Posts tagged “William Glasser

The Devil Made Me Do It

Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson, a comedian who many saw as “television’s first Black superstar,” became known for his hilarious skits that often included the phrase, “the devil made me do it!” People laughed as Geraldine (one of the characters Wilson often portrayed) described some fix she had gotten into or some misbehavior she had done, only to lament with great conviction that the devil had made her do it. (The following 3-minute audio recording captures Geraldine’s view of things quite well.)


Language is a powerful influence in our lives, not only in how our words affect others, but also in how our words affect us. Words affect the hearer; words affect the speaker. Our vocabulary very much becomes of a part of how we see the world. What we can put into words contributes to our forming a picture of what we see. This process is especially obvious as toddlers begin to communicate, as well as with ELL students in a school setting. As humans we see and perceive through our vocabulary.

We chuckle at Wilson’s emphasizing that the devil made him do it, but we can be just as capable of blaming something or someone else for our attitudes or behavior. “He makes me so mad,” we might hear, or “that makes me so happy” a friend will bubble. The words reflect a worldview that things outside of us control our thinking. The words confirm our belief that things outside of us make us behave one way or another.


Choice theory reminds us that other people or circumstances don’t make us do anything. Circumstances may influence our decisions, but ultimately we choose a behavior that we think will best work for us at that moment. Choice theory also reminds us that the words we commonly use can help or hinder our mental health (i.e. – our levels of contentment and optimism vs. our levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness).


This is why Glasser loved verbs, even changing nouns to verbs as part of his desire to make a point. Instead of anger or being angry, Glasser explained how it is better to say I am angering or I am choosing to anger. It is interesting how powerful our words can be and how much they can influence our perception of things. Choice theory accepts that angering is an option, we just need to accept responsibility for it and not blame someone or something outside of us for our attitude.

On a spiritual note, Flip Wilson’s phrase – the devil made me do it – brought a passage to my mind from the little book Steps to Christ. It goes like this –

When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to incline us to break this tie—to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do this. But let us keep our fixed upon Christ, and He will preserve us. Looking unto Jesus, we are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding Him, we “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. II Cor. 3:18           Steps to Christ, p. 72


The devil can “present allurements” and can “entice,” but although Flip Wilson says otherwise, the devil can’t make us do anything. He certainly can’t separate us from God. As Steps to Christ points out, Jesus is bound to humanity by a tie of love that no power can break! No power on earth can break it, nor can any power throughout the universe. The only way this tie can be broken is if we, as individuals, choose to break it.

Choice theory wants us to use verbs as much as possible and learn to live responsibly, that is, to take ownership of our thinking and our behaving, rather than quickly blaming others. Living responsibly has a profoundly positive effect on our relationships with others, our relationship with God, and ultimately our outlook on life.


Click on the book to quickly access it on Amazon.

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.

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.

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.

20 Dyer Quotes To Help You Become a Better You


A recent article* saying good-by to Wayne Dyer (he passed away on August 29) listed 20 of his quotes to “Help You Become a Better You.” They appear below. You will hear echoes of choice theory as you read them. There was a Dyer / Glasser connection, which I will say more about in the next blog post.


When Glasser passed away two years ago several of us wrote farewell messages, but as I recall there were no farewells that featured some of Glasser’s quotes. A neat idea that I might work on in the future. In the meantime, cherish a good thought toward Dr. Dyer as you reflect on his beliefs –

“Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.”

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

“With everything that has happened to you, you can feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”


“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.”

“When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous.”

“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

“Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are empowers you.”

“How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.”


“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”

“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”

“You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life.’”

“The fact that you are willing to say, ‘I do not understand, and it is fine,’ is the greatest understanding you could exhibit.”

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

“You may have convinced yourself that giving is impossible because you have too little for yourself. If you are not generous when it is difficult, you will not be generous when it is easy. Generosity is a function of the heart, not the wallet.”



“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

“When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace.”

“When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out, because that’s what’s inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside.”


Which of these beliefs especially speak to you? Which of them seem to especially reflect the values and principles of choice theory? Which of them could be made into a poster and placed on the wall of your classroom?

