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What Is Really Behind Our Decision-Making: The Unconscious

We make big decisions, such as voting, based on a variety of factors. Most people don’t realize that the majority of our most important decisions are determined from places we aren’t aware of. Could it be that we are being puppeted by our unconscious like a puppeteer pulling strings?

The most powerful decision influencers:

  1. Past experiences
  2. Your environment
  3. Beliefs you have been taught
  4. Feelings of fear and/or hatred
  5. Protecting, connecting to your sense of identity
  6. Trust in misinformation, not knowing facts
  7. Desire to fit in, be included

Past experiences, especially traumatic ones, bring up big emotions that affect how we see and experience the world. A bad experience with a teacher at an early age could affect how we feel about going to school or our abilities. A dominant, restrictive parent might naturally make you feel more comfortable with that style in other people. Risk tolerance in business or life is a good example too. When someone’s been burned, they quite naturally want to make choices to prevent a repeat. A person’s individual experience can lead them in a different direction from someone who did not experience the same kind of event.

The feelings associated with past experiences unconsciously shadow and can even pressure us as we live in the present.

Our environment — outside forces exert enormous influence in everything we do. Did you know that living in a certain zip code may determine your weight? This is a simple example of how our environment works on us. The way you dress, act, vote and behave on a daily basis may seem like conscious choices, but think of your world as a sphere that works like this: You are at the center and rings of influence surround you with multiple layers. This System of Influence diagram shows what I mean.

systeminfluence

You probably aren’t aware the degree to which outside influences affect you, unless you recognize, examine and question them.

Belief systems can start at an early age. I have heard horribly racist, sexist, bigoted talk from people I know and care about my whole life. Usually, it isn’t hard to figure out where this kind of thinking was taught, home and family usually outweighing other influences, even if it is wrong or doesn’t make sense. And, if someone feels this way and they are reading this, they probably think strong things about me too. They probably wouldn’t feel that way if their experiences had been different.

(We will talk about #4,5,6, & 7 influencers on the next blog entry.)

Our unconscious is powerful, especially when we aren’t aware of what is influencing us. People think the only reason others go into therapy is to “ blame their parents.” Actually, one of the biggest reasons people go into therapy is to examine their experiences, emotions and their decision-making through a lens that is clear, unfettered and free of “baggage.” That way, they stop making self-destructive or externally destructive decisions. Therapy and counseling often opens a wonderful world for people and their relationships.

The election results created powerfully positive feelings for some and powerfully negative feelings in others.  Take some time to inventory your influencers:

  1. Past experiences
  2. Your environment
  3. Beliefs you have been taught
  4. Feelings of fear and/or hatred
  5. Protecting, connecting to your sense of identity
  6. Trust in misinformation, not knowing facts
  7. Desire to fit in, be included

And if I have missed any influencers or you can relate, feel free to leave a comment. Most important, make peace.

As always, take care.
Cherilynn

 

Cherilynn Veland is author of Stop Giving It Away, a self-advocacy book for women. Stop Giving It Away is the product of 20+ years of social work and counseling individuals and couples. Cherilynn also blogs about home, work, life and love at www.stopgivingitaway.com

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What Is Really Behind Our Decision-Making: The Unconscious

Cherilynn Veland, LCSW, MSW

Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a counselor and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, a book about developing healthier relationships with yourself and others. The Stop Giving It Away movement aims to stop the detrimental level of self-sacrifice in which many women live and work. Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award in the Women's Issues category - Stop Giving It Away.


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APA Reference
, . (2016). What Is Really Behind Our Decision-Making: The Unconscious. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-women/2016/11/what-is-really-behind-our-decision-making-the-unconscious/

 

Last updated: 30 Nov 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Nov 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.