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  • 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:    //

    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:


    PHOTO CREDIT: ©  Ffennema |

    © 2010 Brian Collinson

    1. jamenta


      May 11, 2010 at 11:08 pm -

      Hi Brian –
      Well written post – clear and to the point. I have to admit most of my decisions in life have not really based themselves on what I was able to determine from my unconscious. Because – that has always been difficult to do – despite admonishments to the contrary. To take a dream – interpret it, and then act upon it with confidence has been a challenge. Paying attention to synchronistic events – if not fairly obvious – and sometimes they can be – is also difficult.

      So difficult perhaps I am unwilling to put in the effort to meet the challenge of knowing the unconscious and the direction it really is taking my life.

      Regards – John

    2. jamenta


      May 13, 2010 at 4:52 pm -

      Brian – Kind of you, both your encouragement and your offer too help identify resources. Thanks. 😀

      I will be moving back to the SF-Bay Area (where I have lived most my life), probably within a year, and plan to seek out there a Jungian pyschotherapist once I settle in. I don’t think I’ll have too many problems finding one in that particular neck of the woods! But surem, any suggestions would be great – although my move is not going to be right away. Staying here on Maui for the time being.

      I guess fear is an element of not only deciding what fork in the road one should take – but there is fear that effort or even the
      validity of one’s activities may not be worth it – i.e. the struggle
      for “Knowing Thyself” so to speak, which involves in my mind –
      learning to know the Unconscious and how it is directly impacting
      one’s personal destiny and growth toward what one is eventually destinied to become – in this life or others (I would like to think).

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