I was listening to my daily podcast and suddenly heard a term – Choice Theory. Immediately I started to dig deep about the term what I heard. In return, I found out that it is one of the two main psychotherapy models. So here is my basic understanding on Choice Theory.

The theory believes that all the aspects of our behavior ( thoughts, feelings, physiological reactions and actions ) are the choices of our own. In comparison, feelings and physiological responses are more difficult to impose intervention, but we have more freedom to choose our thoughts and actions and it creates an impact on feelings and physiological responses. Our choice determines how we give back to it.

Regardless of external influences, all our behaviors come from our inner drive. We all are limited by our own choices and all behaviors are made by choices one after another. Our actions are also a choice, though we may not realize it ourselves. 

I think you must have heard of the behavioral patterns of “co-dependence” or “empowerment”. They come from our excessive participation in the process of other people or unawareness of our own inner process. 

The choice theory is the exact opposite of these two behaviors. It claims that we are fully responsible for our internalization process and also give others full freedom. In this theory, all problems are to some extent relationship problems, and those kind of problems are also a problem.

The choice theory believes that humans have five basic needs ..

  • Freedom
  • Power
  • Fun
  • Love
  • A sense of belonging and security

Though our behaviors are different, these five needs still run through our lives from beginning to end and behaviors are always generated around satisfying these five needs. For example, when babies are born, they have only low fun needs ( maybe 2/5 ), a high need to be loved ( 5/5 ) and a high need for belonging ( 5/5 ) and a relatively high need for power ( maybe 4/5 ). 

Now you can try to give yourself a score of 5 points. These needs remain the same throughout life, but how we meet these needs is constantly changing. Lets take an example, that the way you think about everything is totally different from how you were thinking few years back or a youth before. Its the continuous process which overlaps based on acceptance and recognition from your group.

Behavior always caters to our own needs to the greatest extent and all behaviors are purposeful. Basically, there is a good reason for everything you do. Needs are fixed and those don’t need to be changed but what we can choose is – how to meet those needs.

Okay, lets make above academic explanation more simpler by the following “Ten Laws of Choice Theory”.

  • The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.
  • All we can give another person is information.
  • All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.
  • The problem relationship is always part of our present life.
  • What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.
  • We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.
  • All we do is behave.
  • All behavior is ‘Total Behavior’ and is made up of four components : acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.
  • All ‘Total Behavior’ is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.
  • All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

If you are interested in learning more about the concept of choice theory, go for this book by William Glasser.