Reality Therapy, a Case Study

Posted on April 26, 2016 by Robert Ringer


In my previous article on reality therapy, I explained that the reality therapist does not believe it is necessary, or even helpful, to hash over the deep-rooted causes of one’s problems. Instead, he believes that fulfillment of an individual’s needs in the present, regardless of what traumas he may have suffered in the past, is all that matters. In other words, through the power of free will we have the capacity to modify our behavior.

I thought about this some years ago after watching a segment on 60 Minutes Wednesday about a remarkable man by the name of Thomas Quasthoff. Quasthoff was born near Hanover, Germany, one of the earliest thalidomide babies. At birth, he had no arms and a deformed body that would grow to only about three feet in height.

His parents, concerned that they could not properly care for him, sent him away to an institution for the disabled when he was very young. But after a few years, he returned home and was placed in a regular school.

While his classmates played soccer, Quasthoff took singing lessons. It was the start of a long journey that would bring him fame and fortune as one of the finest and most famous baritones in the world. For four decades, until his retirement in 2012 due to persistent health issues, Quasthoff performed full-time in countries around the globe and was adored by fans everywhere he appeared.

Incredibly, Thomas Quasthoff is the epitome of self-confidence. He displays an endearing, self-deprecating sense of humor, and his smile and boisterous laughter are infectious to everyone in his presence.

In his interview with the late Ed Bradley, Quasthoff described sleeping in a room with a dozen or so other disabled children, many of them both mentally and physically challenged. Reflectively, he said, “It was a hard experience. But, on the other side, now I say it was very good for me, because … I know how hard life can really be.”

He went on to explain, “I accept my disability as a fact. I cannot hide it, and I don’t want to hide it. I don’t want to be judged as a disabled person. I want to be judged as a singer.”

When Bradley started to ask him what he would do if he had to choose between being an able-bodied person who didn’t have his ability to sing or a disabled person with his enormous talent, Quasthoff quickly interrupted him with, “I would stay like I am.” The segment closed with Quasthoff saying, “My life is very, very fulfilled. I’m a very happy man.”

Through the power of free will, Thomas Quasthoff chose to forget the traumas of his past. He recognized that there was nothing he could do about his disabling thalidomide injuries. But, at the same time, he believed he could fulfill his needs through a singing career and a very active life. He refused to use the horrifically bad hand he was dealt at birth as an excuse for failure.

Thomas Quasthoff is yet another reminder that the main difference between success and failure — between happiness and unhappiness — lies in the power of choice. Responsible choices and responsible behavior lead to happiness and success. Irresponsible choices and behavior lead to unhappiness and failure.

Never forget that while you are a product of your past, the reality is that you can’t change any of the unpleasantness you may have endured. Which is why you should be ever vigilant when it comes to fighting the temptation to look back.

When the past no longer clogs your thought processes, it paves the way for you to focus on exercising the self-discipline to act responsibly in the present. Acting responsibly today is the key to fulfilling your needs and getting from where you are now to where you want to be in life.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

24 responses to “Reality Therapy, a Case Study”

  1. Helen Roberts says:

    Very pleasant voice!!

  2. What a great article Robert. If everyone would read this I think we would be a much better world. It would be great if articles would be in the newspaper and put on the news so more people could learn about it instead of all the negative things that go on around the world. I write to our newspaper and suggest to them to put positive articles in the paper. They don't do it very often.

  3. Chris says:

    Wonderful article Robert!

  4. Mike Miller says:

    Robert, your uplifting article caught me at just the right moment. What an inspiration!

  5. Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing that clip & your essay, Robert. I'd never heard of Thomas Quasthoff before; his voice & attitude are both inspiring. Have you ever heard of the theory of "learned helplessness?" There's a book called "The Optimistic Child" by Martin Seligman which discusses how people are often trapped in painful circumstances simply by the fact that they do not see the way out; they will suffer & struggle & endure & survive for a very long time – not because they WANT to live in that kind of agony, but because they literally do not know how to get out of the situation or make it stop. So from that context, I wonder if your statement "…lies in the power of choice" could be modified a bit, to say "lies in the power of perspective/hope" – because perhaps there are times when someone lives in circumstances of failure & despair, simply because they cannot see the route to any other option? Seligman's book was focused on the topic of individual mental/emotional health, but it seems to me that there is a lot of truth in it related to issues of generational & institutional poverty as well.