* The original article can be found at this link – Remembering Wayne Dyer – 20 Quotes to Help You Become a Better You

The Last Soul Shapers

The Soul Shapers 1 class I teach each summer at Pacific Union College begins on Monday (6-22-15) and I plan on it being the last one. No more Soul Shapers for me. I’ve taught the class for 10 summers in a row, ever since the Soul Shapers book was first published, and this is it. Soul Shapers is about to be history.

Last summer's Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Last summer’s Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Truth be told, the only thing that I want to be history is the label Soul Shapers. I look forward to future summer classes and in-services across the U.S. and beyond, but I want them to be billed using a different title. I want them to be billed as The Better Plan. I am as convinced and enthusiastic as ever about the ideas and principles of choice theory, and I am as committed as ever to sharing choice theory with others. Labels are important, though, and The Better Plan is accurate, whereas the title Soul Shapers is not.


Glasser faced something similar with the label control theory, a story with which I was completely familiar, so it is interesting to me that I could have gotten into the same situation. Glasser adopted the label control theory during his initial work with William Powers in the late 70s, but eventually changed the label to choice theory in the late 90s. (His book Choice Theory was published in 1998.) He was frustrated with the label control theory, partly because he frequently had to explain how the theory was about self-control, not about controlling others. The internal vs. external control issue is so important to grasp and apply that Glasser wanted the label of his ideas to contribute to an accurate understanding.


I got into the label situation because I wasn’t assertive enough to push for what I wanted. When you sign a publishing contract you pretty much sign away the rights to the book, including whatever the title of the book will be. My experience has been, though, that publishers don’t bulldoze their way to the title they prefer. They want your input. I was contacted early on by a rep from the Review & Herald (one of the main publishing houses of the Seventh-day Adventist church at the time; it has since gone out of business) and excitedly told that they had come up with a title for my manuscript. She then told me the book would be called The Blind-Folded Dolphin. I said “Excuse me?” One of the anecdotes I shared in the book referred to the dolphin show at Marine World and the manner in which the dolphins use echo-location to navigate (p. 33). While I like dolphins a lot, I didn’t want the book to be titled that way. The rep was not pleased with my response, but begrudgingly said they would keep working on it. (The working title of the manuscript I initially submitted was The Better Plan, but apparently that title wasn’t grabbing them.)


When they called later with a new title, Soul Shapers, I must have been so relieved that it wasn’t based on fish (ok, mammals) that I went for it. When I later received my 10 free copies of the book (as the author) it was the first time I had seen its cover – the title, the graphics, and the color scheme. There was a richness about its look – the layout and colors were very good – however as I considered the title and the graphics my heart sank a bit.


As agreed, in bold, large letters, the title Soul Shapers is prominently featured. And then below the title is a picture of a cookie-cutter in the shape of a heart, with what appears to be a child inside the heart. The implications of this title and graphic began to form in my awareness. In the world of tools and gadgets there are few items more externally-controlling than a cookie-cutter. It’s sharp, strong edges push into the soft dough and form an exact, very particular shape. The large words above the cookie-cutter, Soul Shapers, complete the supposed message of the book – teachers and parents are externally shaping the souls and characters of the children in their care. In some ways, it would be challenging to come up with a more inaccurate title.

Soul Shapers cover

The message of the book is that every person is responsible for the shaping of their own character, and that as teachers and parents our role is to guide and support children as they begin the journey of self-control and character formation. It is a delicate process based on free will and choice. As adults our goal is to reveal to children the details of their own personal internal control systems. There is no greater gift we can endow to them. The Soul Shaper book was meant to alert readers to the ways in which Scripture, Ellen White, and William Glasser emphasize this internal control system.

Ellen White, who wrote at the turn of the last century, explained that –

True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. Desire of Ages, p. 307

You yourselves are responsible for the kind of character you build.   Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 245

“Every child should understand the true force of the will… The will is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or choice.”           Education, p. 289

The sub-title of Soul Shapers is A Better Plan for Parents and Educators. When the publisher let me know I responded “Why not use the original phrase and refer to it as The Better Plan, rather than A Better Plan?” They explained that using the word “the” makes it sound like this plan is the only way or the one best way and that the letter “a” made it sound more reasonable, like it was just one of many ways to accomplish what was needed. I responded that “the better plan” was not my phrase, not something that I came up with, but that it was directly from the pen of Ellen White. As you can see the cover ended up with “A” Better Plan. Sigh.


The Ellen White quote that originally alerted me to the better plan, and more importantly to the principles of the better plan, is such a powerful choice theory statement. It goes like this –

Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.             Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

“The better plan” is about helping students to recognize and apply their own internal control guidance systems. Sadly, she admits that teachers who help students in this way will be misunderstood and underappreciated. This is significant. How much more clearly can this be said?

Born in an Adventist home, educated in Adventist schools, having served in Adventist education my entire career, yes, I have heard the term “blueprint for Adventist education.” My dad was an Adventist preacher who was very, very supportive of Adventist education and I heard him refer to the “blueprint” more than once. As it turns out, though, I have never seen this blueprint. The closest I have come to seeing something like a blueprint is this phrase “the better plan,” an approach that has everything to do with the principles of internal control and choice theory. This is the direction we need to head together.

And so this is the last time I am going to teach a class called Soul Shapers. I like The Better Plan a lot better.



Being What We Want Our Students to Become

The sun was in my eyes. Not all pictures can be great pictures. The important thing is I got a shot in front of a place that's important to me.

The sun was in my eyes. What can I say? Not all pictures can be great pictures. The important thing is I got a shot in front of a place that’s important to me.

I was privileged this past Thursday and Friday (June 11-12) to provide a Better Plan in-service to the staff at Livingstone Adventist Academy in Salem, Oregon. This was especially meaningful to me as my choice theory journey and the Soul Shaper book came out of my experience at Livingstone 20 years ago. I was principal of the school from 93-96. While several teachers (I always refer to the team I worked with as the Original Soul Shapers) from the mid-90s continued at the school until very recently, only one remains now, that being Chris Sequeira, who teaches History and Bible there. I was very pleased that the new team at Livingstone wants to learn about choice theory principles and consider ways to apply them in a classroom setting.

Chris Sequeira (on the right) and me in his classroom after the in-service was over, and just before we bid farewell to each other - him to see his daughter graduate from Walla Walla and me to head to PUC for graduation weekend.

Chris Sequeira (on the right) and me in his classroom after the in-service was over, and just before we bid farewell to each other – him to see his daughter graduate from Walla Walla and me to head to PUC for graduation weekend.

With the in-service behind me now, like school teachers and workshop facilitators around the world, I am now in that place called reflection. How did the workshop really go? What did I do or what took place that worked? What could be improved? What needs to be tweaked to make it better the next time I do a two-day training? Reflection is the act of self-evaluating, and self-evaluation is a powerful part of choice theory. It’s not about beating myself up over not covering as much content as I wanted to, or not covering a concept as effectively as I would have liked. It’s about authentically (and compassionately) reviewing what took place and then modifying my lesson plan for the next go at it. I did the best I could; now I think maybe my best can be better.


The team at Livingstone seemed to resonate with the choice theory concepts. Most of them had read some or all of Soul Shapers before the in-service, so that helped. They had questions about some of the psychology pieces, but I didn’t pick up any “dealbreaker”responses. Their real questions, the tougher questions, had to do with how do you put these ideas into action? How, for instance, do you use choice theory with five-year-olds? How would choice theory affect classroom management in a high school classroom? What do you do with the kid who refuses to respond to reasonable choices or additional chances for success? These kinds of questions are similar to the challenges we all face. Choice theory sounds good, but how does it really work?

The title and subtitle on the syllabus I used at Livingstone read:

The Better Plan
Being What We Want Our Students to Become

The subtitle came to me as I was putting the finishing touches on the handouts, but the more I think about it the more I like it. There’s a lot contained in the phrase, “Being what we want our students to become.” For one thing, as teachers and parents we tend to focus on the behavior of our children or our students. In other words, we focus on what we want them to become. Choice theory reminds us, though, indeed thoroughly explains the importance of our first focusing on ourselves and what we bring to our homes and classrooms. Choice theory emphasizes the value of understanding our own being – our thoughts, our goals, our habits, and our beliefs. Only as I come into an appreciation of my own internal control design can I share the theory of that design with my students. Only as I come to see the sense of the axiom that the only person I can control is myself will I be better able to implement a classroom management plan that honors the internal control design of each of my students.


