Posts tagged “psychiatry can be hazardous to your mental health

Willie, Ya Gotta Get Into the Spiritual Thing

Like many I was saddened when I heard of Wayne Dyer’s passing, but hearing his name also brought back some Glasser interview memories for me. I began the interviews with Glasser for his biography in late 2003. During several of our early interviews Glasser talked about Dyer. He had attended one of Dyer’s presentations and was very glad that Dyer had written a cover endorsement for the book Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health. Not being all that knowledgeable myself, I mentioned to Glasser that I was surprised that he was so interested in getting an endorsement from Dyer when I felt that Glasser was so much more well known than Dyer. Glasser assured me that wasn’t the case. He realized that Dyer could tap into a spiritual market that he himself could not.

Bill in office 1, Mar, 07

In his own words from our very first interview on September 26, 2003 –

Glasser:  I’m still pretty healthy, and this, this Maine thing, that could be a big deal. They really want me there. They’ve heard me. I’ve been a big speaker at the ACA two years in a row. I’m speaking at the Michigan ACA in October, Wisconsin in February, these are big states, and then in March the state of Maine. And then, and then, a few days later I’m going from the state of Maine to the national, where I’m making four presentations now. And Mark Polk, the head of them, is firmly behind me and trying to get these ideas going. So I think there’s going to be some positive movement. I think it’s really, it’s really going to happen. And Wayne Dyer, that’s his letter, I read it, but, when I was on with him and, and you know, he had his daughter there and she sings and he was singing and all this thing, but he’s a really . . . Wayne Dyer is a good guy. His latest book is called There’s A Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. And, but when he describes what the spiritual solution is, it’s a relationship not only with God, but with the people around you. And so, uh, and then he recognized me in front of the audience. I had never met him, although he said, he said in the group, it was a big meeting there, and he said to the audience, that when he was starting out he had read two books and these books got him started on his path. One of them was Reality Therapy and the second was Schools Without Failure. He was working at that time in schools, I think. He then picked me out of the audience and had me stand up, and then explained how Dr. Glasser has written a new book called Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous To Your Mental Health. He gave me a very good plug and that was wonderful, but uh . . .

Roy:  Where did this . . .

Glasser: This was in a conference in Ohio, in Cleveland, which was a spirituality conference, and uh, he’s . . . he’s spiritual, but he’s spiritual in a very tangible way. He’s not spiritual in that you should sit around and pray. You should go out and do your work, and, I can’t describe exactly, but boy the audience was mesmerized by it. And he talked about getting in touch with your spiritual side.

Roy:  Is he spiritual but non-religious, or is he a . . .

Glasser:  Well he mentions Jesus, but he mentions other religious leaders, too. It’s not, it’s not just one . . . he said that all religions kind of have a common core, which is basically to me the common core of all religions, if they practice properly, is the golden rule. I mean, I’m a firm believer in the golden rule. And anyway, I wrote him a letter afterwards, a nice little short letter. I don’t know what his letter says, and I don’t want to read it cuz I might be upset and it would screw up our thing here. But Linda says it’s a very good letter. That’s what she said. I said I’d appreciate it, because you have such a powerful influence on people, if you could, without mentioning me or the Warning book, cause I don’t want to ask him to push me or the book. If he would just say that he, too, has serious doubts about the overdrugging of people in our society, that would be enough. And I think he’s going to, which would be good because I saw how the people were just absolutely entranced by everything he said. I don’t threaten him at all, because he’s way, way too powerful and well known for me to threaten him. I’m one of the people on whose back he’s riding, you know what you said, because I’m about twenty years older than him, a little more than twenty. No, no, no, fifteen years exactly. Fifteen years older than him. He’s 63 and I’m 78. But, uh, so now if he’s going to get behind it, it could be very, very powerful. So I’ll read what he says and then I’ll write him back and support him a little bit. See he doesn’t use a computer. He only writes by pen.

Roy:  Really.

