Arthur Panaro - October 30, 2013

When I worked for an MA in philosophy at the University of Delaware many years ago, and far, far away from Santa Fe, my thesis advisor, Professor Charles Marler, suggested I take as my subject “Choice Making in the Ethics of John Dewey and St. Thomas Aquinas”.   His advice had roots in our two backgrounds.  Marler was a Deweyan of the first order of magnitude.  My background was full of Roman Catholic education.

             Here comes the choice-making topic again, only this time in the context of therapy, psychology and recovery.




Staunchness and steadfastness to behave anew, with the grit and the power of choice making are the major goals of therapy with regard to a targeted dysfunction.   Of course also needed are (the cognitive) mental realization, personal insight and release of (the emotive) pent up toxic emotions associated with a bad habit.  But then in the long run the proof of successful treatment shows up most obviously in (the behavioral) the empirical evidence of change in behavior.  For example, somebody finally stops smoking nicotine.  They join a gym, and commit to overall healthy breathing and lungs.




The processes of REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy / Albert Ellis) provide the preliminary reformation of the unhealthy, toxic values and thinking. 

“REBT practitioners work closely with individuals, seeking to help uncover their individual set of beliefs (attitudes, expectations and personal rules) that frequently lead to emotional distress.       

“REBT…provides a variety of methods to help people reformulate their dysfunctional beliefs into more sensible, realistic and helpful ones by employing the powerful REBT technique called "disputing." Ultimately, REBT helps individuals to develop a philosophy and approach to living that can increase their effectiveness and satisfaction at work, in living successfully with others, in parenting and educational settings, in making our community and environment healthier, and in enhancing their own emotional health and personal welfare.”

“REBT heralds a practical, action-oriented approach to coping with problems and enhancing personal growth.  REBT places a good deal of its focus on the present: on currently held attitudes, painful emotions and maladaptive behaviors that can sabotage a fuller experience of life.”  (www.albertellis.org)

            I find Ellis refreshing in his down to earth, rather penetrating focus on the adverse effects of “irrational thinking” and ways of jettisoning it.

            For my part, there is something more to this “common sense” venture than getting people to realize their illogic and disabuse themselves of their likely imagined negative certainties.  This something more is depth psychology and therapy through abreaction ---- the living through or reliving a traumatic moment in a person’s history so that the emotions attached to it can be re-experienced and released.  Then is the way more clear to imagine, believe and think more optimistically, and detach from the toxic dogmas of the memory.




            Having gotten some level of clarified goal and commitment, next comes affirmation of motives for change.  Enumerating my specific reasons and benefits to change potentiates my commitment.  Even keeping a “gratitude list” is a form of this.

The dynamic power of will and motivation, according to scholar, mystic and yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, progresses through four levels of increasing dynamism.  A person may have a “wish” --- only a helpless desire.  “Desire” is a stronger wish, with perhaps off-and-on effort.   “Intention” (determination) is a definite, expressed strong desire, but however strong, there could be discouragement after several unsuccessful efforts.  “Volition” (will) seals the deal: “Will and act until victory” ---the mind of efficacious activity.

            Two psychologists, Prochaska and DiClemente (P/T) (1982) reveal five steps toward change:  1. Pre-contemplation (pre-speculation) “I’m not really aware of any needs or wish to change.”  2. Contemplation “Maybe I do want to change, to do something healthy, new, different.  And maybe I have a problem, and maybe I don’t.”3. Preparation / Determination / Decision “What can I do new and different?”  4. Action “I am actively taking steps to change with a plan, and I am sticking to it.”  5. Maintenance   “I have achieved my primary goals and I am working to maintain my gains and successes.”


            Tapping into the 3rd, 4th and 5th steps of (P/T), I propose the following model:

1.         NEED:  Before I decide and commit to change, I have to know what I want to change and what bothers me.  I start with what I NEED.


2.   I COMMIT TO MY NEED:  Repeat to myself that I have chosen a door toward my recovery and my health.  I have heard the call to the adventure of getting better. Everything is going to change from here on out.  I can get the help of counseling, recovery meetings, specialists, body workers, trainers, family and friends.


3. MOTIVATION / REASONS: I keep telling myself the beneficial reasons and motives for my major life change. I do this over and over. It is good to keep a gratitude list of new and healthy things happening in my life.


4. DIALY PROGRAM AND HABITS.  The first habit can be just repeating my commitment and reasons for my NEED.  (See worksheet below for more details.)


5.   FOR MY LIFE and DEEPER MOTIVATION: Who am I now becoming?  What gifts can I give to my people and my world? Now that my life is not being drained by my old choices, what am I going to do with all this new, healthy get-up-and-go?  I can express my “vision of service” going forward, and my “mission of service” for my benefit and the benefit of others, --- family and friends, the world at large. Mission means the work I do and choices I make so my vision comes to reality. [The Path by Laurie Beth Jones.]


1 -A     YES: As a goal, my NEED is _____________________________________________________________________

1 –B    I am tired of _____________________________________________________


2          Do I COMMIT to my NEED?  

NO:  I am not sure yet, because: (See (P/T) Step 2 above)



YES: I do commit to and choose to work for my goal and NEED. (Proceed to step 3, 4, and 5.)



3          YES:  My REASONS and motives for say YES for my NEED: List your reasons:




a) I choose to be free, true to myself, to be healthy   (Ron Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance)


4          YES: My everyday plan and program are: CHECK YOUR CHOICES

___I repeat my commitment and motives to myself

___I study human growth and health

___I have non-alcoholic drinks around the house

___I talk to people who help me relax and stay clean and sober

___I take walks, hike or go to the gym

___I read books that help me

___I meditate

___I practice stress relief like breathing exercises, or isometrics (tense/release)

___I practice positive self-talk and encourage myself.

___I avoid people, places, things, thinking that have no good recovery in them.

___I want to be pain free (Basic need / Matthew Fox)

___I associate with alert, positive people. (Basic need / Matthew Fox)

___I want to have high times (not drug or alcohol highs), and not just work, work, work. (Basic need / Matthew Fox)

___Compliance with Court

       Add your own.



My VISION:  The world I want to create for myself, family and others is


My MISSION: How I will bring my VISION to be is by


[The Path by Laurie Beth Jones.]



            So that’s it my friends.  Enjoy!    Arthur Panaro