Our first focusing on our “being” as teachers does not mean that we cannot seek to guide and influence the behavior of our students. It is always interesting, though, when we consider how our own thinking and acting may have been a part of creating the problem we want changed. The clearer we see ourselves the better our management strategies will be.

Like Ellen White wrote over a hundred years ago –

“Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become.”                Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 58


Not that I want to compete with Amazon, but I can beat (sounds competitive) the Amazon price when it comes to the Glasser biography – Champion of Choice. Amazon’s price right now for the book and shipping is $30.17. My price for the book and first class shipping is $26, plus I will sign the book if you request it. (Media Mail shipping would be less.) Get in touch with me to order your copy at Expedite the order by sending me a check for $26, along with shipping instructions, to P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508.

I can now sell for lower than Amazon. Get the book from me.

I can now sell for lower than Amazon. Let me know if you want one or several copies.

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.

The Wrecking Crew


I recently saw The Wrecking Crew, a movie about the burgeoning music industry around Los Angeles in the 1960s, and the almost unknown studio musicians that played anonymously on many of the albums that were then being recorded. An impressive number of these songs went to the top of the billboard charts and achieved widespread fame.

Carol Kaye, bass player for The Wrecking Crew, and one of the best bass players of all time.

Carol Kaye, bass player for The Wrecking Crew, and one of the best bass players of all time.

These incognito studio musicians came to be known as The Wrecking Crew and were highly regarded throughout the Southern California music industry. Unfortunately, that almost invisible regard was all the notoriety these musicians would receive, as they were never mentioned on album covers or with singles that achieved #1 billboard status.

The list of individuals and groups they recorded with is too long to list here, but a few of them include: The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, The 5th Dimension, The Association, The Monkees, John Denver, Nat King Cole, Simon & Garfunkel, The Grass Roots, Gary Lewis & the Playboys, Cher, The Partridge Family, Bing Crosby, and Nancy Sinatra. They also recorded countless TV program theme songs (recall the opening to Bonanza) and commercial jingles.

Tommy Tedesco, probably the best guitarist you never heard of.

Tommy Tedesco, probably the best guitarist you never heard of.

So what’s the problem, you might be thinking. Let’s take The Beach Boys as an example. Brian Wilson, a member of The Beach Boys, was a music genius and arranged harmonies that are incredible. The rest of the group could sing well, but they weren’t as good as Brian when it came to the instruments. Brian would work with The Wrecking Crew musicians when it came to recording an album, since musically these guys were amazing. Another of The Beach Boys admitted that they were on the road 150 days out of the year and didn’t have time to practice. And yes, the sound of the live group on the road was quite a bit different than the studio musicians back home. This same scenario played out time and time again with other groups, too.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys

I loved a Gary Lewis & the Playboys album I listened to a lot as a kid back in 1967, yet now I know the actual musical impact of Lewis and the playboys on that album was pretty insignificant. There are some wonderful background guitar riffs, for instance, in the song Sure Gonna Miss Her, but as it turns out there was never anyone in the group capable of playing a guitar like that. (Thank you, Tommy Tedesco, of The Wrecking Crew.)

And so these little known musicians stayed very busy during this unique beginning of the rock and roll era, and they made good money in the process, yet they were rarely acknowledged for their contributions. Hit song after hit song was the result of their talent, but they were not given credit for any of them.

Things would change in the music industry and the studio era would pass. Music groups would come to be made of individuals with serious music talent, able to both record in the studio as well as to perform on the road. The Wrecking Crew musicians became less and less busy as a result. Some of them, like Glen Campbell, created solo careers, but this was pretty rare. For those of us who still enjoy a good song from the late 60s, we owe these musicians a big thank you.

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

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

On the way home from the movie I couldn’t help but think of Glasser in the same way. I continue to see articles and books that build on (whether they realize it or not) the beliefs of William Glasser, yet he is never mentioned or acknowledged in the articles. A recent such article, How Our Thoughts Control Our DNA, explains how our perceptions can actually re-write our genes. Bruce Lipton, author of The Biology of Belief (2005), writes that –

“The common idea that DNA determines so much of who we are – not only our eye or hair color, for example, but also our addictions, disorders, or susceptibility to cancer – is a misconception. This concept says you are less powerful than your genes. The problem with that belief system is that it extends to another level. You find yourself to be more or less a victim of your heredity. You become irresponsible. You say, ‘I can’t do anything about it, so why try?’ In reality, a person’s perception, not genetic programming, is what spurs all action in the body. It is actually our beliefs that select our genes, that select our behavior.”

