Posts tagged “the caring habits

Feelings Are Weather

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (2003), A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2009), and many other books, recently tweeted –

I think the love we build is much more reliable than the love we feel. Feelings are weather.

The tweet immediately got me to thinking, especially that concise little sentence: “Feelings are weather.” To what extent, I wondered, is the tweet choice theory friendly or choice theory accurate. My mind tends to go there when I read a tweet or a blog or a story or an article or even when I watch a movie. Feelings are weather. Hmm . . .

Let’s see how far we can take the weather metaphor.

+ Weather can be mild or it can be extremely powerful. Choice theorists would agree that feelings are sometimes mild and sometimes overwhelmingly – at least it feels overwhelming – powerful.


+ Weather can quickly change, while at other times we can anticipate changes days in advance. Our feelings can be the same way.

+ Weather can’t be controlled, although I can choose my response to it. I can’t stop the rain, but I can grab an umbrella. I can’t cool the sun, but I can wear a hat. Choice theory teaches us that we cannot directly control our feelings, but that we can control our thinking and our acting. Because the four parts of our behavior – thinking, acting, feeling, and body physiology – always come into alignment, our feelings and our physiology will ultimately come into alignment with the part of our behavior we can control, that being our thinking and our acting.

(As I write this on Sabbath morning, October 3, 2015, at 9:00 am, the weather in Angwin is warm and calm, a beautiful morning actually, yet reports are indicating a fire advisory this evening into tomorrow morning with high winds and gusts up to 50 mph. As you can tell, I am interested in the weather.)


+ We are aware of and monitor the weather constantly. If you are having an outdoor wedding and it’s taking place next week you will be especially interested in weather forecasts. Similarly, we monitor our feelings constantly.

There is no question that feelings, our emotions, play a big role in our moment-to-moment, day-to-day lives. The real question has to do with the level of importance we assign to our feelings and the extent to which we let them hold sway over our picture of our reality. Given the number of people caught up in self-medicating behaviors, including the pursuit of drugs to artificially modify emotions, it appears that a lot of us are believing whatever our feelings are telling us. Some of us, it appears, place so much importance on our feelings that we let them have far too much influence on our sense of wellbeing.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

One of Glasser’s most important contributions, and one of his unique contributions, is the concept of total behavior. As much as any of his ideas, the concept of total behavior describes the role of feelings in our lives and helps us understand the ways in which we can influence them or on the other hand be a victim of them.

Total behavior proposes the following key ideas –

+ All we (human beings) do is behave.

+ All behavior is purposeful.

+ All (or each) behavior is made of four parts – Thinking, Acting, Feeling, and Physiology.

+ We have direct control over our thinking and our acting.

+ We have indirect control over our feelings and our physiology.

Every behavior is made up of these four parts, and more importantly, the four parts, based on our focus, will come into alignment with each other. We all experience this alignment process throughout every day –

+ I THINK a bike ride will be good for me; I ACT by getting on the bike and heading down the hill; I begin to FEEL freer and empowered; and my PHYSIOLOGY (heart rate, perspiration, breathing, etc.) matches the demands placed on my body in the process.

+ I FEEL tense and anxious; my PHYSIOLOGY includes a clenched stomach and a tight chest (two of a number of body responses); my THINKING focuses on reasons to be afraid or angry; and I ACT by going home, grabbing high fat/high sugar foods, and distracting myself in front of the TV.

+ I FEEL frustrated and resentful; I acknowledge the feeling, but THINK it is time for me to talk with the person with whom I am frustrated; I ACT by using the caring habits of Accepting and Negotiating Differences; and my PHYSIOLOGY, momentarily heading toward high blood pressure and muscular tightness, remains at reasonable levels.

Keep in mind that we don’t have direct control over our feelings (or the weather). We can intensify our feelings by (through our thinking) affirming them and even nurturing them, but why not head in a better direction. Since we can directly control our thinking and our actions, why not focus on the best versions of ourselves we can be.

I think Donald Miller was right – feelings are weather.


For insights into how to navigate life, including the continual debate over gun control, check out Glasser’s biography.

