Let somebody else talk for a change...
"Patients often contact me for therapy in the throes of a difficult decision. They want to know if they should get a new job or change their child's school, move to another city or leave their spouse.
When they can’t make a decision, it is usually not for lack of relevant information and advice but because of all of the unknowns. The future is certainly unknown. Making a decision can be risky; we might make a mistake.
Patients often lay out exhaustive lists of pros and cons at this point, weighing the potential risks against odds of success, hoping their therapist can tip the scales in one direction. If, after this exercise, they still can’t decide what to do, it is usually because of an inner conflict; something that a person may not wish to know about themselves.
Unfortunately, when we don’t want to know things about ourselves, there is a good reason for it. Either it would be too painful or too emotionally disorganizing to know it. All we have, at these times, is a lot of confusion and anxiety.
In fact, confusion and anxiety are excellent indicators that an inner conflict may be brewing; inner conflict is qualitatively different from fear of the future or of the unknown -- precisely because it is much more intense and emotionally gripping. If you find yourself perseverating about your problem, dreaming about it, feeling close to reaching a decision only to find yourself reeling back to indecision and confusion, and otherwise feeling like you are involved in some kind of emotional struggle, then you know you probably have an inner conflict about whatever decision you are trying to make – something you may not yet want to know about.
Trying to make a decision when inner conflict is at play is wildly difficult. It is almost like asking a mother to decide between two of her children. She can’t do it, even if one of them is obviously smarter or better than the other. Friends or family members can get very aggravated and annoyed and impatient when a rational decision can’t be made at these times. Inner conflict is difficult to comprehend and to resolve.
There is no formula for how long it takes to resolve an inner conflict so that we are free to make decisions and stop feeling gripped by a clenching anxiety. The world of emotions is not cut and dry like the world of logic; it’s murky. It requires patience. It can be frustrating and disappointing for all.
If you are ever faced with a not being able to make a decision, try to remember that you may have an inner conflict brewing. Then, put your list of logical pros and cons aside for awhile. Take out a blank sheet of paper or schedule a session where you can talk freely. Write, or talk, without thinking; free-associate. It may even work not to think at all about your problem at all for awhile; answers sometimes come to us like forgotten words, unexpectedly. If you can, try to wait for the right decision to make itself known to you. Eventually, it will."