You’ve probably heard this: “Every day is a gift, that’s why we call it the present.” Cliché? Yes. However, in Reality Therapy, the present is the place to be. In his book Choice Theory, Dr. Glasser states bluntly: “My counselling technique works in the present.” It’s only in the present that we can take action or make changes.
What’s the practical impact of having a “present-focused outlook” if you want to make changes that will lead you toward a more satisfying life?
Let’s look at Rayne, who used to have a huge difficulty in her life—her husband. He attempted to control her, belittled her, and treated her disrespectfully. Rayne could see he wasn’t going to change, so she made a change. She divorced and made a new life with her young son.
Rayne appears to have created a successful life without much help. In spite of low-paying jobs, she managed to buy a house and give her son everything she felt he needed. Life was a struggle though, and she was never sure that she “measured up.” Twenty years later, Rayne is still struggling. Why?
“It’s my son Joey,” she explains. “He didn’t have much contact with his father, but he inherited his terrible attitude. He’s just as disrespectful to me as his father was.”
How does Rayne respond to Joey’s behaviour toward her?
“I get annoyed! Whenever there’s a problem, he gets sarcastic. For example, my new cell phone wouldn’t work; he told me I need a cell phone for dummies. Turns out, there was a problem with the phone. But just like his father; he’ll never admit he’s wrong, especially to a woman.”
So how would Rayne like things to be with Joey?
“I don’t want him to have his father’s attitude toward women, but it must have been born into him. I’ll tell you a story. I put my new TV table together. It took me three evenings, but I did it all by myself, and I was proud of it. Joey could have helped; instead, he made fun of me all through it.
What does Rayne do?
I tell him, “Joey, stop acting like your father. You’ll never get married if you don’t smarten up, and I’ll never have grandchildren if you keep on this way!”
How does that work?
“Joey just laughs at me. I don’t think he even hears what I say half the time. It’s terrible that he got so much of his behaviour from his father. But it’s my fault. I should have left earlier and I should never have let him visit.”
What do you think? Looking back and regretting that she didn’t do something differently twenty years ago—is that the most effective behaviour Rayne can choose? Is there anything that Rayne can do now that would change how she and Joey interact?
This article is the first in a series. The next article in this series is here.