I used the word ‘choice’ so many times in each of my sessions that I wish I was on some kind of usage commission!
A lot of modern day unhelpful feelings manifest from a sense that we have no choice, we feel trapped, out of control, helpless… which leads to anxiety, sadness, fear etc.
One of the most powerful tools I use in my own life, and certainly when working with clients, is seeking out the available choices when we ‘feel like we have no choice’. There are always choices; at least two in every scenario!! By simply knowing that you always have a choice it is both empowering and liberating in itself.
First, its important to separate ‘Situational Choices‘. Situations that we find ourselves in that are largely out of our control. e.g. ‘My husband has a new job and we’ve got no choice but to move house so he can be closer to work. I don’t want to move house’ OR ‘Since the loss of my mother I’m consumed by grief and any thoughts about feeling better make me feel guilty- I’m stuck in this cycle’ the immediate emotional response to ‘having no choice’ is not a good one and whilst you can’t always control the situation, you can absolutely (with a little help and practice) choose your response.
Secondly there are ‘Emotional Choices’ e.g. ‘My kids are a nightmare in the morning so we always start the day shouting’ OR ‘When my partner wakes up in a bad mood – it always makes me have a bad day too’- Sure, a morning with kids playing up or in the company of a mood hoover can be stressful and unpleasant but you do have a choice in how you react. More over, unlike the ‘Situation Choices’ you can choose to change the situation as well as your response, and it really is your choice! Ok, I hear you, some of this is guttural, hard coded habit or instinct. But even habits and instincts can be changed, once you’ve made the choice to try!
A simple scenario I use a lot in my sessions describes how there are 3 types of people in this world- A’s B’s or C’s. At some point in our lives, influenced by our upbringing and numerous other factors we make a number of choices that embed how we react to certain situations. E.g. Walking down a street one day Bob sees someone he knows walking directly towards him. As the person gets close they cross to the other side of the street and don’t say hello to Bob. Does Bob react like A’s, B’s or C’s?
A’s) ‘Oh well’ they mustn’t feel like talking today. Or ‘they mustn’t have seen me’.
B’s) ‘I must have done something to upset them’ and then continue to reflect/worry about what he might have done wrong!
C’s) ‘Well how bloomin’ rude are you, why have they just ignored me, the blooming’ cheek of them’!
Whilst we’ve probably all got a bit of A, B or C in us, studies have shown that we all favour one of the 3 responses in the majority of situations. Those fortunate enough to think like A’s will sail away from the incident un-phased, but those who favour (Or CHOOSE!) B or C as their standard emotional response, will carry some unhelpful feelings and thoughts. Simply acknowledging that A is also a choice available to us, and practicing favouring that choice, can start to eliminate some very unhelpful behaviours, thoughts and feelings.
Everything in our lives is a reflection of a choices we’ve made, if we want a different result we have to make difference choices. If you are not happy in any aspect of your life, know that it’s YOUR CHOICE to carry on living with that unhappiness. Make the choice to change it, get in touch, ask for help.