Have you ever made a bad or impulsive decision and later wondered, “What on earth was I thinking?”. Have you made these time and again and have they had detrimental effects on your life? If so, you may be making what I call baggage based decisions.
These are decisions that you make stemming from dysfunctional thought patterns you most likely learned in childhood or as a young adult. They are decisions based on poor or faulty information that you have taken in, processed and then applied to your overall view of the yourself in the world. They may be decisions that are keeping you depressed, anxious or angry.
One example of this poor or faulty information includes believing that you are not smart enough to make good decisions and that you need to rely on others to make them for you. Another example may be that you want to please others in fear of being disliked or unloved so you allow them to control things and make your decisions. You may be operating out of fear of the unknown or fear of failure so you always take the “safe route” or the less challenging path, not allowing yourself to grow to your full potential. Or there is the belief that your thoughts or desires are not important and you should just “go along”.
You can see the negative pattern evolving when these thoughts are the ones behind your life planning. You may believe that these only occur once in a while in times of major decisions, but in reality they may be dictating your day to day life and actually setting the entire course of your existence!
Think how silly it would be for someone to tell you it is raining out or going to rain when it is not. If you go along with their thought you may alter your outdoor plans for the day, cancel something you were going to do, dress differently than you originally wanted to and alter your planned mode of transportation. In other words, your whole day is now different based on faulty information that you took in and applied to your outing.
The above is a simplistic example but now apply that concept to your life. You may have been told or come to believe you are not smart enough to make your own decisions. When it came time to choose a college or a vocation you may have let a parent or guidance counselor choose for you. You may still be doing some form of that career and hate every minute of it. You may have married the first person who asked as you feared you couldn’t get by in life without someone to care for you. Usually when we have these fears we end up marrying someone who is controlling as they are drawn to those who will allow them to control and make all the decisions. Your parenting may be governed by what others tell you is the “right way”.
These are major life decisions being formed out of faulty information and dysfunctional thought patterns!
When working with clients who I believe are repeatedly making baggage based decisions I have them ask themselves these questions:
- What decisions have I made lately? (small and large ones)
- Did they cause me a great deal of distress?
- Were they similar to ones I have made in the past in that the outcome didn’t really make me feel great?
- What was I thinking when I made these decisions?
- Did I end up letting someone else basically make the decision for me?
- Did I feel out of control?
You can usually find a pattern if you examine your decision making.
What I then ask them to do is to allow themselves to feel all the emotions that surround the process and the decision to be made but not to act on it. That is the great thing about emotions, we have them but we don’t have to act on them. We are able to understand that those current emotions may be coming from a dysfunctional place in our lives. Examine them like specimens on a microscope slide.
Now list more realistic thoughts you could have. One could be, “I am just as smart as the average person or I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am.” Another could be, “If I make a mistake I can correct it, it is not the end of the world.” Feel the emotions surrounding those. Those are most likely going to be the emotions that feel good, put you in control of your life and able to grow. There will still be some fear, everyone has that.
Your goal is to start making decisions based in reality, not dysfunctional fiction. Make decisions based on your own thoughts, desires and needs. You will start to feel better right away. You can, however, expect some pushback from those around you if they are currently making your decisions for you. They are going to fear that the new model you is not going to want them anymore, remember they have baggage too!
If you think you may be going through life making baggage based decisions, visit us at PsychSkills and use our free resource-
Feel Good For Life!!