Improving the Present

Rayne has had an imperfect past. Who hasn’t? However, Rayne’s past life interferes with her present life, as she spends hours fretting over what she should have done differently.

This article is one in a series.
You can find the first article in the series here.

Since her marriage ended years ago, Rayne has been devoted to her son Joey’s welfare. How has that devotion worked? Not so well, as Joey is ungrateful and disrespectful to her. Rayne is concerned that his attitude, which she thinks he inherited from his father, is leading him toward an unsatisfying life.

Further, Rayne hears the critical voice of her ex-husband echoed in Joey’s unkind remarks about her appearance, capabilities, and intelligence. She spirals into misery—blind to everything she’s accomplished, she sees only what’s gone wrong. What could Reality Therapy offer here?

By focusing on the present rather than the past, Reality Therapy differs from some other counseling methods. Dr. Glasser doesn’t believe that it’s helpful to spend too much energy going over past miseries. In his book, Choice Theory, he says, “One trip through the misery is more than enough for most people.”

Rayne can’t change the past, and she can’t control Joey’s behaviour. However, she does have some power over her current situation. What does Rayne see as options?

“I could do nothing. But Joey’s snide remarks and behaviour are really unpleasant and they get to me.”


“I could tell Joey I’ll kick him out unless he smartens up. But I don’t want bad feelings between us.”

Are there other options? One helpful way to consider the past is to examine what’s worked before. Ask, “When things were working well, what was I doing?” For Rayne—were there times when Joey was respectful?

“He was always worse when he came home from his father’s.”

OK, so we know what made things worse. What made things better?

“Joey was always well-behaved around other people. He gets that from his father—he can act charming and politely. You’d never believe what he put me through when we were alone though.”

Was there anything you did that would improve the situation?

“When he was small, we’d have hot chocolate and a talk. I’d tell him how sad I felt about his actions. He would be so good when he wanted me to be happy.”

Is it correct to say that Joey knows the difference between respectful and disrespectful behaviour, and he chooses to use disrespectful behaviour with you?

“I guess it’s correct, but that sounds awful! After all I’ve done for him, he chooses to be mean to me?”

Have you tried hot chocolate and a talk recently?

“No. Joey’s a grown man; he should know! But, I could try—I’ll tell him out-right that his remarks are really hurtful.  I try to ignore them, but they hurt and I want them to stop.”

Is that worth a try?  What else might Rayne do now that would change how she interacts with Joey?

The next article in this series is here.
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