  6. larajf says:

    Love it. And it's so true. The past tempered me to the person I am. My current challenges are tempering me for what is to come. So I may as well appreciate it for what it is and keep choosing to be happy right now.

  7. Robert Ringer RJR says:

    Your comments reminded me of Joseph Campbell's insightful thought: "We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

  8. RealitySeeker says:

    Frankly, I think it is very helpful to deeply analyze successes and failures of the past; however, that doesn't mean an individual can't experience fulfillment by not worrying about the past and, instead, focus on moving forward. I know people whose philosophy is basically " life is too short to WORRY about the past". Therein is the key: don't forget the past, but stop worrying too much. Let go of the emotional baggage. Don't repress memories, don't obsess and, if you suffer from serious issues that threaten your life ( e.g., PTSD) get some help…… And I don't mean the incompete help found in places like the VA where they prescribe suicide pills. Find an analyst who'll help you get to the root of the problem, fix that, and get well.

    Reality Therapy might not be the best choice for somebody who has really suffered serious mental wounds. Serious mental wounds can be repressed only to resurface at the worst possible time. The result can be deadly.

    Neurotic people can be treated with Reality Therapy or even self-help books. Those who suffer from serious, deep-seated issues might want to think about getting some seriously competent help — or at least obtain a second opinion.

    Good article, though, and next time I see a friend of mine who is one of those $800 per hour analysts, I'm going to ask his opinion on Reality Therapy. If I had a mental issue that I couldn't sort out. I'd seek out a psychiatrist like Dr. Manny Rich from Manhattan. We used to go deer hunting together in the Catskills. He built an estate down the road from one of my dad's farms. He was a fantastic neighbor and he brought many famous and interesting people into our valley. Dr. Rich was an exceptionally competent doctor. The People he treated read like a list of who's who. If you got some real problems, get yourself a headshrinker like Manny.

  9. JOSEPH says:

    The more I live the more I realize that if we can let go ALL of our expectations as to how life is supposed to be, then we can be happy.

  10. JOSEPH says:

    I must add, GREAT, BEAUTIFUL voice. I really enjoyed listening to him. He's amazing!

  11. Paul Herring says:

    Excellent essay, Robert. So inspiring! I've never heard of Thomas, but after this I will.

    Stories such as these really do inspire. If a person with Thomas' disadvantages can rise above them all and build a successful life, surely many of us without those can impel ourselves to soldier on in the face of life's challenges.

    Thanks for your post. So positive and so much more revitalizing than the talk about the US Presidential elections.

  12. Marte says:

    Thanks for the inspirational story today. We all CAN make the best of what we have. Few of us have such huge challenges to overcome.

    I've often wondered what became of all those babies. Back when I was in college I saw one or two on the campus, but only briefly.

  13. Phil says:

    An amazing man, awesome story!

  14. Donna says:

    I think it's good to look back enough to analyze whatever your trauma was, process it, grieve it (if necessary) and then stop looking back. Past a certain point, it simply becomes like scab-picking. Leave the wound alone, allow it to heal, and move on. This process can take different amounts of time for different people / different situations. But it's important not to get stuck in the past.

  15. Donna says:

    p.s. Amazing story, very inspirational.

  16. Another way of looking at the example you have given is: Thomas Quasthoff looked at his strength and not his weakness, focused on his strength and succeeded!

  17. Guest says:

    **He refused to use the horrifically bad hand he was dealt at birth as an excuse for failure.**

    His decision then gave him freedom in the future. Reality therapy may be an improvement over contemporary psychological therapy. Medications are, of course, a numbing experience and almost valueless as a therapy.
    The improvement, from what you've described of reality therapy, is perhaps not realized but it at least doesn't focus and use anyone's horrifically bad hand they were dealt as an excuse.

  18. Dr. Kate Siner says:

    Trust me, Robert, Such a great article I have never seen before, even the video you have shared with is, simply wonderful. Really useful, I think all the people will be benefited if they read this article. Thanks for sharing.

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  20. James Felton says:

    I have read your article on reality therapy and have found them worth sharing with senior professors working at Neil Wilson University so that they can share their thought on this research.

  21. Terry R. Lentini says:

    The therapy that you have shared is just awesome and it should be spread on other platform too however you should also give some guidance on Teenage Pregnancy as a large number of our youth is going thorough this.