We make hundreds of decisions a day, of which most are unconscious. What to eat, what to wear, when to leave for work, which lane to drive in, which calls we take and which calls we let go to voicemail. Even where we focus our eyes.
Making Conscious Decisions
We make some decisions more consciously. When we need to end a relationship. Who to date. Even more importantly, who to marry. Whether or not to have children is a very difficult decision for some people. Most of these decisions come from desire.
Making Decisions From A Fear of a Negative Result
But what about those decisions that come from fear or avoidance of something negative? For example, not wanting to pay taxes but wanting to avoid a penalty. Some people don’t make a left turn in driving because they fear they will be hit by an oncoming car. Others refuse to walk under a ladder or to cross paths with a black cat due to superstitions.
In my practice I most often see these decisions coming from fear of something negative:
- Fear of Failure – not putting 100% effort into a goal. In other words, some people believe they could not fully fail if they did not put 100% effort into meeting a goal.
- Fear of unworthiness – Some people avoid intimate relationships because they fear that their lover will leave them one day because their flaws make them not “good enough” to have a mate forever.
The most difficult part of this thinking is that it is often an unconscious process. The person recognizes some discomfort or fear in the situation, but does not fully understand where the fear comes from and most often does not seek professional help to work through their fear. Fear of Failure can lead to a series of lost opportunities, lost jobs, or serial relationships that invariably end. Fear of unworthiness can lead to a life alone. Sometimes a person fears that if they seek professional help and still cannot maintain an intimate relationship, it will mean they are truly flawed and destined to be alone.
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know
Remember, they don’t teach Life and Coping skills in school. So how does one know what prevents them from succeeding or having long-term, fulfilling relationships? We often think we are permanently flawed and nothing will change that. However, that is erroneous thinking. The reasons we feel flawed often stem from childhood. It can come from negative experiences in school that teach us how others may view us. Sometimes our parents reinforce these insecurities. It is a generational process of parenting and how as children we learn about ourselves and where we will stand among others. It can come from innocuous statements made by parents with no understanding of the damage being done to the child’s self-esteem. Unfortunately they sometimes do it on purpose, deriving from their own insecurities.
Another Person In No Way Determines Our Own Truth
Many times people say hurtful things out of their own insecurities. The hurt person does not recognize this and takes the hurtful words as the truth. Much of my work as a therapist helps the client reframe what they heard within a context of circumstances that they would not fully have understood as a child. We do not have the pre-frontal cortex fully developed until around 25 years of age. That part of the brain enables us to understand the perspective of others, which at younger ages we are not able to do. That part of the brain allows us to use rational, logical and reasoning capabilities in our life experiences.
Decisions out of Fear Versus Desire Do Not Get Us to The Same Place
Decisions made out of fear or avoidance attempt to dodge a negative result. It has nothing to do with what we really want. When we do this we choose something we really don’t want because it feels safer to us, emotionally. We won’t risk getting hurt as much.
Decisions made from desire will much more likely get us what we want. If we put all of ourselves into a particular goal we view as a positive outcome and we don’t reach it, it just means that we try again. We may try with a different opportunity or job or relationship, but we still try again. It in no way means we will never achieve that goal of what we want.
“I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”
(Thomas Edison – Brainyquotes.com)
Edison’s “failures” never defined him. We often mistake our process of growth as failure to achieve. Life does not work that way. It is a learning process. So when we make a decision out of fear or avoidance we are setting ourselves up for failure of getting what fulfills us. When we make a decision out of desire we open the door for opportunities to learn and to be fulfilled.
- Do you make decisions out of fear or avoidance as opposed to desire? Why?
- Think of various examples where you chose avoidance of something negative rather than what you truly desired? What was the outcome and how did you feel in the end?
- What if anything keeps you from fully going after what you want?
- If you find you continue to make decisions out of the negative rather than desire of what you want, consider seeking professional assistance. Life is too short.