“It is actually our beliefs that select our genes, that select our behavior.”

Anyone who has read much of Glasser cannot read this Lipton passage without tracing the important connection between the two. One of my hopes for the Glasser biography was that it would establish and remind readers of Glasser’s influence. There is a growing awareness of the human capacity to make choices and the implication this capacity has on psychological and physical health. The psychology of internal control is gaining momentum!

The psychiatric shot heard around the world!

The psychiatric shot heard around the world!

It is good that The Wrecking Crew is now being recognized for their sizable contributions to the world of music. I loved their music as a kid and continue to love their music now. In the world of psychology the most important thing is that people understand how to be responsible for their own happiness and that they understand how to meet their basic needs without bulldozing or manipulating others in the process. That said, though, I would like for William Glasser to be seen as a major contributor to this view of mental health.


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.

Is There Any Choice Theory in Being a Tiger Parent?



Is this message to parents choice theory friendly? How should a choice theorist relate to these kinds of posters?

There are lots of choice theorists out there and I don’t presume to speak for all of them, however I do have a personal opinion on the matter. I saw this message on Facebook and noticed it had garnered a lot of likes. Amy Chua is the author of the 2011 viral book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which many interpreted as a manifesto for parents needing to take control of their children’s lives. There was a huge amount of attention given to the book and the topic of parenting, in general. My goal here is not to share a review of the book. I will share below a seven-minute interview of Ms. Chua on PBS, because I think it captures a more complete picture of her motivation to write the book. She explains that much of what she wrote was tongue-in-cheek and that she didn’t expect her ideas to go viral in the way they did. In the end she admitted that her strategies did not work with her youngest daughter, in fact the strategies threatened the relationship between her and her daughter, and had to be softened. Check out the video and decide for yourself.


My goal as a parent is to prepare you for the future, not to make you like me.   Amy Chua

The either-or design of the statement – You can have a successful child or you can have a good relationship with him – is really a false choice. It conveys the idea that you can’t have both at the same time, which is a problem for a choice theorist, who sees the statement needing to be worded more like – My goal as a parent is to nurture a consistent and positive relationship with my child, from which I can inspire and guide him to success.

The phrase “My goal as a parent is to prepare you for the future” is really a statement about what success is and specifically, what the parent’s picture of success is. Parents that live this statement seem to be saying “I know what is best for you” and “I know how you should get to where I want you to go.” Such an approach emphasizes control, rather than influence, and children (like every human being on the planet) resist being controlled. It has been said that as long as we are connected to our children, we have influence on their thinking and behavior. Disregard that connection and focus on control at your child’s peril.

The phrase “not to make you like me” implies I actually can make you like me, but that I am willing to sacrifice this luxury in favor of your eventual success. This is inaccurate in that a person cannot be made to like anybody. A relationship can be invited, but not forced. Again, the relationship element is seen as possibly nice, but probably a distraction or worse, and thus needs to be de-valued or even eliminated.

Statements like the Chua quote seem to tap into what the reader already believes or wants to believe. It confirms a belief in the value of control, even if it means coercing behavior. People with this mindset read “Spare the rod; spoil the child” as a directive to assertively control kids into submission. They see the rod as a necessary weapon. Others, with a different mindset, see the “rod” as a gentle tool, like that with which shepherds guide and prod and nudge.

The Amy Chua quote has much more to do with the needs of adults, than it has to do with the needs of children. It has to do with what we think success looks like, rather than helping children and students identify their own vision for success. And it has to do with our willingness to de-value relationships, instead of acknowledging the desperate need children have for positive, nurturing, supportive relationships.

William Glasser (1981)

William Glasser (1981)

William Glasser ran into this same challenge early in his career. He emphasized personal responsibility in his groundbreaking book, Reality Therapy (1965), which was a part of a total approach that included involvement (the term Glasser originally used to convey human connection and warm relationships) and never giving up. Some latched on to the idea of responsibility and used it as a way to pressure and control kids, which was a huge concern to Glasser and caused him to pull back from the emphasis. He knew that relationships had to be at the top of the list, and that responsibility must be planted in and grow out of these relationships.

