being right. And that…

“… a lot of people have not found anyone they can trust and enjoy being with. They may have been rejected or abused… to feel good they begin to replace people pictures with nonpeople pleasure pictures – pictures of violence, drugs and unloving sex – in the quality worlds. As they do so they separate themselves further from people and happiness, compounding the urgency of their problem.” (Glasser, Choice Theory, 1998, p. 49).

In other words, people who do not have their needs fulfilled in ways society regards as being healthy and positive, may turn to negative and destructive activities to get their needs met. This is where aberration begins. And, if we can discover these life diminishing behaviors by being allowed into the other person’s Quality World, we can ask the kind of questions necessary to help the person make more life-sustaining choices. These choices will lead to further refinement and replacement of images in the person’s Quality World.


As an exercise, I then put up a blank screen and pass around a placard listing a variety of images I have in a folder that are easily accessible on my computer. At the top of the card it reads:



The card is passed around and I ask participants to select an image that fulfills a need and tell how it does so. The images I have used are: Aerobics Class, Backpacking, Basketball, Basketball Professional, Boating, Burger And Fries, Carribean Cruise, Community Service, Cooking Class, Coworkers Smiling, Daughter And Father, Dental Hygenist, Dentist, Dinner Party, Diploma, Family, Father Or Grandfather, Fiesta Dance, Flying Small Plane, Gambling, Gardening, Grandparents , Gymnastics Girls, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Knitting, Making A Movie, Man Fishing, Man Golfing, Man Job Promotion, Man Losing Weight, Man Skiing , Mother, Public Speaking, Quinceanera, Rap Music, Running, Scuba Diving, Sky Diving, Smoking Marijuana, Surgeon, Teaching, Weight Lifting, Travel To Asia, Travel To Europe, Vacation Home, Volunteering In Hospital, Wedding On Beach, Winning The Oscar, Woman And Cat, Woman And Dog, Women Archery,, Woman Bowling, Woman Helping The Elderly, Woman Job Promotion, Woman Losing Weight, Woman Skiing, Woman Snorkeling, Woman Tennis, Woman Water Skiing, Woman With Baby.

Someone might select the image of the diploma and say it fulfills their basic need for power (self-worth). Another might pick the photo of the mother, grandparents or coworkers smiling and refer to fulfilling the need for love and belonging. For fun, I have had them choose scuba diving, golfing, gymnastics, gardening or having a dinner party, which could also fulfill love and belonging, and so forth. There are, of course, no right or wrong answers, but as they select these images I place them on the page. This provides a dynamic example of how a Quality World is created that is easy to understand.


After we have constructed a sample Quality World and everyone who wants to participates, I conclude with a good thematic quote from Glasser:

“But, ultimately, whether people agree with us or not, we define reality in the way that works best for us.” (Glasser, Choice Theory, 1998, p. 47).

Therein lies the beauty of the Quality World, the visual composite of our ideal need fulfilling images which uniquely frames the mentality of every individual. By understanding and embracing another’s Quality World, we afford ourselves the opportunity to help people self-evaluate and change their lives.

If this exercise appeals to you, feel free to use it or develop a variation for use in your own work with clients or students or to help educate others about the Quality World and its importance to Choice Theory / Reality Therapy.


Glasser, W. (1998). Choice Theory. New York: Harper Collins.

William Glasser Institute: How the Brain Works Chart


Banning K. Lary
344 Madison Place
Lexington, KY 40508



13 Amazon reviews; can we make it 15?

13 Amazon reviews; can we make it 15?

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.


Some Amazon reviews for Soul Shapers wouldn’t hurt either.




You can access The Better Plan posts on –



Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?


A recent article headline caught my attention. Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? it asked. I have been asking that same question for years. What gives with people who claim Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model putting so much energy into wanting to govern people into behaving the way they see fit? What gives with “Christians” wanting to deny others health care, or cutting food stamps for the poor, or grousing about raising the minimum wage, or fighting efforts to care for the planet? What is it about their fascination with guns, their promotion of the military, and their craving for power in general?