Glasser:  Yeh, see that letter. That’s the only way he writes, so, so he doesn’t use, and he wrote me, the blurb was all by pen, and he says he doesn’t want to use a computer. There’s something for him that’s unspiritual about the machine, but to me there’s something super spiritual about the machine. (laughter)

A young Bill Glasser and one year old, Joe, his first child. (circa 1952)

A young Bill Glasser and one year old, Joe, his first child. (circa 1952)

The first four books that Glasser wrote were by hand – Mental Health or Mental Illness (1960); Reality Therapy (1965); Schools Without Failure (1969); and The Identity Society (1972). He really appreciated being able to use a word processor for his writing. The handwritten Dyer endorsement that Glasser refers to appeared on the front cover of the Warning book and went like this –

“Dr. Glasser is a pioneer in every sense of the word. This is his most powerful contribution. We are being bombarded by the drug companies to put drugs into our brains to cure any and all difficulties. Dr. Glasser offers us a sensible preferred alternative to being drugged as our way of coping with life.” Wayne W. Dyer


During our second interview on October 17, 2003, Dyer’s name came up again.

Roy:  The last time we were together you were very, very pleased, actually, because of a fax from Wayne Dyer . . .

Glasser:  Oh yeh. Yeh.

Roy:  . . . that indicated that he was planning to say something on a PBS special, I think in support of your ideas. The thing that caught my attention was how you went on about how big this was, and how big and important he was, you felt he was way bigger than you are . . .

Glasser:  Right now, yes I think he is. I saw his audience of 400 people, when I had about 120 people in my group. He had more than twice the group that I had when I was in Cleveland. It was packed, and, I mean, they’re just hanging on his every word. Now Wayne Dyer has something that I don’t have, that I can’t have because I have a different belief system. Wayne Dyer’s book is, There’s a Spiritual Solution for Every Problem.

Roy:   Right, right.

Glasser:   And, my friend Frank, who’s just a moneymaker, he says, Willie, you gotta get into the spiritual part, you’re missing . . . (laughter) So, that’s, that’s what I’m using you for, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get me into the spiritual part here. (more laughter)

Roy:  Well I, I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you, but I actually, uh, I actually think of you as a secular Christian.

Glasser:   (he chuckles) That’d be ok.

Roy:   You know, because you’re . . .

Glasser:   (chuckles again) I’m, I’m a secular Jew, too. (laughter)

Roy:   Yeh, when I’m, so much of what I have observed, and so much of what I’ve read, uh, your ideas actually strengthen my Christian perspective, and uh . . .

Glasser:  Yeh, I’m basically, really, I’m not a selfish person. I’ve never been. I’m willing to do this work for nothing and help people.

Nick Cummings, another giant in the mental health field, and Bill Glasser. (circa 2005)

Nick Cummings, another giant in the mental health field, and Bill Glasser. (circa 2005)

I guess you can say that Glasser stayed true to his agnostic underpinning, even as he recognized that he could have made some significant money catering to a spiritual audience. I think Dyer was staying true to his underpinning, too. As listeners and readers we seek information and experiences that help us make sense of the world, and that help us achieve personal satisfaction and peace. People relate to Dyer and to Glasser on a deeply personal level. I have found help from Glasser’s ideas as I travel on my spiritual journey even though he never presented himself as a spiritual guru.

Glasser respected Dyer as a fellow lecturer and author who wanted to help people make the most of their potential and live lives of happiness and peace. They said things differently and they reached a different audience, but they saw tremendous value in each other. I know that my life is better because of their influence.


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One of the best ways to learn about choice theory is to read Glasser’s recently published biography – Champion of Choice.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

Unpublished Glasser Article on Pain

The problem of undiagnosed pain received a lot of Glasser’s attention during his career. Today’s blog is a short article he wrote on the subject of pain that, as far as I know, was never published. He wrote it shortly after the Warning book was published, and refers to it several times, yet in between he offers important advice for those suffering with chronic pain. And it’s always good to hear his voice once again as you read.

Glasser writing at home. (Photo by Jim Roy)

Glasser writing at home. (Photo by Jim Roy)

The Choice Theory Approach to Pain that Has No Known Medical Cause
by William Glasser, M.D.

