Wednesday, April 13, 2016


THE FIVE-LEGGED STOOL AND THE PLATE


     Je ne suis pas dans mon assiette. (I’m not feeling well—I’m out of sorts.”) This French expression represents the result of trying to sit on a 5-legged stool that has lost one or more legs. Comment? (French for What?!)

     I learned of the five-legged stool concept in my teaching days. It was a theory proposed by William Glasser, a highly-respected psychologist and education consultant. His theory is that each leg of the stool represents a part of our life that keeps balance and well-being in check. Here are the legs:


1.  Biological needs satisfied (hunger, thirst, sleep, good health, etc.)

2.  Power

3.  Fun

4.  Love and belonging

5.  Freedom


       He believed that if any one or more of these was missing, the stool would be off balance, and we would feel “out of sorts” (pas bien dans nos assiettes). Whenever I’m feeling weird, not right, uncomfortable, uptight, I ask myself if my 5 legs are intact. Invariably, I can point to one                that’s either broken or cracked, and that’s why I’m feeling bad. 

     If you’re working long hours, come home exhausted and cannot let down, your FUN leg is wobbly, and your POWER leg is probably broken or cracked. This means you do not have the power (or perhaps freedom) to ignore work or refuse to help your spouse with the kids or to just chuck it all and go watch TV in the family room. It is perfectly logical, then, that you would be feeling uptight, frustrated and powerless trapped in your routine. When we understand why we feel a certain way, it can help us figure out how to fix it. Telling ourselves that we are loved, we have good health and plenty of food isn’t enough to make the bad feelings disappear. Sometimes we not only feel bad, but we feel guilty about feeling bad. This just adds to the lack of balance. There are not two legs to the stool; there are five. Balance or well-being needs all five. 
     Which legs are wobbly for you today? What can you do about it? Are you beating yourself up about how you feel? If so, stop. It’s logical to feel bad when we are out of balance. Recognize that this is where you are, and do what you can to fix it. Sometimes we have to tape the leg together. Sometimes, we just have to be wobbly for a while till we figure it out, and sometimes we have to replace the leg entirely. Bottom line—we all are dealing with balance and tape.