Reality Check: Reassessing Wants

Dr. Robert Wubbolding suggests a deceptively simple four-part structure derived from the practice of Reality Therapy. He calls it WDEP: Want, Do, (self)Evaluate, and Plan.
The practice starts with, “What do you want?” Wants can be surprisingly confusing and the path to achieving those wants is not necessarily straight.
Kris perceives that she had a difficult childhood, with a loving but passive mother and an extremely critical father. She remembers her teenage years as a series of loud fights, accusations, and misunderstandings.
Years have passed; Kris now has children of her own. Her dad dotes on his grandkids, and while her relationship with him is hardly warm and loving, neither is it hostile.
However, bad feelings have stuck with Kris. She believes that she needs to talk to her dad; to let him know how she feels and how it affected her. She wants to clear the air.
Despite this being on Kris’s mind for years, she’s never gotten round to actually having that conversation. She’s discussed it with friends, who encourage her to go ahead, get it out of her system. Heal. Then it will be over and she can “get on with her life.”
The longer Kris procrastinates, the guiltier she feels. Why do I keep procrastinating? Why can’t I just have this conversation? Well-meaning friends warn, “If you don’t do it now, you may not have the chance. Your father could pass away; you would never have closure.”
When Kris examines, “What do I want?” her immediate response is idealistic. “I want to understand why my dad treated me so badly. I want him to say he’s sorry. And I want him to acknowledge that I turned out really well in spite of it.”
Kris’s wants are understandable. However, she can’t control whether her dad would even engage in a conversation, much less whether he would respond the way she wants.
Kris is aware of why she’s reluctant to bring up the past. “I don’t want to ruin the reasonably good relationship that we have now. We get along, he loves his grandkids, and I’m afraid that will be ruined if I bring up old hurts.” Seems like a valid concern, doesn’t it?
Rather than choosing guilt about her procrastination, Kris could reassess her wants and choose to focus on what she can control.
One approach could be to choose to focus on the present. The current relationship with her family is reasonably good. It is Kris, and Kris alone, who can decide to either continue to let past injustices interfere with her enjoyment of life, or not.
Another approach could be to develop her skills in having difficult conversations. At this stage, Kris recognizes the possibility that if she initiates a conversation with her father, she doesn’t have the skills to ensure that it would be a positive encounter.
It doesn’t take much skill to have a conversation about a difficult topic if you don’t care how it ends. However, it can take a lot of skill to have that conversation and still have a good relationship at the end of it.
Many skills don’t come naturally; they need to be learned.
By reassessing her want as something she can control—developing a skill—Kris can take action toward that goal. She can research, ask advice, and learn.
This may seem like a very small step on a long and winding road toward addressing her complaints with her dad. And as she learns and grows, Kris may ultimately find that she no longer feels the need to do so.
Regardless, developing those communication skills would increase the chances of any interaction resulting in more good than harm.
Do you ever procrastinate on a difficult issue? Have you tried reassessing what you want?

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