Decision Making: What’s Your Style?
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 29, 2013
Martha, forty-one, always allows her husband to make their major life decisions: what house to buy, where to send the kids to school, how to incorporate religion into raising their children. For years, working with Martha has made me reflect on this sense of deference. Is it respect for her husband? Is it a lack of faith in her own decision-making ability? is it fear of confrontation? Of course, these are not exclusive and so at different times, different factors may be at play. Consciously, Martha is not aware that she defers to her husband. Her narrative is that they have thought things through together, but upon deeper exploration, it is clear that her husband always steers the family ship. Suddenly, Martha, unrelated to our present discussion states “how do I know what is the right thing to do?” The moment of clarity arrived. Deep insecurity and a lack of trust in her ego, not believing in her sense of right and wrong, has led to a marriage in which she is the more passive participant. Sometimes these marriages work well, but Martha is now suffering from questioning why she cannot form her own opinion. Forming opinions, thinking, deciding, are actions that many of us take for granted because we have to navigate through life. Yet, Martha is now in a period of reflection where she is confused as to why she is never certain, or even reasonably sure, so that she can then decide what is best for herself, and what is best for her children. She is no longer comfortable being passive, but nor is she content with offering an alternative point of view. She is stuck by the constraints of her ego which, at this moment, is unable to guide her towards changing her life. Her paralysis is painful as she does not want to stay the same, and yet, she is frightened to change her interface with the world. This is our work together-building a sense of self that can go forward with her own decisions, and not be inhibited by the overwhelming fear of making a mistake. A strong self knows that bad decisions will be made, but that the “self” can then make another decision which will put the person back on track. In other words, the stronger person can see the arc which includes both good and bad decisions, and with the ability to reflect, a better course can come out of wrong turn. The more vulnerable ego stays in place, so as not to experience regret. Accepting regret is personal growth. Martha and I are working on this big picture, the picture of building a new self, a new brain, which steers her in a way where she can feel proud.