Anxiety, Stress and Decisions
A great deal of stress and anxiety in peoples’ lives is associated with making major decisions that deeply effect personal life. Very often, people come into therapy because they are hung on the horns of a major dilemma, with a decision to be made between two or more possible decisions or paths to take.
As we all know, making a life-changing decision can be a time of real struggle. Often the choice may be of a kind from which there is no easy turning back. In such a situation, if the stakes are high enough on each side, the dilemma can seem insoluble, and the situation can seem absolutely paralyzing.
This is in part because, there is often no easy, logical set of steps to take in making the fundamental decisions in life. Decision-making is not nearly the logical, rational proposition that it is often portrayed to be, and that we would like to think that it is. This is true whether we look at individual or group decisions. I appreciated this article in the Financial Post newspaper of date, which concerned research into the psychological processes around decision-making demonstrates this: //bit.ly/cd0whp
In the course of an ordinary human life, there will be decisions that will be true forks in the road. These decisions will not be made easily, and making them may well have a very real personal cost. As one enters mid-life, the frequency of these difficult, uncharted decisions tends to increase. From the middle of life on, there will be more and more of an individual character to such major choices. As one really confronts one’s own unique identity, and one’s own unique values and sources of meaning, conventional cookie-cutter answers to these dilemmas will be less and less readily apparent and less and less helpful. If an individual is to find an authentic way to move forward at such a point, it will require genuine self exploration, and confrontation with the unconscious elements in him- or herself.
Coming to terms with the unconscious element of ourselves, and becoming aware of its presence and its effect on the direction of our lives is a transforming process. The self that makes the decision and moves forward will necessarily be somewhat different from the self that originally confronted the dilemma. Often it is the support provided by the container of /a-midlife-transition that can make the difference between an end result that furthers a sense of despair and stagnation, and a resolution to the dilemma that provides a sense of greater unification and integrity of the self.
I’d gratefully welcome your comments on the decision process. Have you confronted times in the recent past where making a major decision or decisions has been a source of great stress? Have you ever had to confront decisions that had the feeling of being a genuine “fork in the road” or “crossing of the Rubicon” from which, once made, there was no turning back?
My very best wishes to you on your individual journey to wholeness.
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst
Main website for Brian’s Oakville and Mississauga practice: www.briancollinson.ca
PHOTO CREDIT: © Ffennema |Dreamstime.com
© 2010 Brian Collinson