Reality Check: Bears, Breakdowns & Choice Theory

The anecdotes and characters in my columns are usually composite characters and fictionalized situations. However, occasionally, I do write about an actual situation or person (after asking permission, of course.) Such is the case for this column, where the behaviour in a situation was so effective that I wanted to share it with you.

Becky, my practicum supervisor during Reality Therapy certification, later became my friend. She’s no stranger to choice theory and reality therapy, and she applies those principles very effectively in her life.

Becky has taken a job out west, and she chose to get there by driving across Canada. It’s a long drive! So, her daughter accompanied her and helped out with the driving.

My hope for anyone who goes on a journey is that they have an “uneventful” trip. I know that this is not everyone’s preference; some folks actually enjoy drama and chaos, but in my quality world, trips are uneventful. So my general sendoff to my travelling friends is, “Have a safe and uneventful trip!”

However, Becky’s trip was not uneventful.

The first incident came to light in Ontario, where at suppertime in a parking lot, a passerby pointed out to Becky that her vehicle was smoking and leaking fluid. Those are never words that you want to hear, even when you are at home! Fortunately, there were mechanics nearby, and even though the breakdown resulted in a delay, at least they got back on the road without great inconvenience.

After days of experiencing Canada’s great expanses of trees, water, and rocks, they finally crossed into Manitoba. Here occurred another event; this one of the bear-on-the-road variety.

Fortunately, Becky’s daughter was able to slow the vehicle substantially before the actual encounter. Even so, the vehicle sustained damage. The bear chose not to hang around to be examined. (or questioned?)

What make this a choice theory story? When Becky described the trip, she told me, “This was a good life lesson. We could have chosen on both incidences to be miserable and upset. However, we chose to support one another, look for the positives and be grateful.”

I see this as an outstanding example of how the practice of choice theory can benefit relationships and help us be happier in our lives.

Both incidents opened up the opportunity for arguing, blaming, complaining, nagging, guilting—all deadly habits that we sometimes see in our own lives and relationships.

However, we don’t have to use those habits. We can make other choices

For example, in spite of the day’s delay, Becky chose to be grateful that there were mechanics available when the vehicle broke down. In spite of the bear encounter, Becky chose to be grateful that no one was injured and that there were no vehicles behind them, which could have caused a much more serious accident.

We often have the opportunity to choose our focus. For an incident like this, we could focus on all the negatives—the fear, the delay, the financial impact. Or we could focus on the positives—remaining unhurt, maintaining a good relationship (perhaps even strengthened by a shared adversity.)

Which makes life more satisfying—focusing on positives, such as opportunities for gratitude? Or focusing on negatives, such as opportunities to complain?

In the meantime, my wish for you is that all of your trips be as uneventful as you want them to be.

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