“Patience is decisive indecision.” – James Richardson
Ever since we were kids, we’ve been evaluating everything around us. It’s a hardwired human survival instinct that ensures that whatever we come across isn’t a threat to our safety. Sometimes, the decision-making process is simple and straightforward – you’ll have meatloaf instead of fish for dinner because you don’t like fish. You prefer to walk instead of drive to work because the weather is nice outside.
But what if you’re faced with a situation where your feelings aren’t so black and white and your reaction isn’t a resounding “Yes!” but a “Yeah, but… I’m not so sure…”? Whether it’s a decision about leaving an old, secure job to start your own business or relocating to a different country or choosing between two romantic partners that you like in different ways – they all put you in a tough spot.
A mélange of unpleasant feelings such as confusion, doubt and frustration creep over you while you experience this inner battle. Your brain and heart feels like a yo-yo, telling you different things. One day you feel one way and on another, you feel differently. As an ex-control-freak, I’m all too familiar with the anxiety that comes with the dilemma of having mixed feelings about something or someone.
I hated feeling uncertain about matters because not only did it cause inconvenient delays, but it made me feel a complete lack of control of my circumstances. My inability to cope with my “up-in-the-air” feelings caused me to make some critical life choices prematurely, which didn’t turn out too well.
It took me a while to realize that being in this psychic swamp was an essential phase in the process of making sensible choices. I learned that just because I didn’t have an immediate answer about how I felt about a certain matter, this didn’t mean that I was lost and going nowhere. I was simply in “process mode”; a stage when I’m trying to figure stuff out based on what I know and what I don’t know.
I took some additional pressure off by reminding myself that there really are no mistakes in life, only learning experiences. As long as I make choices that are in alignment with my values and purpose, I know that I’m heading in the right direction. Even if I don’t get the immediate outcome that I want, I would still gain valuable insights that will be instrumental in my personal evolution and growth.
If you find yourself tempted to just “get on with things” and seek quick-fixes to solve complicated cases, slow down, breath, and stay in that space of “not knowing”, even if it feels uncomfortable. We now live in a fast-paced world where many of us feel that we don’t have the luxury to ruminate over matters for too long. But this is precisely the kind of hasty reaction that’ll lead to an unfulfilling outcome.
We need to step into the whirlwind of chaos because that’s where the biggest breakthroughs and lessons come from. It offers an opportunity for growth, progress, and for you to flex your decision-making muscles. You’re a beautifully complex being with deep and profound emotions that need to be acknowledged. Instead of ignoring them, get curious and see where it leads you.
In her book, Winning from Within, Erica Ariel Fox states that although we are one integrated self, when it comes to making decisions, we shouldn’t think of ourselves as just as one “unitary me”. Within all of us are inner negotiators that have different but valid perspectives. Instead of seeing it as an inner war brewing within you, see it as a need for inner negotiation between the conflicting parts within you.
Your inner executive committee consists of the Big Four – the warrior, thinker, dreamer and lover. Imagine these inner negotiators sitting around a conference table, getting an understanding of others’ values and figuring out what they need most to reach an agreement. Fox believes that this is a less painful process, which gets more durable results because you take into account all your various needs.
Another cause of conflicted feelings is a lack of confidence and trust in one’s ability to make responsible choices and understand how one really feels about situations. The danger of having low self-confidence is that a person is vulnerable to being influenced by the opinions of others, which could overshadow that voice of reason within them that knows what’s best for them.
If this is the case for you, your first priority should be building your self-confidence and getting in touch with the true essence of who you are and what you stand for. Without a solid inner foundation, you’ll perpetually face difficulties in dealing with any inner conflicts within you. You’ll need to have solid decision-making skills before you can untangle a complex emotional experience.
Here are some ideas on what you can do when two or more feelings are competing for the numero uno position so that you can act on it:
- Turn down the noise: Usually, when we’re in a state of inner conflict, we’re pretty stressed out – especially if it’s in regards to a weighty matter. Our minds are racing with all kinds of thoughts about the looming issue that’s demanding an answer from us. You might also be inundated with the opinions of those around you. The truth is that there’s no way that you can be objective and make sound decisions when you have a tensed-up nervous system. In fact, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, which incapacitates your ability to think clearly about situations. So the first step is to calm down and get centered. Temporarily walk away from the situation at hand and let your mind get engaged with doing other things. When you disengage, not only do you give your mental faculty a much needed break, but you allow your subconscious mind to process the information in a relaxed frame of mind. Whenever I’ve done this, I’ve found that when I return to the issue, I invariably have insights that I didn’t have before.
- Face your fears: At the crux of an indecisive state of being is fear. Fear that you’ll make a mistake, fear of loss, fear of not being accepted, and fear of not being good enough. Take the time to get to the bottom of the fears that are causing you to feel conflicted. Ask yourself these questions: “What is it that I’m most afraid of about making this choice? Why is it important to me? What’s the worst that can happen?” Write your responses in a journal and then share them with a coach or a friend that you trust.
- Weigh up the pros and cons: Once your emotions and your physiology are balanced, you’ll have a more accurate perspective on your situation and boost your ability to make choices based on practical factors. Let your rational self take the driver’s seat, as you evaluate the situation that’s causing you to feel conflicted. I would suggest writing everything that comes to you in a journal. Writing about your feelings in a journal will give you clarity and make the issue more real to you. Define both the pro’s and con’s of all the choices available to you, and then evaluate them, based on your personal values and ethics, future goals and vision for your life. I suggest sharing your ideas and breakthroughs from this exercise with those you trust and whose opinions you value. Perhaps they can look at your situation from another angle and provide a different viewpoint that you didn’t think of earlier. This proactive approach will boost your confidence in your ability to make decisions for your life.
- Let it simmer: After going through a rigorous evaluation process to untangle your conflicted feelings, the next step is to let all the information and data simmer in your subconscious mind for while. Why the subconscious mind? Because it has a vastly expanded processing capacity – it can process information hundreds of thousands of times faster than our conscious mind! It’s the part that houses long-term memory, your intuitive abilities, and multi-tasks thousands of events at a time. When you give yourself this down time before you make your decision, your intuition will provide you with invaluable nuances and insights. Leonardo Da Vinci and Einstein were known for taking short power naps when working with complicated theories and projects, because they saw how effective it was in getting those breakthroughs they were seeking. Besides taking power naps, you can meditate, do yoga, listen to music, exercise, or engage in any creative hobby that you enjoy while you’re in this paused state.
Just like how ocean waves build up, crash against shores and then return to the sea, your emotions will also go through a similar cycle of ups and downs. But the good news is that you’re in complete control of moderating the movement of the waves within you. The stormy seas of unsettled conflicted feelings can be smoothed out by you. Take heart in knowing that you alone hold the key to your salvation.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: Are you facing a situation in your life where you have to work through conflicted feelings? How do you plan to deal with it?
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