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.



I finished listening to the 12th and final episode of Serial last Sunday. Up until this past weekend, I was patiently getting through the podcasts, often waiting for a long drive in the car to listen to the next episode. But I started to see articles on the Internet about the podcast, many of them with potential spoilers, so I decided to get on with it and listen to them all for myself.

Adnan Syed as a high school senior.

Adnan Syed as a high school senior.

Serial is a story told in 12 segments, 12 audio podcasts about the murder of high school student, Hae Min Lee, in suburban Baltimore in 1999. Adnan Syed, a high school student himself at the time and a former boyfriend of Hae Min, was ultimately convicted of the murder and has been in prison ever since.


Serial, in a remarkably simple format, reviews the details of the story, including interviews of friends, teachers, family, jury members, and Adnan himself, transcripts from police interviews and court sessions, and evidence presented during the trial. Although the evidence was seemingly shaky the prosecutor was able to convince the jury to convict Adnan. Serial listeners, over the course of the 12 podcasts, are given the evidence to decide for themselves.

Sarah Koenig, narrator and executive producer of the Serial podcast.

Sarah Koenig, narrator and executive producer of the Serial podcast.

One of the areas that comes into question during the podcast is whether or not Adnan’s defense attorney, Cristina Guttierrez, did an adequate job of defending him and presenting his side of the story effectively. The narrator appropriately wonders why certain individuals essential to Adnan’s alibi were not contacted, and why cell phone tower data was not scrutinized more carefully. These are just two examples of Guttierrez’s mistakes.

Defense mistakes like these examples were bad for Adnan, but even worse than this strategic ineptness was the courtroom demeanor of Ms. Guttierrez. The Serial narrator, Sarah Koenig, characterized Gutierrez’s demeanor as aggressive, but I don’t think aggressive fully captures how she came across. During Episode 10 – The Best Defense Is a Good Defense – listeners hear actual recordings from the trial of Gutierrez grilling a key prosecution witness and then later making a procedural point with the judge. Her approach is a mixture of anger, disgust, and incredulity, all dripping with sarcasm, condescension, and arrogance. Her diatribes, long and passionate, were intended to bring the courtroom to her view of things, but they had the opposite effect on me.

Cristina Guttierrez, defense attorney for Adnan Syed. She was disbarred a year after the trial.

Cristina Guttierrez, defense attorney for Adnan Syed. She was disbarred a year after the trial.

Her approach was very off-putting and I wonder if her behavior had the same effect on the jury. The way she came across was so condescending that I could see myself (had I been on the jury) wanting the exact opposite of whatever it was that she wanted. Her passionate speeches emphasized her emotions, rather than substance. She made it look like the facts that favored her client were so weak that she needed to blow people away with her anger.


We may not be an attorney, but those of us who are a parent or a teacher know that our demeanor matters, too. Within the realm of choice theory this is why relationships and the Caring Habits are so important. When we use a Deadly Habit (e.g. – criticizing, blaming, threatening, etc.) to try and manipulate the behavior of others our demeanor alone can push people in the opposite direction from what we want. And the relationship is hurt in the process.

There can be a lot of influence and power in a calm, reasonable, and firm demeanor. We can “plant a flag” and uphold a rule without getting angry and sarcastic. In fact, the minute we get angry it takes away from that power. I think choice theory provides us with tools to minimize the number of our battles and the nature of our battles. There is nothing in choice theory that prevents us from taking a stand on an issue or that prevents us from confronting a student behavior that needs to change. To a significant degree, the challenge lies in staying calm and reasonable and connected.

As long as you are connected, you have influence.

Yes, connected. In regard to parents and children, or teachers and students, or even supervisors and employees, many times I heard Glasser say, “As long as you are connected, you have influence.” I think Cristina Gutierrez lost the connection, through her bombastic sarcasm and anger, with the jury, which led to her losing any shred of influence. Ultimately I think it led to her losing the case and sending a man to prison for life.

If you haven’t listened to Serial, you should. It’s that good. And it’s free.


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