Choice theory was introduced in 1998 by William Glasser. The goal of the theory is that it provides a new type of psychology that can then lead someone toward personal freedom. There are 3 core concepts that are taught within the framework of the choice theory.
- The only action that a person takes is a behavior.
- Virtually all behaviors occur because of a personal choice.
- Humans are genetically driven to satisfy their five basic needs.
Glasser lists the five basic needs of humanity as being survival, freedom, fun, power, and love. Love may also be described as a “feeling of belonging.”
When these five basic needs are given a specific order, most people will choose love and belonging as their most important need to be met – above even survival. If there is not a certain closeness or a feeling of being connected to another person, then the other needs may never be fully met.
Because of this emphasis on love, Glasser suggests that people who are not having their needs met can be identified based on the behaviors they are choosing to display to the world. People who feel connected tend to offer caring habits and behaviors. People who are disconnected tend to display negative behaviors instead, referred to as “deadly habits.”
What Are the Habits that Relationships Inspire?
Choice theory suggests that feelings of disconnection are the source of almost all human problems. Chosen behaviors, such as crime, violence, addiction, or even procrastination occur because relationships are either not present or not supportive. Over time, this disconnection could even lead to the development of problems that are deemed to be a mental illness.
External controls, if used in positive ways, could initiate beneficial relationships that allow someone to feel that their five basic needs are being met. If used in negative ways, it could cause someone to literally self-destruct.
Glasser suggests that the “deadly habits” that are observable behaviors are these: criticism, blame, complaining, threatening, nagging, punishment, and bribery.
In comparison, the caring habits of someone who feels like their needs are being met would display these behaviors: encouragement, listening, supporting, trust, acceptance, respect, and negotiation.
The most important distinction between the positive and negative behaviors, as Glasser describes them, is how control is obtained. People who feel that their needs have been met will negotiate with others to create situations that are mutually beneficial to everyone involved. In comparison, someone who feels that their needs are not being met will generally use some type of reward to create behavior controls in others.
What Are the Established Propositions of the Choice Theory?
There are 10 axioms associated to the choice theory by William Glasser.
#1. The only person who can control your behavior is yourself. You make the choices for specific behaviors and no one else can choose for you.
#2. The only thing that can be given to another person is information. Even if there is an attempt at bribery, that behavior is information that can be used by the person being bribed.
#3. Every long-term psychological problem has its basis in a relationship problem in that person’s life.
#4. Negative behaviors are always formed from problematic relationships that are part of the present life.
#5. What has happened in the past has defined the present for every individual. At the same time, the only true action that a person can take is to satisfy their basic needs in the present moment while planning to have future needs satisfied.
#6. People satisfy their basic needs by attempting to recreate their vision of a perfect reality.
#7. The only thing that people do is behave.
#8. There are four components of every behavior: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology. When these four components are grouped together, Glasser refers to them as a person’s “Total Behavior.”
#9. A person’s Total Behavior is always chosen. Each person has direct control over the thinking and acting components. Feeling and physiology have indirect controls and are based on the decisions made as a person thinks and acts.
#10. Total Behaviors can be designated by a verb and are usually generalized to describe the most recognizable actions that have been chosen.
The choice theory by William Glasser suggests that personal freedom can be achieved when individuals become aware of their circumstances and know this information. If you are aware that a specific need is not being met, then you can meet it. That transitions negative behaviors toward positive ones, which can then make life better.