Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Realistic Ideals and Idealistic Realities

Through his theory on Reality Therapy, Dr. William Glasser explains that most negative and/or abnormal behaviours are merely symptoms of unhappiness. This unhappiness stems from many of the basic needs not being met in one's life. In our ideal world, we have significant people in our lives, places and material things and last but not least, our values and belief system. When our ideal world does not match our reality, we will employ all kinds of negative behaviours as a way to control our reality just so that it will match our ideal world. This is called External Control Psychology. Parents scold their children for misbehaving. Teachers will threaten and punish when student don't do their homework. Both parents and teachers can vouch that external control psychology only works for a while. Pretty soon, its effectiveness will wane.

To cite an example of a character taken from a movie, Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets" displays symptoms that can be diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He chooses to behave this way, sticking religiously to rituals of latching his door three times, switching his lights on and off three times, and other eccentric looking practices, just so that he wouldn't have the time to dwell on the fact that he has noone to love and noone to love him. He is lonely. What is tragic about this character is that it is based on a real life person! The hassles of performing his rituals daily is nothing compared to the pain of his loneliness.

In my ideal world, my parents are still married to each other, loving each other and our family in perfect harmony. But in reality, my parents divorced when I was just 13 years old. Although they are no longer married to one another, my parents do get along very well. Looks like they are better off as friends rather than as spouses. In my ideal world, my brothers and their families get along famously with myself and my family. But in reality, a few years ago, my brothers and I have had a few clashes. I chose to try depressing, angering and crying. Mind you, none of these behaviours worked! But when I gave up trying to match my reality to my ideals, I felt it easier to accept things as the way they were. And to my surprise, things did work out eventually for all of us. Because I chose to stop trying to control the choices and behaviours of those I love and focused more on controlling my own behaviour and wishing things to be the way i wanted them to be.

This is an example of how we choose our behaviours and the choices we make all in the name of being idealistic. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with being idealistic and having ideals. But it is healthier for us to not behave in ways to control others to behave the way we want them to behave. We get angry with friends, family and children because we hope that our angering will be produce better behaviour from them. That means to be a controlling freak! I admit, for many years, I was just that - a controlling freak. But, thanks to knowledge of psychology and Choice Theory, I have learned that everyone likes to be in control of something or someone, but noone likes to be controlled!

I have learned to accept that although I may have some significant people in my ideal world, it is ok for me not to be in their ideal world. I have come across many people who are often depressed, angry, frustrated and hostile just because their ideals and reality don't quite match. And when they fail to control those they wish to control, the above feelings get magnified a million times. Some of their unhappiness may manifest itself in the form of physical pain that has no physiology to it, i.e; they've gone to their doctors for cures but no medication would work. Aches and pains that has no physiological reasons to them can be termed as fibromyalgia or psychosomatic pains. When they choose to think more positively, they will feel and behave better, and those mysterious aches and pains will magically disappear!

There are those who are close to my heart and mean the world to me who are showing symptoms of unhappiness. They relentlessly try to control those around them and when all else fails, they begin behaving in ways that drive even the most loyal and loving away from them. Sadly, they don't realise what they are doing to themselves. My fervent wish is to be given the opportunity by Allah to help them see themselves and their lives from a different angle.

So, next time when you are feeling angry, upset, frustrated or flabbergasted, ask yourself, "What is it that I really want? Am I hungry or in pain? Whose behaviour is it that I am trying so hard to control? Whose behaviour can I really control? Is this behaviour going to help me get what I want? Is there another behaviour that I can choose that would yield the results that I want?"

Next time a massive urge to control someone other than yourself rises to your throat that makes you wanna just shout in anger, my prescription to you is this: just grab the TV's remote control and switch channels. That way, you won't be chasing all those you love out of your life. And then, only then, will you have all those you love around you and you will feel loved. Below, I have listed out the Seven Deadly Habits that can ruin any relationship and Seven Caring Habits that can enhance and repair any relationship. Give it a go! What have you got to lose?

Seven Deadly Habits:
Criticising
Blaming
Complaining
Nagging
Threatening
Punishing
Bribing or rewarding to control

Seven Caring Habits:
Supporting
Encouraging
Listening
Accepting
Trusting
Respecting
Negotiating differences

"If I choose all that I do, maybe I can choose to do something better."

2 comments:

Anne mulligan said...

Thank you I found this very helpful as I try to get ready to facilitate a "take charge of your life " group.

Johana Johari said...

You're most welcome, Anne Mulligan. :)