Why Do We Find It Difficult To Decide?

Why do we find it difficult to decide?

Making a decision involves adopting an active attitude towards the opportunities that life presents us and being able to improve our situation to a greater or lesser degree… as long as we choose well. That’s why it’s not surprising that something as simple as choosing between a few options can make us very nervous.

It is not a solely intellectual activity nor does it consist of getting closer to the truth, but deciding usually has material consequences in our lives.

Of course, even though human beings are good at making decisions (thanks to our capacity for abstract thinking), this series of skills are not given to us “for free.” It is something that is very clear when we see that many people have a hard time making decisions. But… Why does that happen?

So that… Why do we find it difficult to decide? In the following lines we will address this topic.

Why is making a decision psychologically demanding?

Making a decision increases our chances of adapting better to a challenge or problem that has come our way, but this psychological process has a cost. Let’s see why.

1. It exposes us to failure

Every decision we make in an experience in which our mistakes can potentially come to light

This fact alone already represents a cost of decision-making: although technically making mistakes gives us raw material for our learning and improvement of certain skills, it wears down our self-esteem to a certain extent, although in most cases it only does so in a negative way. transitory (we stop remembering most of the decisions we make in a relatively short time).

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Perhaps the opportunity to progress and learn from our failures allows us to be better at what we consider important and, in the medium and long term, this reinforces our self-esteem, but some people adopt a more short-term logic and focus on trying to avoid making it obvious that They don’t always get it right.

That is why, many times, In psychotherapy, part of the patient intervention program consists of training in decision making so that the aversion to the risk of making mistakes is not a limitation of personal development and the person’s ability to be happy.

2. It requires effort

It may seem silly, but the fact that making a decision involves make an effort to think about something and come to conclusions deliberately (that is, reflecting to generate new information from what we already had) means that sometimes we prefer not to go through it.

In recent decades, a large amount of research has been developed about the two great chains of cognitive operations: the automatic, spontaneous and agile, on the one hand, and the deliberate, slow, detailed and systematic, on the other. The second requires much more concentration, time and energy, resources that we are not always willing to grant (even if it is because the situation does not allow us to).

It's hard for me to decide

3. It may have emotional ambivalence behind it

Many decisions are not based solely on a pragmatic and instrumental assessment about which option to choose to achieve a specific objective. Sometimes, what we have to choose between are schemes of interpretation of reality that have a great emotional charge for us

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For example, practically no one who is considering whether or not to leave their partner does so assuming it as a purely rational operation.

In these cases in which the choice is between perspectives that touch us in a very personal and/or practically existential way, it is easy for what is known as emotional ambivalence to arise.

In situations like this, we have developed a high degree of emotional connection with two possible scenarios, so that We don’t even dare to take a step and opt for one, nor can we afford to give them up (at least, that’s what we felt at first)

In the example of the hypothetical breakup of a couple, it is very common for those who are considering ending their relationship to have fantasized about returning to singleness and have even convinced themselves that they have already decided to do so, feeling a sense of freedom. Only to, five minutes later, completely rule out that possibility and even feel bad for even considering it. Like this all the time, in a constant tug-of-war of expectations, emotions, personal priorities, future plans…

Thus, as some of these emotions are closely linked both to our way of seeing ourselves and our future and even the physical or social reality in which we live, making a decision that forces us to choose is complex not only intellectually. , but also with regard to the management of feelings, moods in general, etc.

4. It does not provide us with a clear reference on when to take action

The process of making a decision takes us from one idea to another as we move toward a conclusion about what we should do. However, does not include any clear reference about when it is time to move from thoughts to actions ; That’s also part of the challenge of deciding what to do.

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This lack of references about when we should take the final step means that we sometimes find ourselves trapped in a vicious circle of indecision, because as time passes, we extract more information from what we think about, and this new information is accompanied of new questions. And although by pure statistics most of these new secondary or tertiary questions are not very relevant to deciding what to do, it is not always easy to detect which ones are important in that given situation and which ones are not.

That’s why, Some people get used to thinking about an idea all the time before making a decision, or they get used to thinking about what to do until they miss the opportunity to be able to choose. The result of these unpleasant experiences can lead them to pay even more attention to the decision-making process, creating a certain fear and fueling the vicious cycle.

Are you interested in having the help of a psychologist?

If you are interested in having professional psychological assistance, contact me.

My name is Javier Ares and I specialize in emotional problems, addressing them from support oriented toward the individual patient and/or from couples therapy. If you are interested in using my services, you can do so either in person at my center located in Madrid or through the online mode by video call.