Saturday, March 3, 2007

Who Can You Control? Part 2.

In my previous post I talked about trying to control others. In this post I'd like to look at the idea of control when it comes to ourselves. Whereas with others we mistakenly think that we can (or should) control them, with ourselves we often demonstrate the opposite problem - we believe that we have no control. As an example take my life; I currently feel somewhat overwhelmed. I'm behind in my schoolwork, sick as a dog, finances are tight, my investment property is giving me headaches, etc, etc. My thought is "I'm overwhelmed, my life sucks right now." I then try to externalize my problems and blame my current situation on bad luck, people, etc. Truthfully though, I make the decisions that put me where I am and I am continually making choices that keep me in that situation. I, like all of us, for the most part choose my destiny.

Think about what is causing you stress - I'm betting that whatever it is, I can show you how you are choosing your destiny. Are you feeling cold? Well, you could choose to put on a sweater (move somewhere warmer, turn the heat up). Is your boss abusing you at work? Of course you can change the situation, but you choose not to (you could try talking to him/her, finding a new job, or hiring a hitman - not a recommendation of course). But instead we choose to remain where we are and then we whine about it! I am not saying that you should leave that job. But the stress sometimes comes from this idea that we can't control the situation. This is a delusion. Taking personal responsibility for one's choices may not change your current situation (after all, suffering does happen to everyone and sometimes we choose to remain in things for good reasons). But at least we won't be fooling ourselves.

Glasser takes it a very personal level; he talks of depressed persons as "choosing to depress" for example. While this may seem like a radical thing to say (and lacking in compassion), it actually does help a lot of people. What do you think?

May Light increase!

7 comments:

Jobina said...

thank you for "choosing" to write this Mark. Look, I'm "choosing" to reply! I know I bug you about this theory a lot but that's cause I see a lot of truth in it. The choosing to depress thing...I just don't know. Maybe a person can choose the level to which they depress. But, isn't there some evidence of predisposition to depression?

Rayna said...

I think I agree with Jobina, except I would take it one step farther. (I am having a very hard time trying to figure out how to phrase this so that it comes out like I want it to, so bear with me.)
Until I had Rhys and went through some post partum depression, I would have agreed that it is true you can "choose to depress", however when I gave birth to him, this little, perfect baby that I had been waiting for for years and longing to be a mom and now all I could like was "what have we done, I will never be able to go back and not have this child every again." This was not me at all, and the worst part was that I couldn't for the life of me pull myself out of it. In those first 3-4 weeks I had moments of enjoying life and Rhys and being a mom, but most of the time I felt blah and that the world around me was vibrant and beautiful, but I couldn't feel it myself. I felt numb and unable to interact. Thankfully, God and my family and friends helped me through that, but I really didn't feel like I had a choice in what was happening with me, because if I could have responded differently, I would have. I still regret that I wasn't jumping for joy and loving every single minute of Rhys and motherhood those first weeks.
On the other hand, I am able to relate better to those people who do suffer through it and am glad for that. It was also eye-opening to hear a message on depression by our pastor Kelly in fall - if you want to listen to it go to www.friendschurch.ca, then Sunday Messages, then VOAG 3, and then R.E.M..
Anyway, I kinda took only one part of your post to comment on. I totally agree that our reaction to our circumstances does dictate our control over it. Sometimes the only thing we can control is how we react and therefore how we live our lives and our emotional well-being.

Mark said...

Thanks for sharing so authentically Rayna. It sounds like you definitely had a tough experience. I have heard it said that depression is like a bad flu - everyone will get it at least once over your lifetime - making it a "normal" part of our existence. Can we choose to depress? Most people say no, and like you, they say that if you were in it, you would understand the powerlessness of it. I have never been depressed before (in a clinical sense) but I have had intense prolonged anxiety. Glasser would also say that we choose to anxietize (as well as choose to become addicted, choose to be anoerexic, etc, etc.) Glasser as you can imagine has many critics within the psychological community. As Jobina mentioned there are indeed people who are predisposed to depression - as well there are many different theories on what causes depression. I supose that Glasser's theory is just one of them. Most of Glasser's depression patients were people who had sought help from doctors and psychiatrists without relief. His method was completely different; he told them they were choosing to depress and gave them ideas on how to choose other ways to deal with their relationship expectations not being met. Do we always choose to depress? Probably not. But thinking about depression as something one chooses as opposed to something that is the fault of something outside oneself does seem to work on some of the toughest cases of depression. Thanks again for your insights!

Anonymous said...

Glasser should know that if one lives in a glass house he should not comment on what he himself does not understand... or something like that.

-Sleeps with Rayna

Mark said...

Mike, you make me laugh. Um . . . I hope it's Mike,
-Mark

Stacey said...

Wow this is a sensitive subject!

I don't think it's always our choice. Some circumstances that cross our path were never in our control. However it is how we choose to react to these circumstances that can make all the difference.

But sometimes we're just products of our environment... and as Maya Angelou said, "when you know better you do better"... I can beat myself up and look at the past and think, "How could you be so stupid. Why did you choose that? Why did you do that?" I wonder why I wasn't strong enough, wise enough, faithful enough... And the answer is just so obvious when you look back--after you've crawled out of the wreckage.

If you are victimized do you choose depression?

If you go through loss do you choose to depress?

I'm not talking about wining about having no money to cover the bills... but serious life-altering circumstances that send the best of us into a tail-spin. Or medical situations that cause an imbalance in your system and as a result you feel blue or depressed. I don't think that depression is a choice. (I have to omit those who are addicted to attention or chronically lazy in life and having an excuse like depression gives them an "out".)

However unless you are clinically insane (or equivellent), and cannot think clearly--you CAN choose WHAT to do for yourself, like therapy or counselling.

Mark said...

Thanks for your thoughts Stacey. Yes, it is a touchy subject. I thought you made some good points. We definitely don't control everything that happens to us, our environment has a huge effect on us. I think Glasser would actually agree with you, we don't can't control what happens to us, but we can control our response. You bring up the examples of victimization and grieving. Glasser would say that there are normal responses to these tragedies that everyone certainly goes through. But what if you get stuck in it? How long is it "normal" to grieve? I'm not sure I (or anyone) can answer that as it seems different for everyone. Everyone grieves but for some the grieving never end - they become stuck in it. And they realize something is wrong, but they feel powerless to get back to normal. When this happens, and they seek help, Glasser helps them to restablish control by taking away the deception that there is nothing they can do. He finds the behavior that reinforce the thoughts and feelings and encourages the person to choose new ones. It is up to them to move on - if they want to.

Depression is a trickier subject. Choosing to depress wasn't a term he used lightly. I don't want to speak for Glasser so if you are interested in looking into the topic he has written much on the subject. I will say one thing though, Glasser had no interest in blaming his clients for unhelpful choices made in the past. In fact, he wasn't very interested in the past at all. The present and the future were where he focused. I think he would say that worrying about/beating oneself up over past choices is a very unhelpful choice! I'm not sure if this does justice to your thoughts, but I welcome the discussion!