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How to Make Difficult Decisions: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself, B

March 30th, 2015 · how to make dIfficult decisions

So, what can psyche tell us about how to make difficult decisions?

how to make difficult decisions

In Part One, Questions 1. to 4., we looked at the pressures, conscious and unconscious, that might bear on how we make decisons.  Here we deepen the questioning.

5.  What does my body tell me about this decision? (or how do I feel?)

Isn’t the body irrelevant to decision making?  Actually, not at all. If we listen to our bodies, they tell us a great deal about what is right and wrong for us in the decisions we have to make. Many times, our bodies reflect our real feelings, when we’re not conscious of them. The body’s state can show us much about the emotion that we’re carrying deeply within us.

To feel this, we have to understand the language that the body speaks. Consider an individual who decides to accept a promotion and transfer to a far away city, who immediately upon doing so starts to experience stomach trouble to the point vomiting and diarrhea. That person might tell themselves that this response is just a natural expression of nerves. But therapy might well reveal that a more appropriate interpretation is that the body simply “can’t stomach” the transfer.

Modern Jungian therapy knows it’s wise to try and hear, rather than ignore, the deeper wisdom of the body. It can make all the difference between a decision that is fundamentally affirming of self and life, and a decision that rides roughshod over who we really are.

Disrupted sleep, rock-hard muscular tension and the racing heart of anxiety all speak volumes.  The conscious mind might not know, but the body knows something about how to make difficult decisions.

6.  What Are my Dreams Saying?

how to make difficult decisions

My dreams may also speak an earthy and earnest wisdom. In many ways, dreams may show us how a decision relates to the deepest self.  They may put the decision in the context of our earlier experience, our fundamental personal makeup, and our most basic biological, evolutionary and cultural heritage. Depth psychotherapy on dreams may reveal that we are being pressured into a certain course of action by a bullying father complex.  It can also show when a particular course of action holds the promise opening up a whole range of psychological possibilities, or a way to move forward and out of a seemingly insoluble dilemma.

Noting our dreams and getting help to understand their language is an excellent aid to decision making.

7.  Do I Need to Make this Decision, or to Hold the Tension?

how to make difficult decisions

In the last post, we saw how an overly strong sense of urgency about making a decision might be caused by a psychological complex.  But even if we’re not being needled by a complex, it may be very valuable to ask whether it’s the right time for us to make an important decision.

Sometimes, especially with key decisions, it may be important for us to just sit for a time with two incompatible options.  As Jung might tell us, sometimes just considering the two irreconcilables can lead to the emergence of a third completely unexpected alternative that leads out of a dilemma in a completely expected way.

As leading neuroscientist Prof. Joseph LeDoux of NYU tells us, most of mental processing is unconscious. If the conscious part of ourselves which is always trying frantically to plug every hole in the dyke can stand back, sometimes what emerges from the unconscious mind is an unbelievably apt contribution to solving our dilemmas.

8.  Who am I — Really?

This can be an important question because, often, it’s possible to be just too definite about “who I am”.

Certainly, I can try to map out what kind of person I am, and see how that helps me decide for this or that option.  “I’ve never been a dancer; there’s no way I’m going to salsa classes with my wife.”  “My partner might like the suburbs, but that’s not who I am as a woman — I’d never go there!”

Yet, more often , it’s easy for our preconceptions about ourselves to influence our decisions, and even to interfere with our decisions.

It’s wise for me to stay open, and not have too pat an idea of who I am.

Depth psychotherapy can help us to bring the whole of who we are as a person to the challenges of major life decisions.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  U.S. Army ; woodleywonderworks ; Carlos Martinez
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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How to Make Difficult Decisions: 8 Questions to Ask Yourself, A

March 23rd, 2015 · how to make dIfficult decisions

As therapists know, decision-making is tough: sometimes, brutally so.  We all wonder how to make difficult decisions that feel integral and good.

how to make dIfficult decisionsWhat questions should you answer before you make a decision?

These questions aren’t “magic bullets”, taking all difficulty out of the process.  But, if you can stay with them, you might find that you’re making better decisions that are more reflective of who you really are.

1.  Does this situation seem familiar?  Have I been here before?

I might be struggling with a decision that, on a certain level, has a very familiar deja vu feeling.  Could it be that the type of decision that I’m called upon to make is just very difficult for me?  Perhaps this type of decision repeatedly trips me up.

If I’ve really wrestled with this type of question before, it may hook some emotional aspect of my past experience.  My past history, either in early life, or at some later point, may repeatedly get involved in the decision.

Or, I might be running into an issue that concerns personality type.  Maybe I am not at my strongest making decisions that involve intuiting future possibilities, or managing a great deal of detail — or any of the other possible “Achilles heels” that can ensnare each of us when it comes to using our weaker psychological functions.

2.  Where does the urgency come from?

how to make difficult decisions

Decisions may feel urgent to us for all sorts of reasons.

There can be objective outer factors that make us aware of the decision as urgent.  Work deadlines or financial pressures would be examples.  Yet sometimes we’re driven by a strong sense of subjective urgency.  We can feel an inner pressure to make a decision when there is no objective outer cause for this feeling.

If nothing objective is driving my need to make a decision, it might be best to not make it right now, and take a “wait and see” approach.

If nothing objective is really pushing me to make a decision, I might want to look at the subjective, possibly unconscious roots of my sense of urgency.  A complex may be pushing me to make the decision.

Example: L has been looking for an accounting job, to replace her old job.  Finally she gets two offers.  She feels great urgency to make the decision and get on with a new job.  Yet L’s sense of urgency stems from the fact that she doesn’t really want another accounting job, but it makes her anxious to face that fact.

Sometimes, it’s right to take a decision slowly, and let your unconscious mind work on it.

how to make difficult decisions

3.  What are my biases?

We all have biases that affect our decisions — and we’re often not even aware of them.  Sometimes bias is in the unconscious.  Researchers like Prof. David Amodio of New York University have revealed our unconscious biases around race and gender role stereotypes.  Yet these are far from the only areas where unconscious biases exist.

Depth psychotherapy sees such biases as stemming from complexes, clusters of emotional energy gathered around an archetypal core.  Only by making such biases conscious can we gradually free ourselves from their influence, and make choices that truly line up with who we are and what we really want.

4.  Do different parts of me want different things?

People often use the word “torn” when describing a major decision that they have to make.  It might feel that part of me wants a certain thing, while part of me wants another.

Do “different parts of me” or “different people inside of me”  want different things?  This isn’t an abnormal state: it’s a fairly normal situation.  The human psyche has many different elements, which sometimes want very different things.  Understanding those different people inside of me might change not only the particular situation I’m dealing with, but actually the entirety of my life.

how to make difficult decisions

Who are the different voices inside of me?  What does each of them want?  How can I make a decision that all of me will be able to live with?

Questions about Decisions

Major decisions often occur during major life transitions.  They also often form an important part of the midlife transition.  In Part B of this post, we’ll examine four other key questions we should be asking about our descisions.

Depth psychotherapy reveals important ways to confront and work with the decisions in our lives, and help us to make choices that honour our entire personhood.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  ©   ; David Goehring ; Steven Depolo ; Bill Strain
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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