Many people come to me with a dilemma of choice. There are two alternatives in their life, and they do not know which to choose. Psychologists refer to this dilemma as an approach-approach conflict. There are two incompatible things and we desire each, yet can only have one and we do not know which to choose.
A common dilemma is the love we have for two different people. A man may love his family but becomes infatuated and passionate toward another woman. Should he leave his family for the new love or stay and choose family stability?
A young man came to me with a job dilemma: he felt secure in his job and had a family to support, but another job had more potential, but much more risk. What should he do?
Obsessional people may ponder small decisions, fearful that they will make the “wrong” choice and it will destroy their world.
As a therapist, I would try to work on these problems to force a choice. It never worked. Invariably, the client would go round and round in circles. They would ponder one choice and then fear the consequences. They then would consider the other choice and fear the consequences of that decision; it is not so much a task of logic, but an inability to face the loss and fear that comes with choosing one pole or the other.
Several years ago, I discovered affirmations. Affirmations are goal-setting statements. When we adopt an affirmation, it propels us toward a sought after goal. Each morning after my meditative period, I pray. My prayer entails an affirmation that I serve my client’s needs rather than my own. During the day when my mind wanders or I am tempted by my own devils of fear, greed, and anger, I cite my affirmation to bring me back to the task at hand. I set my personal problems aside in order to truly give to others.
Goal setting affirmations help us to define our dilemmas on a higher plane. Rather then viewing our dilemma through the prison of our own needs, we see our dilemma as filtered through a higher goal, a goal of self-actualization.
Begin with this core affirmation. Ask yourself “Who do I want to be?” If I try to conceptual my core desires, in respect to my most cherished values, where would that take me? Think about core values such as honesty, integrity, love, compassion, wisdom, creativity, fairness, humility, and gratitude. Which are most important to you? You can tell by trying each on, and seeing how they feel. If a value really resonates, it will activate strong feelings in us. Think about how you wish to be valued by others. What is an image that you want to project? How would you like to be remembered? What is your value legacy?
Once you have synthesized a core-valued image, apply it to life decisions. Instead of asking yourself, “Which should I choose?” Ask yourself, “Who do I want to be, and which choice brings me closer to that ideal self?”
We can define our dilemma in terms of our momentary desires, according to pain or pleasure, and if done, we will likely wind up dissatisfied. Or, we can define our dilemma in more spiritual terms. How do I cultivate my higher self, and how can I use this conflict to be a better person? When we cultivate the higher self, it serves as a springboard for long-term happiness. When we cultivate the higher self, it transforms our ego decisions into a spiritual quest.
By Michael Abramsky