The Divided Self: Inner Conflict

There are times when making a decision can be hard to do especially when we are making ‘life changing’ ones. When we find ourselves torn between options or alternatives, we feel ‘paralyzed.’ We feel as if we are backed in a corner where there is a need for us to make a choice but we are unsure which way to go.

Inner turmoil happens when we are seriously contemplating in making a change on what is not working for us. It could be in our health, career, or relationship. We feel torn because we know that in order to move forward, we need to make a choice. However, there is a part that bothers us, the possibility of certain risks like failure, rejection, or defeat.

Why Some Decisions Are Hard To Make

Some decisions are hard to make because they come with a higher price tag with our finances, time, identity, and relationships. Unfortunately, the ‘hidden’ costs of these things often elude our consciousness. Our gut knows about them though; hence, when we make decisions on things that we think come with ‘higher’ costs, we start to feel anxious. We start to have these cyclical thoughts and the urge to escape into distraction. All these happen as an attempt to slow down our system, hoping that our conscious mind becomes fully aware of the costs of the choice.[1]

Making a decision is tough especially on important life decisions. Some factors can make it harder:

  • Having Too Many Options

Some of us may think that having too many options can be a good thing especially when making a decision but researchers found out that it’s the exact opposite. In a famous 1995 jam study, Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University, and her research associates found out that the presence of choice might be appealing, but the growing number of choices can be debilitating.[2]

Psychologist Barry Schwartz has the same thought. He coined the term “paradox of choice” to describe how a growing number of choices can lead to an increase in anxiety, indecision, dissatisfaction, and paralysis.[3]  

This barrier is common in making decisions such as in choosing a college major. With so many available options, it’s so hard to settle just for one. The number of choices you have coupled with the pros and cons of each can make you stuck in the situation, not knowing how to move forward.

How to deal with it: Trim your options. Making a decision out of 3 choices is easier than having to choose from 10.

  • The Cake Problem

When we’re about to make a decision about something positive, our gut has its way of making us nervous about it; just when you’re deciding whether to get engaged or not. We’re excited about the thought of it, but our gut is making us nervous, a way of reminding us that while we’re excited about it, we have to remember that making this decision means the death of a possibility (at least temporarily) of the other thing such as of our spontaneity or alone time.

How to deal with it: Take the time to think through the things that are important to you that you will lose once you make a choice. And ask yourself, ‘is it worth losing these things in exchange for the other?’

  • Uncertainty

Sometimes, taking the time to gather more information about a choice can help in alleviating anxiety. Unfortunately, for some of us, having more information and time doesn’t help. This has something to do with intolerance of uncertainty, which can be a result of experiences.

If experiences on decision-making have resulted in a painful or neutral outcome, the gut could default to anxiety about any decision. So, no matter how much time or information you gather, you still feel anxious about making a choice.

How to deal with it: Set a time limit to make a decision. Use the information you gathered, create a backup plan for dealing with the possible negative consequences, and manage your anxiety through self-care and relaxation techniques.

  • Fear of Failure

Fear of failure is the most common barrier to decision-making. It can be a fear of financial loss, public shame, loss of identity, or something else. Therefore, whenever we make a decision that would put us at risk of whatever we fear from, our gut would ask us “can you handle that?” It’s what get us stagnated in making decisions like whether or not to try something that evokes our enthusiasm or reveal our true identity. We fear that if we choose these decisions over the other, we may lose the safety/security of what we currently have (i.e. job security, acceptance from the people around us, etc.).

How to deal with it: Spend some time thinking about the worst-case scenario. For example, if you decided to start a business and failed at it, you may want to think about losing your savings and the possible consequences of it. Your gut would only calm down and move forward once you realize you can live with whatever failure you may have.

Making a decision is often tricky especially when we are stuck with our conflicting thoughts. However, the only way to move forward is to make a choice, a tough thing to do but the best way to go.

If you feel conflicted in making a choice, just remember these:

“Courage and confidence are what decision-making is all about.” -Mike Krzyzewski

“Time doesn’t wait. Indecision will only let opportunities slip by. Pick a path and walk confidently with your heart behind every step.” -Doe Zantamata

Published by Hypnosis in London on 02 July 2017, written by Malminder Gill.

Image: Joe Penna
References:
[1] The Top 10 Barriers To Decision Making. CO: Jennifer Diebel, MA, LPC, 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.
[2] Tugend, Alina. “The Paralyzing Problem Of Too Many Choices”. Nytimes.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.
[3] “The Science Of Analysis Paralysis: How Overthinking Kills Your Productivity & What You Can Do About It – Todoist Blog”. Todoist Blog. N.p., 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.