Counseling Theories and Human Nature

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I got to explain the view of human nature when it comes to Choice Theroy/Reality Therapy, Constructivist theory, and Cognitive Behavioral Theory for a homework assignment recently. Wanted to share my thoughts because I find these theories/therapies pretty interesting as a counselor even though I don’t burrow much from two of them (Reality/Choice & CBT) for my own practice and theoretical orienatation and their views intriguing:

Choice Theory and Therapy

What Choice Theory/Reality Therapy boil down to is every choice we make as humans is based on internal factors, which leads to the question of “what internal factors” influence human choices (Sommer-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan, 2012)? Choice theory attempts to answer the question by listing the five basic needs of all humanity, which are:

1. Survival (or self-preservation)
2. Love and belonging
3. Power (or achievement or inner control)
4. Freedom (or independence)
5. Fun (or enjoyment)(Sommers-Flanagan and Sommers-Flanagan, 2012). 

The complexity of this otherwise seemingly simple answer is that within the five needs humanity functions according to how much they need in each or one area.  The five needs weave together in an ebb-and-flow of chaotic and existential cacophony reflecting the true, complex depths of human nature, existence, and choices.

Constructivist

When I think of Constructivist theory, which is a deeply held part of my own theoretical orientation, and its views on human nature, I think of the phrase “Life is what you make it!”

In the Constructivist mindset and philosophy, particularly the social constructivist side, reality and life is determined together by society; again, life is what we make it. Human nature is what we say it is as a collective whole on a journey to deconstruct modern notions of existence and reality in order to rebuild a postmodern informed society and existence.

Modernism sought to establish an existential reality based off of the scientific method and data, however, in the Constructivist view, reality and life is defined and created by society made up of individuals on a quest for what is real and true. This allows for a more nuanced, complex view of human nature that exists to tell its own story together in discovering the truth, nay, creating the truth of our existence here in this swirling ball of blue and green where meaning lies within us, within the stories we wrote, are writing, and shall write.

CBT

For CBT, to quote the title of an Orthodox Christian book written by Elder Thaddeus, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives.” CBT has locked into the power of thoughts, thinking, and cognition in modern times and therapy, but the notion that poor thinking leads to poor living has not been ignored by the ancients, especially in monastic traditions across many religions.  The Orthodox spiritual tradition calls “crazy thoughts” “logismoi” (which is a Greek word sounding like “log-is-me).

The logismoi (for extensive thoughts on the Logismoi read “An Avalanche” and “The Airplanes“) is the result of what Orthodox spirituality labels as the divide between the heart and the mind.  Our minds, especially in these chaotic modern times, are bombarded with thoughts, often evil and irrational, that we do not often invite. The Orthodox answer for this is that our minds have been disconnected from our hearts, which is the seat of the human soul where our true selves lie in quiet and rest.  I find the powerful connection between therapy and spirituality, especially Orthodox spirituality in particular, to be a very keen insight into the life of the mind and life of one’s spirituality.  Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, whose book is mentioned above, once said:

Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.

Everything, both good and evil, comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts become reality. Even today we can see that all of creation, everything that exists on the earth and in the cosmos, is nothing but Divine thought made material in time and space. We humans were created in the image of God. Mankind was given a great gift, but we hardly understand that. God’s energy and life is in us, but we do not realize it. Neither do we understand that we greatly influence others with our thoughts. We can be very good or very evil, depending on the kind of thoughts and desires we breed.”

These spiritual insights, despite one’s religious affiliation, can be taken into account with CBT to show just how powerful our thoughts are and what they are capable of doing, or creating!

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