Making Better Choices - Part 1
Do you ever feel like you keep making the same choice only to find yourself feeling regret, frustration and even sometimes shame? I’m referring to choices like responding well to someone else’s overreaction, handling conflict with your spouse more effectively, or not using the “vice” to feel better when things become challenging.
Dr. Caroline Leaf has some great insight about this on her podcast called “Cleaning Up the Mental Mess.” In Episode #98 she shares strategies that can help you be a better decision maker. In this blog I’ll refer to points she made while connecting it with the approach we use at Resilient Life Therapy in Wayzata, MN.
First, it is important that we understand that any given situation includes nuances (i.e. the tone of someone’s voice, a facial expression or dynamics in a relationship) that act as prompting events that trigger a memory from the past. Memories can be explicit; that is full of images and the ability recount what happened; or implicit which effects our unconscious responses but are filled with texture, feeling and urges. Keep in mind both effect us in important ways but the implicit type are less present in our ability to recall it and more present in our body. It is important to know that whatever type of memory our current experience elicits it definitely plays a huge roll in our interpretation of the present situation.
So what does that mean? Well, basically if you feel your reaction is “over the top” then it probably is. And that’s because it isn’t just about what is happening now, but its also about what happened historically for you. Dr. Leaf notes, “every situation will stimulate memory.” Whether we are aware of it or not this is constantly happening.
Our experiences are building blocks that we continue to draw from; they can be both beneficial and detrimental. When the experience is beneficial (adaptive) we learn about ourselves and the world in ways that augment our ability to do better next time or to try it differently. We increase our ability to “experience” a wide range of ups and downs in life and grow from them. When the experience is detrimental (maladaptive) we make unhealthy or unhelpful conclusions about ourselves and the world that lead to symptoms and behaviors that are not beneficial. Our symptoms become a way we safeguard ourselves from “experiencing” and, thus, stagnates our ability to grow from them.
So to start, chew on the possibility that your present reaction to present stimulus (a fight with a spouse, disagreement with a friend, or conflict at work) may have less to do with what is happening in the present and more to do with something unresolved in the past. When we start to be curious in this way we become more aware of the possibilities to solve the problem.
Check out the next blog on how to be an observer of your experience and increase your ability to make better choices.
If you’re interested in getting more one-on-one help with decision making and getting unstuck, please contact us here. We offer counseling and therapy that integrates EMDR and other transformative therapies to help resolve unwanted symptoms and behaviors in a brief intensive format. To learn more about our approach, check this out.
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