Many people coming to therapy today are conflicted about their limited choices for current situations affecting their lives. They feel "stuck" and ruminate as they obsess over the minor details of a major decision. They say they "don't know" what to do so they don't do anything. They fear the consequences for any wrong decision, feel overwhelmed, and they stand in the middle unable to choose. They don't have the internal fortitude and strength to face their fears, so they cower in the corner and remain in their pain.
We all have 86,400 seconds a day to enjoy or lament over our choices.
Cognitive Dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs, or behaviors within the individual resulting in feeling stressed or anxious. Another way to say it is when you are not sure which way to turn or how to move forward. I tell my clients that sometimes the only options are "not good" and "terrible." A choice must be made regardless of the absence of a "good" choice. All choices will have consequences, even the choice to not choose.
When working with a couple who have ended up in a dead-end relationship, or stuck in addiction, or who has an open legal matter because of poor choices, I help them figure out the best of the worst case scenarios. An example might be that they have found themselves waking to the reality of a dead marriage where their partner is abusing drugs, alcohol, or having multiple affairs. They tell me they must make the decision to leave or stay, "I know what I should do, but I don't know how." What they are afraid of is the uncertainty of the future if they leave and what the consequences might be for that decision, "I don't want my children to hate me for leaving their father." The wife who has been in an abusive relationship for years says, "I don't want to leave him, I love him. But I don't want the abuse anymore either." The hopeless mother who tolerates her son's drug addiction knows he will be homeless if she establishes boundaries. In every one of these terrible situations choices are available. Unfortunately, the preferred choice, the one where the other person stops their negative behaviors, is not within their control. The other person must make that choice for themselves. You can know what to do and still resolve to watching others self-destruct because to do anything seems too difficult. A weak continence is to blame as conviction is reduced to picking between comfort versus correction. When a person is willing to be uncomfortable in order to do the right thing, they will be able to correct the problem.
To tolerate intolerant behaviors is not kind; it is crewel to accept what is unacceptable.