Beating that No-Choice Feeling

Do you ever feel forced into doing meaningless tasks? That you’ve been trapped into doing things that aren’t appreciated? It’s easy to feel dissatisfied when you seem to have no choices.

In his book Choice Theory, Dr Wm. Glasser, the founder of Reality Therapy, states that, “In a choice theory society, where the emphasis is on getting along with one another, forcing others would be practiced less often.”

We sometimes feel forced when we don’t recognize our available choices. For example, my friend Julie is moving and I want to be agreeable. So I ask, “Do you need help?”

Perhaps I hope that Julie will say, “No thanks, but thanks for asking.” Then I can walk away with the good feeling that I extended the offer without the pesky bother of having to do anything. Excellent!

However, Julie has other options. She might say, “I really do need help; come early Saturday and Sunday. Could you bring boxes? And pizza would be awesome, thanks!”

Whoops! Hard feelings can arise when one makes an offer without thinking of the consequences. And while you can think uncharitably about the merits of my having made an offer I didn’t mean, I did what I did. Now I feel trapped, without choices. What to do?

Even when I am not aware that I am choosing my behaviour, my actions are the result of choice. I could respond by choosing to resent Julie. How dare she take advantage of me? She knows how busy I am! I didn’t expect her to accept my offer; I just wanted the feeling of having generously offered my services.

However, I have options other than resenting Julie. I could tell her that I can help her one day, but not both. I could tell her that I can bring boxes and pizza, but I can’t pack. I could even ‘fess up and tell her that although I would like to help, I’m sorry; I now realize that I can’t. If my relationship with Julie is important to me, I could even choose to help her and have fun while doing it, although I hadn’t intended that when I made the offer.

Even in this simple situation, choices are available. Each one will have its own impact on my relationship with Julie. To help me decide, one Reality Therapy question could be, “Will this response bring me closer to Julie or drive us further apart?” If I help Julie both days as she asked but end up fuming and resenting, that may ultimately drive us further apart than if I tell Julie honestly that I can’t help her. Either way, Julie isn’t forcing me to feel anything; that’s up to me.

Are you in a situation where you feel forced by others?  You are welcome to let me know.

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