Amy Chua learned this, too, and changed her approach before it ruined her relationship with her second daughter. For those working with students, this same dynamic will play out for us, too. We can have a false sense of control or we can have true influence. We decide.


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Chris Borland and The Choice

Chris Borland, taken during the Nov. 27, 2014, game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Chris Borland, taken during the Nov. 27, 2014, game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Sports media, and news media in general, was abuzz this week over the decision of a young man to retire from football . . . at the age of 24. Chris Borland, a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, announced that he is hanging up his cleats and heading another direction. He explained that he had looked carefully at the data regarding head impact and trauma, and that the numbers regarding CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), early dementia, memory loss, and depression are pretty alarming. For him the risk wasn’t worth the reward.

Borland, focused and ready to attack just prior to the snap.

Borland, focused and ready to attack just prior to the snap.

Borland was scheduled to make $504,000 this coming season, not that much by NFL standards, but he most certainly was headed toward making much more than that in the near future. Drafted in the third round out of Wisconsin last year, he caught the notice of the football world when he filled in for an injured Patrick Willis and played like a human missile, consistently unleashing havoc on opponents throughout the second half of last season. In fact, even with less than a full season of playing he led the 49ers in tackles. With Willis recently retiring because of his physical status, 49er fans were comforted by the fact that they had Borland to step in and fill that void. Borland’s announcement to the contrary hit SF Bay Area fans particularly hard.

Talking heads of the sports world went nuts with Borland’s announcement. ESPN covered it as one of their major news stories. On a personal level, most commentators felt that Borland had the right to choose as he saw fit regarding his football career, although they were incredulous at his ability to walk away from the money and the fame he was in the process of receiving. The real story, though, was Borland’s decision and its effect on the NFL. Would Borland, for instance, be the first of many to walk away from the violent sport? Some commentators felt that the answer to that question was yes, and that Borland’s decision literally marked the beginning of the end for football as we know it. Not immediately, but eventually. The following Sports Illustrated headline reflects the concern.

With Chris Borland deciding risk not worth reward, questions linger for NFL

Chris Borland’s choice took the sports world by surprise, yet it is completely consistent with the principles of choice theory. Given that choice theory’s contention is that 1) all behavior is purposeful and need-satisfying, and that 2) people behave in a way that best meets their needs at any given moment, Borland’s decision is understandable and, many would say, sensible.

On the January 22, 2013, blog I posted – Give Me Victory or Give Me Death – I wrote about athletes who are willing to risk injury and death in the pursuit of fame. Elite athletes from many different sports must contend with the temptation to enhance their performance through unfair or illegal means. The post especially looked at the sport of cycling and the way in which serious sanctions and penalties did not dissuade elite cyclists (the most famous being Lance Armstrong) from using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). From a choice theory perspective, the post argued that while their decision to use PEDs was wrong according to the rules, it was explainable based on the basic needs and quality world of the cyclists within the context of how the sport was then governed.

If I am going to comment on a low-point in sports – the PED cycling dilemma – and the out-of-control athletes seeking to gain and maintain a winning advantage as an example of choice theory’s explanation of human behavior, I figure I should also be on the lookout for what I believe to be a high-point in sports – that being Chris Borland’s thoughtful decision to retire from football – and a completely in-control athlete as an example of choice theory as well.

The sports world doesn’t know what to do with the Borland decision. Most don’t get it at all – “he’s a quitter” or “ wuss” some Twittered. (Anyone who saw him play could not intelligently use his name and wuss in the same sentence.) Some get it, but shake their heads none-the-less, unable to fully get how a young man could walk away from fame and fortune. For Borland it wasn’t all that complicated. (Choice theory has a way of making things less complicated.) In his own words, “I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health. From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.”

Borland during team activities without helmet and pads.

Borland during team activities without helmet and pads.

We are “inside-out” creatures. “Outside-in” punishments didn’t keep cyclists from cheating, nor did “outside-in” fortune and fame keep Borland on the playing field.


“Everything we do – good or bad, effective or ineffective, painful or pleasurable, crazy or sane, sick or well, drunk or sober – is to satisfy powerful forces within ourselves.”   William Glasser

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