Am I Making the Right Decision?
Over my years as a Jungian analyst / /a-midlife-transition, I’ve heard a lot of people ask “Am I making the right decision?” It’s often a crucial question.
When we find ourselves asking, “Am I making the right decision?” there can be a great deal at stake. We may find ourselves looking very closely at a life choice we have to make. In fact, we may be on the cusp of making a choice that will affect the whole rest of our lives. Such choices may arise when we are in the midst of a major life transition, or when we are confronted by unexpected changes in the lives of those closest to us.
We may find ourselves asking “Am I making the right decision?” in many different contexts. It may concern a romantic relationship. Or, it might have to do with key job or career choices. Or it might be around moving, or retirement. There is an endless scope for key life choices that may have huge consequences for our lives.
Often, major decisions confront us with the raw nature of human choice. We can’t get all the information we’d ideally like to have. We can’t possibly know the ultimate outcomes of all the choices before us. Sometimes, amidst the uncertainties and unknowns, we just have to choose. And, as the old existentialist saying reminds us,
Not to decide is to decide.
What IS the Right Decision?
Does it even make any sense to talk about the “right” decision? What could a “right” decision possibly be?
Well, let’s at first make clear what it’s not. In the vast majority of situations the right decision is not, and cannot possibly be, a “perfect” decision. In a great many situations, I simply cannot be absolutely sure of the ultimate outcome of my decision. With many important life decisions, it’s difficult to “tick all the boxes”, and feel that “I’ve done it absolutely right”. When we’re dealing with big choices, and with the future, we often don’t have a crystal ball, that shows us what will be when we make a choice.
Well, if that’s true, how do we go about making the best decision that we can? Well, here’s one thing we can say for sure. When we make a decision about a matter of great importance in our lives, it’s essential that it be an authentic decision. That is to say, that it’s a decision that emerges from who we really are.
There are numerous ways in which it’s possible for us to sidestep making an authentic decision. For instance, we could let a decision be determined by peer pressure, or the need to “look good”, rather then by what we actually feel we should choose. Or, we could let an attitude that we inherited from our family make the choice, rather than really listening to our own instinct or “gut” reaction.
Perhaps the most serious way to avoid making a decision with integrity is to not really listen to ourselves. We have an idea of who we are, and a way that we present ourselves to the world. This is what Jung called persona. The trouble is, this way that we present to the world, and who we think we are, may not be who we really are. It can easily be that there are feelings, attitudes or thoughts of which we are unaware. These are semi-conscious or unconscious elements of our psyche.
The Dangers of Unconscious Decision Making
The unconscious mind is alive and well within each of us. It can profoundly influence our choices without our being aware. It can also react to decisions we make in surprisingly strong ways! Jung tells us that,
The great decisions of human life have as a rule far more to do with the instincts and other mysterious unconscious factors than with conscious will and well-meaning reasonableness.
Elsewhere he states,
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
It can be easy to be carried along in decisions we make by all kinds of influences that stem from the unconscious. If we stay unaware of them, we end up having our lives run by unconscious factors that take us in directions that the conscious mind would never wish to go.
We probably all know the incredibly sad stories of unconscious factors in decisions. For instance the story of the good, kind person who is on their third or fourth marriage to a severely alcoholic or abusive partner, and who just can’t understand how they could have such “bad luck” in choosing partners.
It can be very important to understand as much as we can about all the feelings, intuitions and motivations that get triggered by a major life decision. Otherwise we may have little or no understanding of the ways that we are pushed and pulled by any major decision in our lives.
“Am I Making the Right Decision” is a Question of Soul
Clearly, there’s a lot involved in answering the question “Am I making the right decision?” Often, if we wish to really understand what’s involved in making a key decision, we may need to look at ourselves in depth. We may well need to understand as much as we can about what the particular decision brings up for us on both unconscious and conscious levels. This can take us into the realm of what Jung and James Hillman refer to as soul, the deep part of ourselves where images emerge from the unconscious.
Working with a supportive Jungian analyst can often lead to vastly greater clarity about decisions. If you’re facing the question of “Am I making the right decision?”, it’s essential to be very compassionate to yourself; and, to be willing to look into yourself in depth.
Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,
© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario.