Friday, September 24, 2010

Unhappy Teenagers - William Glasser

Here is a review/summary of William Glasser's Unhappy Teenagers
The approach is a ' working with ' approach fairly consistent with CPS

Although Glasser discounts the possible influences of brain chemistry on happiness, I feel he has an important message to offer on the psychological – relationship level.

Unhappiness is caused by being unsuccessful in your life and/or being involved in bad relationships. Bad relationships are those where the exercise of external controls, power struggles etc define the relationship, rather than love, trust , respect and equality. External control disconnects people rather than creating a bond and connection.

Instead of using external control to try and change others we should use self-control and change ourselves finding better ways to interact and elicit a different response from those close to us. Choice theory says we can’t control others but we can control how we respond or how we reach out. When you stop controlling you gain control since your relationship improves and there is more of a willingness and empathy on the part of others to meet half way and compromise. By exerting a great deal of coerces ion we can temporarily control the actions of other people but we can never control their thoughts. And as soon as any person is free of us, out of sight she can do anything she pleases. How far she will deviate from what you want her to do will depend on the strength of your relationship.

Unhappy people are often those who are trying to control others and are suffering from the resistance and conflict this evokes. These unhappy teens don’t think or care about what their actions do to the lives of people around them , their capacity for empathy is nil.

Glasser has a list of 7 deadly habits of external control that destroy relationships:

Criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging , threatening , punishing, and rewarding to control – even praising could be interpreted as stroking or trying to control – thank you for doing what I want you to do. The 7 connecting habits are caring, trusting, listening, supporting, negotiating - I prefer CPS collaborative problem solving not negotiation, , befriending and encouraging.

To be happy one has to satisfy 5 basic needs – survival, love and belonging , power , freedom, and fun. By connecting to people we satisfy the need for love and belonging. If we gain their respect, trust and love we feel powerful . If we try to control them we may maintain their love but not gain their respect and trust .

Often kids love their parents and at the same time feel disconnected , don’t respect them nor trust them. Another way to feel powerful is to do something with our lives that makes us feel successful and not at any body’s expense.

Freedom is the need to escape from the controlling person. Problems occur usually where the parties involved are disconnected , there is a lack of love and belonging and no sense of internal power. The lack of love and belonging is compensated by satisfying the need for power by trying to control or fight back or satisfying the need for freedom by running.

One of the interesting case studies in the book is that of an anorexic teenager. Every one has a picture of what Glasser calls our quality world This is a memory bank of those positive experiences that satisfy our needs. For an anorexic the experience of not eating and getting thinner is part of her quality world. Even when not eating is clearly destructive , there is great difficulty to stop and remove the experience from her quality world . Another difficulty is that the anorexic has to give up the “ power “ and control she has over her body and over her parents who are trying their best to get her to start eating. I don’t believe that the behavior of the anorexic or the kid who has OCD that has the home on egg shells acts manipulatively to get power , but that feeling of power subconsciously feeds the disorder .What she really needs is love but her addiction to power does not let her accept or give love.

Glasser recommends that the parents stop trying to control their daughter and get her to eat, that is left to the professionals, but try to improve their relationship with her. By stepping back and not being involved in a power struggle they are able to connect with their daughter. Their daughter will not be preoccupied in resisting parental pressure to eat and be more open to their love.

Buddies or buddy/tutors by nature lend themselves for a more equal relationships with teenagers and often they are the most effective in reaching out to the them , being their confidants. They don’t lecture but through conversation maneuver the teen into reaching his own conclusion.

In order for a relationship with a teen be happy, the power in the relationship must be reasonably close to balanced. Parents who want to get along with their teens need to relinquish a lot of the power that most parents believe they need to have if this relationship is to succeed. The paradox is that the more direct control a parent is willing to give up , the more indirect control one gains through a stronger and happier relationship. In conclusion , whether your child is disconnected because she lacks skills or other psychological reasons we inevitably have to fall back on the collaborative problem solving approach

William Glasser in his book Unhappy Teenagers has a chapter " dealing with a teen who's been labeled schizophrenic The theme of his book is that people may be unhappy because they are unsuccessful or have unsatisfying relationships , they are disconnected to the people closest to them and who are in the position to give them love and satisfy their needs .

He also says that his symptoms may also be related to an unrealistic fear that his care givers are about to abandon him or send him some place away from his home with them. When you are unhappy your creativity can get involved in your thinking and in your brain physiology leading to psychosis or schizophrenia.

Delusions of persecution or hallucinations are crude ways his own creativity is devising to blame his present disconnection and reassure that it is not his fault. The sufferer is very lonely and further isolates himself from others , becoming more creatively involved with his brain. This self involvement replaces the people he very much needs. Medication reduces the creativity , makes thinking less bizarre and turns off the voices but he has no people in his life to replace them with.

A buddy , buddy/tutor , a young adult cheerleader is very much in a position to connect to a teen. They should not try to get involved in his bizarre creativity but use problem solving techniques, using reflective listening and directing the conversation through questions , helping the teen to focus outside of himself , learn to take into account others' views and feelings , define problems , generate different solutions , plan for the future etc. Problem solving unlike your speaking, teaching or suggestions which may fall on deaf ears , involves the teen , helping him solve his problem , not your problem. Parents of a very aggressive teen took up the suggestion of their therapist and got a boarder who was a karate expert. The boarder befriended the teen and things changed for the better.

I have always said that a good relationship , dialog and communication is very important to help us influence our teenagers.

" I don't believe a child can be extrinsically motivated to engage in problem solving. Children participate because they are convinced that they are being heard, that their needs are being taken into account, that resolutions to problems will be fair and balanced, and that this process is not merely a facade for getting the kid to comply . If parents aren't able to help their child engage in problem solving discussions, often an objective third party (i.e., a therapist) is required to restore faith in a child who is dubious about the above or is lacking cognitive skills crucial to participating in problem solving " - Ross Greene


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