Have you ever made a bad decision, such as getting involved with someone you shouldn’t have? Did you choose a safe career that does not give you joy? Do you regularly self-sacrifice to keep others happy? All 3 of them?
I have made my share of bad decisions from bad relationships to putting aside my needs to meet those of others. My list could go on and on. I made really bad decisions, such as letting someone into my life who turned out to be a delusional stalker, some that were not so bad, but were recurring, such as reaching for sugar or caffeine instead of simply resting or saying “yes”, when I really wanted to say “no”.
When my life had reached a point where I felt dehumanized and like I no longer had a right to my own life, I began investigating decision-making with the vigour of a scientist, which I am. What I found blew me away.
I realised that all my decisions had one thing in common: they were out of balance. Looking back at this made me feel somewhat schizophrenic, because how I made my decisions was either purely based on emotion or completely emotionally detached. There didn’t seem to be a gray area. It was either I was caring too much about people or circumstances or I didn’t care at all and simply made a decision that I believed would keep me safe.
What I hadn’t realised at this point was that this kind of black-and-white decision-making that I had employed had created a life I did not want: having to defend myself in court against a threatening stalker, feeling completely depleted by life and jaded by the humankind and beginning to slide deep into depression. I felt like the circumstances were all caused by others, because I had not yet woken up to how much I was contributing to my situation by making bad decisions.
My “awakening” happened when I was sitting in the court house, afraid for my life, waiting for the hearing to start. The police had decided to apply for a 5-year restraining order on the stalker, because the stalking had already been going on for several years and because of the volatile nature of his delusion.
I remember sitting in the “safe room”, surrounded by victims of domestic violence and random acts of violence awaiting for their turn to give evidence against those who had already hurt them. We tried to keep ourselves busy, me, my partner and 2 police officers who were there to give evidence to support my safety.
There were literally 6 people there (including my partner, the 2 police officers, 2 “safe room” court staff members and the public prosecutor) to attend to my needs, and yet, I rejected their acts of support and tried to keep my shit together myself. I didn’t see myself as someone who deserved to be helped, because of the childhood wounds that had made me decide very early in life that there could possibly not be a God, as a loving God would never put an innocent child through what I had gone through. For my whole life I had learned to not ask for help. There really was no point, as there was no safety in humanity, and there was no God. Confused and lonely, I simply soldiered on.
The court made a 5 year restraining order to support me, and once the decision came through, the spoon dropped. People around me were elated and joyous. They were celebrating the result because I would be safe. People were celebrating my safety. They asked me how I was feeling. Inside I was feeling confused by this perspective shift, but I didn’t want to insult the people who had worked so hard to keep me safe. I smiled and said “really good. I’m feeling really good.”
I was confused because I had just been helped by the system. I had just been helped by my fellow humans and my loved ones. I had been helped and I couldn’t deny it. I had needed it. All the decisions about this case I had made with an emotional detachment, because I had not felt worthy of being helped. But now, my heart was broken open.
What had really happened was that my head had tried to make all decisions based on this case. The thinker in me had overruled the feeler and belittled the feeler’s input in the situation. When I was a child, it was not safe to feel. I’m told by my amazing mother that I never cried, unless I was really sick, not even as an infant. Not when I was hungry, not when I needed a nappy change, only when I had been intolerably sick.
Nearly 40 years after I was born and learned to think my way through life to keep safe, I had been forced to feel. I realise (and hope and feel grateful for the fact) that not everyone reading this text will have had such dramatic and traumatic life. But I also realise that the more dramatic and traumatic life experiences we have, the clearer the message seem to be simply because of the stark contrast of our life experiences: I had to be forced to feel. These people helping me stuck a proverbial crowbar into my heart and pried it open. And I am forever grateful for them for that, because it made me realise that making unbalanced decisions in life leads to unbalanced life. First, I had not engaged my inner thinker in the process of letting this stalker in my life, and secondly, because I had always felt “less than”, I tried to criticise myself into being ok throughout the saga of court appearances. Both were bad decisions that left me off balance.
So, here’s what I learned about making good and balanced decisions:
1. Understand that there are 2 ways that we make decisions: we think and we feel. That’s it. We decide things by “figuring things out” or by going with our “gut feeling”.
2. We make a lot of our decisions based on the information we have collected about the situation. There are 2 ways in which we collect information: we wither use our 5 senses (seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling and touching) to collect the information that is right in front of us, or we use our imagination, or intuition to tune into what could be happening. Depending on how hopeful or unhappy we feel, is what kind of information we collect, because if we feel threatened, everything we see around us is a possible threat, or we obsess about what we are not seeing and waiting for “the other shoe to drop”. If, on the other hand, we feel hopeful, all we see is opportunity, be it with the people, items and circumstances right in front of us, or in the world of our endless imagination.
3. I had to learn to see things a lot more balanced: that not everything was a threat, and that not every thought should be followed with 10 000 possibilities. Both approaches had caused me a considerable amount of distress in life.
4. I had to learn to befriend the feeler and the thinker within me and have them make decisions together. The feeler keeps my decisions authentic and the thinker brings in checks and balances.
These understandings and the subsequent good decisions brought me to a life of less hurry, more intention and more presence. This, in turn has manifested as meaningful work, deeply intimate relationships and most importantly, my days are filled with activities that are fun and fulfilling. No more “have to”s. Just “get to”s. I get to live my happy and meaningful life.
If you are interested in finding out more about making better decisions by integrating your inner thinker and feeler, you can check out the 4 People Within home study course to help you get started.
If I can do it, so can you. I believe in you.
Bad Good -text: Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay
Bed dust sun: Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay
Woman falling: Image by Fathromi Ramdlon from Pixabay
Woman having a help: Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash
Rock balancing: Free from Wix