Felix From a Reality Therapy Viewpoint

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The reality therapy model will be used to examine and explain Felix Ungar's behavior. The focus will first be on the theory of reality therapy model and how it relates to Felix. Then some goals of treatment will be outlined.

Reality Therapy was created by William Glasser as a reaction to the Freudian model of psychotherapy which he had been taught to follow. His difference centered on two main points: (1) instead of aloofness and detachment, he found close and warm involvement and a personal interest in the client seemed necessary for a positive outcome of therapy. (2) rather than being victims of their own impulses or victims of those around them, people choose what they do with their lives. His fundamental belief is that we are all responsible for what we choose to do with our lives.
Reality therapy rests on the central tenet that we choose and therefore we are responsible for what we are doing and what we think and feel. Reality therapy is based in control theory and assumes that we create an inner world that satisfies our needs. Behavior is the attempt to control how we perceive the external world to fit into our internal need-satisfying world. All behavior is created from within ourselves and we have choices in what we do. In reality therapy it is assumed that if we learn control theory we will be able to take better control of our lives. Reality therapy focuses on how the person addresses issues now, rather than past experiences and unconscious motivations.

According to Glasser, our behavior is geared to fulfilling our basic human needs. Glasser identified those four basic psychological needs as the need for belonging, power, freedom, and fun and the physiological need of survival. When these needs are not satisfied, the behaviors that we choose feel painful and we are not satisfied with life. When we address these needs in a responsible manner, we develop an identity based on success and positive self-esteem, and in contrast these behaviors used to this end make us feel good. Thus a major goal of reality therapy is to teach people better and more effective ways to get what they want from life.

There are four components of our behavior that determine our direction. These components are; doing, feeling, thinking, and our physiology. The four components merge to form a whole being, however one is usually dominant over the others. The assumption in control theory is that it is not possible to choose a total behavior and not choose all of its components. Glasser uses the example of a car to emphasize how the four behavioral components work together. In his example doing and thinking are like the front wheels of the car; they direct us much like the front wheels steer the car. His analogy tells us that it is difficult to change how we are feeling separately from what we are doing and thinking. If we are to change our "total" behavior, we must first change what we choose to "do" and "think". Our emotional and physiological reactions will change in the process, thus our feelings will follow what we do and think.

What Felix is doing and thinking are causing his emotions and physical health to be in a poor condition. Felix must choose to do and think things that are more in line with the reality of his situation. His wife has said she doesn't want to live with him. He must choose to accept this fact, instead of thinking that she will take him back, in order for his emotional and physical health to improve.

Glasser says that speaking of being depressed, having a headache, or being angry implies passiveness and a lack of acceptance of personal responsibility. When speaking of these behaviors it is more accurate to use the verb forms, such as "I am depressing", "I am angering", rather than being depressed or angry. When people choose these kinds of behaviors they are choosing pain for themselves, and these behaviors are often the best that they are able to devise at the time. Glasser has said that people choose these kinds of behaviors for three main reasons: (1) to keep anger under control, (2) to get others to help us, and (3) to excuse our unwillingness to do something more effective. Glasser contends that we choose to be depressed and that when people begin to say "I choose to depress," there will be fewer people making this choice.

Felix has chosen to behave and act miserably. He looks, sounds, acts, and says he is depressed. He is trying to get Oscar to take care of him and through Oscar and other friends, get information on his poor condition back to his wife hoping she will feel sorry for him and take him back.

Rejection of the medical model with its concept of mental illness has been one of the driving forces of reality therapy since its beginnings. Expressions such as "schizophrenic" and "depressive psychosis" are based on the belief that these illnesses are reactions to external events. According to reality theory, behaviors are not something that happens to us; behaviors are what we choose as an attempt to control our world. According to Glasser, we choose most of these unsatisfactory behaviors as a way of narrowing the difference between what we have and what we want. Events or situations that we define as "stressful" are really labeled by us as such because we are unable to control them with the behaviors that we choose.

The concept of success identity is a basic requirement to understanding reality therapy. People who possess a positive, success identity see themselves as able to give and receive love; they feel that they are capable, competent and worthwhile. They have high self-esteem and confidence in themselves and their abilities to take charge of their lives. People with a failure identity see themselves as as unloved, incapable and incompetent.

Felix has assumed a failure identity, he has little or no self-esteem, he feels unlovable and unloved. Felix's self identity must be changed to a positive, success identity, then he will find himself capable and competent and be able to find someone to love him to replace his wife who no longer wants him.

Glasser consistently asserts that responsibility is behavior that satisfies one's needs in ways that do not interfere with others. Responsibility also means that people have learned to take control of their lives. We can learn to live and behave responsibly without self criticisms for finding fault and criticizing ourselves does not help us.

Felix refuses to take responsibility for himself. One time when Oscar threw him out of his apartment Felix said "well, whatever happens now, let it be on your head".
The goal of reality therapy is to teach clients to find more effective ways of meeting their basic needs of belonging, power, freedom and fun. The focus of reality therapy is on the conscious and on helping clients to be more aware of their behaviors.

When deciding on the sequence and progress of therapy for Felix, the first thing that must be determined is the seriousness of Felix's suicide attempt. The questions that must be answered are; was his suicide attempt a serious attempt to commit suicide, or just an attempt to get attention? Did Felix really want to commit suicide, or was he just avoiding his responsibility to himself to live for and to take care of himself? Felix's suicidal motives should first be understood. When it can be reasonably assumed that Felix will not make any more attempts to commit suicide, then therapy should begin on the other facets of Felix's behavior and coping style.

The key concepts of control theory would be used to identify Felix's behavioral style and activities and to provide a direction to work toward. Felix is convinced that he is a victim of past events over which he has no control. Felix needs to be shown that he does not have to be a victim unless he chooses to be. Felix would be taught that he is not depressed. Instead he is actually choosing to be depressed; "he is depressing". Felix would learn to face the reality of the situation, his wife does not want to live with him. When Felix chooses to understand this, his behavior will change to be more in line with his current needs. He will then learn to satisfy his basic needs of belonging, power, freedom and fun.


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The purpose of this information: This information was first published as an experiment in publishing on the WWW. These pages are case studies of a fictional person. I composed these papers as an assignment for a graduate level Theories of Personality, Counseling Psychology class. I'm not claiming that any of this material is 100% correct. I make no representation as to the usefulness of this material. I hope that these pages are of some use to you, either educational, informative, or at least entertaining. If you have any comments about these pages please contact me by e-mail. Thank you for reading.


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