I explain in the book, Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health, how readers can learn to improve their own mental health and rid themselves of the pain, both physical and emotional, which is one of the symptoms of unhappiness. I point out that the most important component of mental health is learning to get along well with all the important people in your life but, for the sufferers of chronic pain, it may be even more important for you to make an effort to accept yourself and not to ask more from yourself than deep down you want to give. As much as you try, you may not be able to be the perfect version of yourself that you want to be.


If you are mentally healthy, you tend not only to accept that the people around you are not perfect but, even more important, you aren’t either. Mostly you are happy and if you have a bad time for a while, you accept that there are many things that come and go in your life that you can’t control. There are always going to be days when it rains on your parade.

If you can learn to live your life this way, you will rarely suffer from the pain, fatigue and weakness that plague millions of people who believe they are happy and well-adjusted but tend to want more from themselves and others than it is possible to get. For these competent people and the physicians who treat them and get to know them, the cause of their pain is a medical mystery. Many more women suffer from pain without a cause because in our culture women tend to ask much more of themselves than men. And are more likely to go unappreciated for what they do. Yet, they continue to strive to be the perfect wife, mother, house keeper, gourmet cook, corporate executive, wage earner, and budget wizard.


Almost all of these sufferers claim if they could get relief from their pain they would be happy. They strongly reject the idea that there is a connection between what they are choosing to believe and do and their physical pain. I don’t blame these competent women for rejecting this connection when everything they are trying to do tells them otherwise.

Because they are competent, I suggest that they continue to do all they can to help themselves along with anything their doctor suggests. All I recommend is that they read my Warning book and from what they read learn to put a way of behaving that I call choice theory to work in their lives. Choice theory is easy to learn, sensible and costs no money to practice. Also, there is no risk or downside to using choice theory. Accepting yourself and getting along better with the people in your life cannot possibly do you or them any harm.

As I explain in the book, all I ask is that you be willing to make a sustained effort to take a good look at how much you are demanding from yourself and others. Think of all the days that you have said to yourself, “If only there were more hours in the day.” Think of all the times you have thought why do I have to do so much and “they” so little, whoever they may be.

“I can only control myself.”  William Glasser

When you become willing to take a less demanding look at your life, you will discover the major wisdom of choice theory, which is I can only control myself. I can choose to continue to live my life as I have lived it or I can choose to change. Your pain is not because you lack adequacy, it is because you have burdened yourself with expectations of too much adequacy.

But as easy as this is for me to say, a super competent sufferer is rarely willing to change. You continue to focus on the pain instead of the things that need to be changed. This focus may stand directly in the way of your becoming pain free.

“Your pain is not because you lack adequacy, it is because you have burdened yourself with expectations of too much adequacy.”  William Glasser

The first thing that choice theory teaches is that you are not imagining what you are feeling. Your pain is not only real, it is far worse than any pain you might suffer from an injury or a diagnosable disease. That pain heals, yours lasts or gets worse. Genetically we are proud creatures. We hate to admit that anything may be wrong with how we are choosing to live our lives when all our choices seem so important. Many people would rather suffer the pain than admit that they may be part of the problem.

Read the book and find out about your quality world and how only you can change it plus a whole host of suggestions on how to lead a satisfying, choice theory life. You can do this by yourself but if you are lucky enough to be part of a Choice Theory Focus Group you will get a lot of support. If you can become as competent at using choice theory in your life as you are dedicated to everything else, you are well on your way.

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)


I have started reading the book I talked about in an earlier blog, Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon’s Road Map Out of Chronic Pain, and I am excited about the profound similarities between Dr. Glasser’s and Dr. Hanscom’s views. The link to the previous blog is below. If you are dealing with chronic pain I encourage you to check out Back in Control.

A Spine Surgeon’s Road Map Out of Chronic Pain




Get a digital version of the Glasser biography at Zeig, Tucker & Thiesen Publishing. Just click here.

Now priced at $18.49 on Amazon.

Now priced at $18.49 on Amazon.


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