The basis of reality therapy is choice theory. Choice theory is the understanding of human behaviour in the context of second-order cybernetics, which proves that living beings are self-directed systems that function purposefully. It defines a person as a free and responsible being who is intrinsically motivated and whose behaviour is always purposeful, very diverse and flexible. The purpose of behaviour is to follow internal motives and thus establish and maintain internal balance and balance with the environment.
The idea of intrinsic motivation, integrity and the purposefulness of behaviour defines a person as a closed-loop system that functions according to the principle of intentional, circular causality.
Glasser systemised his ideas in the 10 axioms of choice theory:
- The only person whose behaviour 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 behaviour is total behaviour and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.
- All total behaviour 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 behaviour is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognisable.