Friday, September 6, 2013

William Glasser, RIP

There was an obit in todays's NY Times marking the passing of Dr. William Glasser. He wrote Reality Therapy, and Schools Without Failure among other books. As a psychology major in college, we read and discussed his works. His work was picked up by others including some Christian authors. He stressed taking responsibility for one's own life. Two concepts that he stressed in his writings were: 1) the only person in the world you can control is yourself, and 2) the effort to change others is wasted. It will only lead to more emotional problems. Related to these two main principles is this: the most profound human need is to love and be loved so it's critical that we repair broken relationships with family, friends or others by taking the initiative on our own to do it. It does no good to wallow in self pity, or hurt feelings, or resentment. Although, I do not know if Glasser was a professing Christian, I found his principles compatible with Christian faith. As a psychiatrist, Glasser broke with the Freudian model of psychoanalysis and focused on helping people take charge of their own lives. While Glasser might have believed we can control more than we actually can, I found his concepts to be like a breath of fresh air in my study of psychology and I found his principles made sense. Glasser was saying what Christians have said for centuries; God's relationship with us is based on forgiveness, and our relationships with others have to be based on forgiveness, too. We find that theological underpinning for relationships in the Lord's Prayer among other places. Glasser wrote that no one has the power to make us miserable nor make us happy. In his phrase, which others have popularized, happiness is a choice. What he meant was that we can control how we respond to the ways others sin against us. We can forgive; we can forget; we can choose to let it go instead of let it fester; we can move on; we can reach out to the ones who have hurt us. It's not always as easy as that but Glasser showed in real life case histories how it works. Jesus showed how it works, too. "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."