Choice theory, it turns out, provides helpful insights into the cause of this disappointing reality. Two important components of the choice theory model are 1) the Quality World – the place in our heads where we store the pictures of the people, places, things, beliefs, activities, etc. that we find need-satisfying – and 2) the Perceived World – the reality that we perceive as our experiences pass through our knowledge and values filter. The Quality World is the most important of the choice theory concepts, however I find the Perceived World to be the most fascinating. Choice theory contends that from the moment we are born we begin to learn to satisfy our needs. This collection of need-satisfying people and behaviors forms our own personal Quality World, the center that motivates all of our behavior. The Quality World represents what we WANT. We experience the world through our five senses, although our perceptions are coded through filters before becoming our reality. Our Perceived World represents what we HAVE, or probably better put, what we THINK WE HAVE.

One of the filters our experiences pass through is our valuing filter or, put more accurately, the filter of our Quality World. Our personal Quality World represents everything we value and these values have an incredible influence on our perception of reality. We literally place a picture into our Quality World because we believe that picture will satisfy a need. That picture also now becomes a filter through which all of our perceptions must travel before being coded in the brain. These picture filters are very good at letting certain beliefs and images into our reality, modifying others, and in some cases, prohibiting other images and beliefs from coming anywhere near our reality.

Amanda Marcotte, the author of Why Are So Many Christians so Un-Christian?, may not be a choice theorist, but she explained the process very similarly.

It’s a process called rationalization or motivated reasoning, and to be perfectly fair, it’s how most people think about most things most of the time: They choose what to believe and then look for reasons to explain why they believe it. Huge reams of psychological research show this is just how the human brain works. Almost never do we look over a bunch of arguments and choose what to believe based on reasoning our position out. As Chris Mooney at Mother Jones explains, “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.”

Even before I had read Marcotte’s article, a passage in the book of Matthew got me to thinking about this topic. As part of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that –

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”   Matthew 6:22, 23

Interesting that Jesus even described a filtering process that affects our ultimate view of reality. When your eye is a good filter you are filled with light and truth and healthy insight; when your eye is bad you are filled with darkness. The bad eye filter is so effective that a person can reach a point where they think they are filled with light, even as they are surrounded in darkness. “How deep,” he says, “that kind of darkness will be.”


How is it possible to reach the point where you think you are in the light, yet you are in a total blackout? Especially spiritually? How is it possible to be concerned about living a Godly life and attend church and give offerings and hang out with other “Godly” people, and yet be filled with darkness? Which brings me to another text that got my attention. In the upper room, prior to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus, wanting to strengthen His disciples and alert them to a terrible reality ahead, said –

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.”   John 16:1, 2

Talk about blackness. Murder as a holy service for God. Jesus experienced this kind of “holy service” himself, by religious leaders who killed Him, but wanted the whole affair done as soon on Friday afternoon as possible, since they wanted to get home by sundown so they wouldn’t break the Sabbath.

Such is the power of our ability to create our own reality. We have everything to do with creating what we WANT (Quality World), and we also have a great deal to do with creating what we THINK WE HAVE (Perceived World). My hope and prayer is that we will let God re-create us in His image, rather than us putting so much energy into changing Him into our image. Love, amazing love, is at the heart of God’s character and He wants us to not only experience it ourselves, but also to share it generously with others.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. Dear friends, since God loved us so much, we surely ought to love each other.    1 John 1:5; 4:11

(You can access Marcotte’s article at


Let’s work together to increase the number of Followers of The Better Plan blog. If you think that good stuff is being shared on the blog, why not invite others to join us? There are different ways of doing this. You can –

1. Share The Better Plan address with a friend, co-worker, or loved one. That address is  http;//

2. Click on the LIKE button at the end of a post. The LIKE buttons are a big deal in the blogging community. (You need to register on WordPress to be able to LIKE a blog, but this is a very simple process.)

3. Share a blog that you appreciate with your Facebook friends. This is easy to do and it will greatly increase the number of people who see the post.

%d bloggers like this: