Life Is A Choice
Posted by Dr. Vollmer on September 27, 2013
People say they are stuck when they really mean they do not like their choices. Karina, sixty-one, is unhappily married, frustrated with taking care of her elderly parents, while at the same time frustrated that she is paying for her grandchildren’s private education. “You have options,” I say, helping her to see that what she sees as fixed decisions are really ways in which she chooses to be in her world. She does not have to take care of her elderly parents, but she would tell you quickly that she would feel very guilty if she did not. “Well, that is different, ” I tell her. Feeling cornered is different from feeling like there is no way out. Managing her guilt would help her make more conscious decisions about where she wants to draw boundaries with her parents. This is a vastly altered picture than saying “I have no choice.” The latter is a way in which Karina does not have to think about how hard her choices are. In one way, it might sound unsympathetic of me to not connect with her about the burden of elderly parents, but on the other hand, taking care of can mean so many things to so many people, that each individual must find the way that makes sense for him or her. Without the thought of choices we lapse into victim-hood which leaves us feeling self-pity, with little hope of change. “What if I went to work to feed my family, would you tell me I have a choice?” Karina asks me, trying to convince me that some situations are fixed. “Of course, you have a choice about how to make money, and whether or not you want to go on public assistance.” I say, knowing that going on public assistance is so repugnant to her, that she does not consider this an option. The ability to sit with these difficult options creates maturity that allows Karina to reflect that even in the midst of hard choices, she still has the power to write the story of her life. No one has to write it for her.