Toward Great Mental Health: Making Choices on Our Life’s Journey

“Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made, whether good, bad or indifferent.

“If you want a different result, make a different choice.”

A few years back I wrote an article on making choices in this weekly column, and I once again present this subject. Having lived over three-quarters of a century, I can attest to you that life is truly about making choices and living with the consequences of those choices.

As I have stated so often, as we progress along the highway of our life’s journey, it is marked with adventures, risk, rituals, and a host of other associated acts and behaviors; predicated by the choices we make. Making healthy choices along our life’s journey is based on knowing right from wrong and the consequences of our choices…our values as applied to ourselves and in our relationships with others. Life is truly about making choices.

As human beings we are all endowed with free will and intellect. I have been a firm believer since my early adolescent years, that no one can make me do anything without my permission. Although there are a few exceptions to this, the thoughts I would have and how I would handle a given situation is still up to me. This line of thinking followed me into my Counseling career, and was reinforced by such great psychiatrists and psychologists of our times…Abraham Maslow, William Glasser, Carl Rogers, and many others whom I either studied under or studied about.

Contemporary, evidenced based therapies, are founded on this principle; Rational Emotive Therapy, Choice Therapy, etc.

We all choose how to behave at any given time, and cannot control anyone’s behavior but our own. With that behavior comes the self-responsibility for the behavior…the consequences. We, as behaving human beings, often make choices based on faulty assumptions and unrealistic thinking; resulting in inappropriate behaviors.

We all have choices on how we tend to behave. To disobey parents, to act out in school, to drink alcohol or use other drug substances or not, to commit criminal acts or not, to be loving and kind to others, etc. etc…choices. And by making the choice, we must either revel in or suffer the consequences.

How often have we heard the phrases, “he or she made me do it,” “I had no choice,” etc. Such statements have their basis in having faulty assumptions, immature thinking, and irrational thoughts.

We are living in a volatile world and society at this time; terroristic attacks, child abuse and neglect, drunk driving, rape, incest, homicides, suicides, human trafficking, drug trafficking, hit-and-runs of pedestrians with motor vehicles, texting or talking on that cell phone while driving…all products of proof of the volatility of our culture and those around our world.

One needs only to watch, listen, or read the daily news to witness this. Yet we know that all of these behaviors are a matter of choice…money, power, evil thoughts, etc. are the driving forces behind the thoughts that drive these chosen behaviors. In our own Valley communities we have equally been affected by this growing problem; the suicide and homicide of a couple, the senseless slaying of a young teenage girl, the hit-and-runs of those under the influence of a chemical substance, etc. all bear witness to the extent of these ever growing problems.

What do you think creates this mindset of others choosing to engage in inappropriate, and often times, criminal behaviors? One such cause, and what I have written about frequently, is the permissiveness toward youth that has permeated our culture. Beginning in the 1970s, with our Cultural Revolution, many youth were presented with actions that began permissiveness; the idea that “every one of you deserves a trophy,” “all of you can go to college,” “it is not your fault,” etc.

This type of mindset led to our youth to not only taking responsibility for their actions, but to place that responsibility on their parents and others. Now don’t get me wrong; there are many exceptions to this wherein parents and other significant adults do teach the common values to their children, and we read about the successes everyday in this newspaper…however, there are many who do not.

The parents, the educational system, and others choose to take on the responsibility of their children’s behavior, and then the children choose to allow that to happen and engage in inappropriate behaviors…consuming ethanol beverage, smoking pot, stealing, cheating, speeding in cars, texting and driving, etc. are the result. I firmly believe that this concept, this reality, plays a major role in what is happening today in our society at large, and in our community.

A suggestion I have for all of you parents and other significant adults is to teach our youth about choices from the options that they have; instead of saying: “Why did you do that?” change the language to “Why did you Choose to do that?”It may sound like a simplistic “cure”, but believe me it is not.

In my many years of providing counseling therapies to youth, adults, and families; there is one part of the therapy that still comprises best practices within the counseling community…never accept excuses. No matter what ones station is in life; whether it be that the person is in poverty or affluent, whether the person comes from a broken home or an intact family, no matter what the ethnicity of the person is…everyone has to choose to take responsibility for their own thoughts and behaviors, and must realize and accept the consequences of said behaviors.

Making excuses for inappropriate behaviors is unhealthy and non-therapeutic; only making things worse. Choosing the virtues of being good and doing good, changing ones thoughts to lead to appropriate behaviors versus inappropriate and unhealthy patterns, is what our culture, our society, needs to do. Until Next Time, keep you intellect over your emotions, and Stay Healthy My Friends!