I have been working for some time on creating the process I call “The Mental Freedom” based on William Glasser’s, MD, Choice Theory psychology. As a counselor and coach, when I …
I have been working for some time on creating the process I call “The Mental Freedom” based on William Glasser’s, MD, Choice Theory psychology. As a counselor and coach, when I listen to my clients, I hear a lot of misery that can be alleviated following Mental Freedom’s six processes. Many of my clients experience fear, guilt, anxiety and depression centering around unhappiness in their relationships, generalized depression and anxiety, lack of fulfillment in their jobs or work and, most recently, fear around COVID-19, economic insecurity and racial tension. Perhaps this process can help you feel freer.
Because I firmly believe in completing your own evaluation first, the first step toward Mental Freedom is to distinguish between what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for, while taking 100-percent responsibility for the former. What you’re 100-percent responsible for includes everything you do and the things you are capable of doing that you deliberately decide not to. If you witness a person being the victim of a crime, yelling for help and you turn around and go the other way, you are responsible for that decision. Not to declare that decision right or wrong—if you opted to render aid, you could have also been victimized—but you did decide to walk away. That’s your responsibility, too, just as you would have been responsible for intervening.
To take 100-percent responsibility, you will need to be able to discern between three categories. The first, which you are 100 percent responsible for, is what you do and what you think.
The second category of accountability involves those areas where you can have influence. Influence is never promised, but if you are in a situation you don’t like and you think you are in a position to influence the outcome, you are 100-percent responsible for the decision you make about using your powers of influence. I have an influence on my adult children. They clearly have their own minds and think for themselves, but they do listen to my opinions and consider them. I am responsible for whether I decide to use my influence and for how effective I am with it. Do not measure the effectiveness of your influence by what the other person chooses to do; rather, measure your effectiveness by how well you expressed what you wanted to say. You are not responsible for what the person you attempted to influence decides to do. Their decision regarding what they do, what they think and the values they hold are their responsibility.
The third category involves those things you didn’t want and didn’t ask for, but they happened and you had zero control over it. This is often true of trauma, natural disasters and the many things other people choose to do. People often take responsibility for things they have no control over. For example, many children who have been abused blame themselves for the abuse as adults. Of course, the truth of the matter is that they were just small children who had no influence over their abuser. That responsibility lies solely with the perpetrator.
Response-ability denotes the concept that no matter what happens in your life—the things you do, the things you influence and the things you have no control over—you are response-able. You have the ability to respond. You are not a helpless victim. There may be nothing you can do to stop what is happening, but you do have the ability to choose how you will respond to what has happened. This is like an invisible superpower you possess to help you take control of your life.
People seem to be concerned about trusting the people in their lives, but it is a challenging concept because many of us have had experiences of others breaking trust with us. What I find common is that we’re trusting people for the wrong thing: We tend to trust people to be the person we want them to be rather than the person they are.
The path to Mental Freedom involves trusting every person to do one thing: Every person on the planet, at any given point in time, is making the best decision available to them, in that moment, to get what they want. If pleasing you is what they want in that moment, they will make their best choice to do that, but if something else becomes more important, they will do something different. This often results in people saying the person in question can’t be trusted. It would be more accurate to say, that person fails to prioritize me in all their decisions or that person is not matching the behavior of the person I want them to be. When you hear those things stated in that way, it seems unrealistic that we would expect such a thing from another autonomous individual.
When someone chooses something that makes getting what you want harder, that is when you can either change what you want, change your behavior or change how you are perceiving things to help yourself get your needs met. You cannot, nor should you, work to try to change the other person. That will damage your relationship.
One of the biggest things you can do on your way to Mental Freedom is to recognize that you do everything you do because you want to. I know this goes against popular opinion, as many people complain about the things they have to do, but the only thing I know people have to do is die eventually—everything else is a choice. Even when someone holds a gun to your head—of course, you don’t want the gun to your head—but when you have one there, whatever you decide to do about it, you are doing because you want to.
That may not sound like Mental Freedom to you—maybe it sounds more like blame. Taking responsibility for wanting to do all the behaviors you engage in is not meant to blame. There’s a second step that must be taken: discover the motivation you have for wanting to do whatever it is you feel you feel you have to.
For example, you may not want to go to work. There may be legitimate reasons you don’t like your job or the people you work with. So why do you go to work every day? Most people go to their job, like it or not, because of the income they receive for doing so. And beyond the income are the things they can do with that income. Diving into the ‘why,’ you will find people actually want to go to work so they can pay their bills, stay in their homes, keep their cars and maintain the heat in the winter and the air in the summer.
Think of all the things you believe you must do and see if you can’t find the reasons why you want to do them. Once you have identified the reasons, then, when you start thinking you have to do something, you can switch your focus to its resulting benefits and you will experience Mental Freedom. The dread of doing things melts away when you are clear about your reasons for wanting to do them.
To summarize, Mental Freedom will be increased by taking responsibility for what you do and how you influence others while, at the same time, not accepting responsibility for things someone else does or incidents of fate; trusting people to do what’s best for them in every situation; and changing your belief that there is anything you must do. Recognize you want to do it by focusing on your reasons why.
In my next column, I will continue to provide a summary of the concept of Mental Freedom. We will unpack the two purposes of emotions, the stories people make up in their heads and appreciating the G.L.O.W. in every painful experience. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.