A few years ago, my dear childhood friend Chana Hartman (White) introduced me to Choice Theory.
Chana and I have known each other since the third grade in Bais Yaakov of Baltimore. Chana is a soul sister. She lives in Jerusalem with her huge, amazing, family. She has thirteen children. (at last count) We have spent Shabbos and had Chol Hamoed outings with her family over the years, and she has been to our house for a Shabbos or two as well. I find Chana incredibly inspiring.
Yes, I am a big fan of Chana, and of Choice Theory. Choice Theory teaches how to build strong, loving, and successful relationships. Chana uses choice theory with her teenagers.
According to Choice Theory, the seven deadly habits that destroy relationships are: criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and rewarding to control.
We all resort to the deadly habits at times, when we are unhappy or scared.
The seven helping habits that build relationships are: caring, trusting, listening, supporting, negotiating, befriending, and encouraging.
I am quoting from the Choice Theory book For Parents and Teenagers (William Glasser, Harper Collins 2002.)
"If you look around at your family and friends, you will see that the happiest people are the ones who don't pretend to know what's right for others and don't try to control anyone but themselves. You will further see that the people who are the most miserable are those who are always trying to control others. Even if they have a lot of power, the constant resistance of the weaker people they are trying to dominate deprives them of happiness... (p.16)
...The only way we can satisfy our needs for both love and power is to gain the respect, trust, and love of the people in our lives. If we try to control them, we may maintain their love but we will never gain their respect or trust. When we are respected, trusted, and loved, we feel powerful: we neither need nor want anyone to fear us." (p.18)
I've read a lot about choice theory, especially in relation to education. (There are Choice Theory schools in the U.S.) The goal is to replace the deadly habits with the helping habits. As with any habit we struggle with, this is a lot easier said then done. We live in an "external control" society. Most of us can admit (if we are honest with ourselves) that we believe deep down that we must control others in order to be happy.
William Glasser (the founder of Choice Theory) points out, that there is one close relationship,where we are unlikely to use the seven deadly habits. We don't use the deadly habits with our long term friends. The reason for this is simple. If we did, then they wouldn't be our friends anymore.
So why do we allow ourselves to treat our loved ones in ways we would never treat a good friend? Why do we undermine our relationships with our loved ones?
Maybe, because we never learned a better way.