November 30 2010 – Tip #256

November 30 2010 – Tip #256
December 1, 2010 Ann Weiser Cornell

“Something is afraid I’ll make a really bad choice…”

Megan writes: “My Focusing question has to do with really big decisions. Something in me is convinced, and blathering incessantly (and then there’s something else judging it as blathering…) that almost any decision I make will be a colossally bad decision.

“It has collected a very long list of decisions I’ve made that did not turn out as well as I would have liked, and it’s reading my ‘inventory’ every time it fears another addition to the list. The ‘voice’ of this interrupts every consideration of especially major issues with a loud and clear commentary: ‘Look at the mess you’ve made of all those other decisions! You are going to make as big a mess, or bigger, this time! And the consequences are going to be even more dire than all the terrible damage of all the past decisions you’ve made!’

“I have come far enough with this to know it is afraid for me. What’s troubling is that it recurs, and doesn’t seem to lessen in intensity no matter how much attention I bring to it. Any advice??”

Dear Megan,
Yes, absolutely, this part of you is afraid for you. It’s telling you exactly what it is afraid about — that you will make another decision that will mess up your life.

And it hasn’t stopped being afraid, even though you have kindly and compassionately let it know that you can hear how afraid it is.

So let’s take another angle of approach. Let’s make the assumption that this part of you actually has some good reason for how it feels.

It has a list of decisions, and there is something about those decisions that really strikes terror into this part of you. Maybe that would be the next place to bring some interested curiosity.

You might want to sit with that list of decisions in a Focusing way, and let your body give you a felt sense of what they all have in common.

I have a list of decisions that I deeply regret. If I sit with them, I can sense that the decisions were not made from a calm center of Self-in-Presence. I am able to bring compassionate awareness to the part of me that made those decisions, and once I am in contact with it, I can invite a sense of what IT was scared or worried about.

That brings relief… because now it is actually less likely that I will make decisions from that fear place again, and the other part can relax as well.

“Look at the mess you’ve made of all those other decisions!”

I’m also struck, as I read your letter, how strongly this part of you feels that you HAVE messed up your life. Is your life a mess? Really?

A part of you that thinks your life is a mess must be really in some sort of pain. It sounds like it might need to tell you the specifics about that. You might find out, for example, that it thinks your life is a mess because you’re not a lawyer like your father wanted you to be, or because you don’t have the amount of savings that it thinks would keep you safe.

Often a part like this is carrying unexamined assumptions from our culture or upbringing, about what a “normal” family or a “safe” life looks like. Once they are out in the open, you can say to it, “No wonder you’re freaked out, if that’s what you thought my life should look like.”

That might bring a relief, even a laugh of release. From a larger place, we can feel that our life is never going to look like anyone else’s… and that’s a good thing.


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