Stuck in Indecision 

          In the last few years, I’ve had some major losses and now have to make major decisions about how to live the rest of my life. But I’m so undecided that I can’t seem to move forward. I’ve gotten advice from lots of my friends and a psychologist. The advice I’ve been getting is all so different. How do I decide who to listen to and what’s right for me?

Although this is a very general question, let me first say that I am sorry about your setbacks and know that indecision is a difficult place to be. And while seeking professional assistance is often helpful, particularly for complex issues, it can be confusing and sometimes even misguided. Practitioners in any field vary greatly in their worldview, education, approach, professionalism and simply in their talent. Beware of swallowing lock, stock and barrel any advice given by anyone. Remember: You are the only expert on yourself and your situation.

When I studied to be a professional counselor, I learned with dismay that the answers to every client’s problems were not going to be found in a book or in a class. In fact, as a therapist, I realized that the most important skill to acquire was the ability to help my client discover his or her own truths. You must look within yourself for the answers to what is right for you, rather than relying on any expert who, at best, can only guide you to finding that.

Sounds like a scary thought? Don’t despair, though, because you’ve already done much of the hard work. By consulting with a variety of “helpers,” I hope you have been able to, at least clarify the choices and issues. You’ve probably come up with several courses of action and have considered the pros and cons of each. These are some of the challenges that professional consultants should assist you in accomplishing. Their job is not to tell you what to do — and if they’ve done that, run!

Reflect on the advice you’ve heard. Has it been aimed to help you hear your own voice? If the advice has been respectful, knowledgeable, thought-provoking, and on a level that is easily understood, you’ve been in good hands. However, if the guidance has been overbearing, bossy, preachy,

or superior, watch out. Do you feel like the advice-giver has listened and understood you? Or have you felt discounted, dismissed, or as if the person you are consulting has jumped to conclusions without hearing the whole story? Use these observations as guides for discerning what advice has merit.

Now, you’re making progress. Another word of caution: In times of turmoil, simplify. And a good rule of thumb is to avoid making life-altering decisions for about a year after any significant loss. You need that time to stabilize and heal. If that’s impossible or you’ve already allowed this time to pass, give  yourself a little more breathing room by eliminating any needless demands and distractions. Solitude and space are necessary for you to go within and hear your own voice.

If you have little privacy at home and can afford it, consider checking yourself into a bed and breakfast where you can rest and focus on the decision at hand. Avoid taking temptations along like the latest bestselling murder mystery, but do take along a blank notebook. Not a writer? That’s OK. Take it along anyhow. This is for your eyes only.

Free writing is one of the best ways to get in touch with your own inner wisdom and to learn what you truly think about an issue. Try a kind of “morning pages” routine that author Julie Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way, a book that is as much about authentic living as it is about creativity.  Morning pages are three pages of hand written stream of consciousness thought, preferably done every morning shortly after waking. For example, just start writing whatever comes to mind: “Another morning. I’m tired and don’t want to get up. I don’t know what to do about____. Maybe I could_____.” Keep the pen moving and don’t censor yourself. If you get stuck, just keep drawing a circle around your last word until you come up with some more thoughts. Why three pages? It may take that much writing of complaints and thoughts before you zero in on something significant. And while it may seem easier to type these pages, Cameron and other proponents of free writing believe that the physical act of handwriting taps more deeply into our unconscious where wisdom and creative thought are stored.

When you are not writing in your journal, take walks, read something inspirational, pray or listen to music. Record your dreams. They can be quite revealing. Be still, be patient, and look inside instead of looking outside of yourself. You’ve already done that and have all the information you need. Now is the time to connect to your own best counselor and expert, and that would be you. And I bet you’ll find your answers; they’ve been there all along, waiting for you.

Vicki is a licensed professional counselor and welcomes your questions. She can be reached at [email protected]


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