Conflicts in the Quality World

What does the word “conflict” mean to you? Is it disagreement with other people?

“When there are two opposing pictures in your quality world at the same time, you have a conflict. The more you move in the direction of one, the more you frustrate the other.” That’s from Choice Theory by Dr. Wm. Glasser, founder of Reality Therapy.

While conflict is sometimes with others, we can experience intense conflicts in our lives all by ourselves. No one else need participate!

Let’s take a look at Sam, a young guy living with his parents. One picture in Sam’s Quality World (that’s Sam’s “all-he-wants” world) is a specific view of himself—as a son his parents are proud of. He chooses behaviours consistent with that picture; he helps with chores and always chooses actions that he understands to be right and responsible.

Sam has other pictures in his Quality World too, including a new truck and a place of his own. Last year, Sam was thrilled to get a full-time job! Now, he will finally be able to realize those other Quality World pictures.

A year later, the pictures in Sam’s Quality World haven’t changed but his circumstances have. Sam’s mom is ill, and Sam still wants to be the man who can be proud of how he behaves. Sam’s other pictures—the shiny truck and the bachelor pad—are still intact. Now part of his Quality World is pulling him toward more independence: Buy the truck! Move out! Other pictures conflict: Do chores! Be a companion for mom during this difficult time.

What’s a lad to do? Sam could go for one of the pictures and put the other aside. For example, he could move out and easily justify it to himself: “Other sons don’t stay home. I’ll visit every day….” Or he could choose the other picture and stay home: “Mom needs me.”

When you don’t care deeply about conflicting pictures, it’s easy to choose one and let the other go. But Sam really wants both, and the conflict is painful indeed.

When people deny a picture in their Quality World, they may end up choosing to depress. That’s not a conscious decision; that is, Sam doesn’t sit down and say, “I’m going to choose to be depressed now.”  They just find themselves feeling miserable. You can tell yourself that you will give up something that you want very much; however, if it’s still important, it won’t go easily.

Does Sam have more effective choices? Dr. Glasser might ask, “Is there a third option?” Which of Sam’s needs does he think will be satisfied by moving out? By staying? Is there an option that can satisfy the needs of one picture without frustrating the needs of the other?

What do you think?

This is the first in a series of articles on conflict.
See the next one here.
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