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I live in a permanent state of chronic indecision

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For ~5 years I have been incapable of making major decisions. I struggle even with small decisions, but the big ones bring me to my knees. It seems like it should be just a matter of volition, deciding something, but for whatever reason my brain does not seem to allow me to do so and it feels beyond my control. Every time I try to make a decision, my mind quickly overrides whatever decision I make, and I'm back to my hopeless state of paralysis. For years, I have been totally stuck and made no progress in life thanks to being paralyzed with indecision. I am 30 years old and work a menial job that is less responsible than the one I did as a teenager because taking it was as big of a decision as I can stand to make anymore. Literally every waking moment of my life I spend obsessing over the pros and cons of different options in my head, to a degree that borders on obsession, but I am never able to decide anything. A year ago I missed a vital opportunity because I could not decide to do it. I want to commit suicide, but I can't decide that, either. My life is going up in smoke because I just can't decide anything :'(

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I'll throw out the standard qualifier that I have no formal, or even amateur, training in psychology, and that you'd do good to get yourself to a psychologist, or at least read the writings of one online (for example, DrHurd.com).

That said, it's a myth to think that there is some "perfect" solution to anything in life. Perfection itself is a myth. Weighing pros and cons is a human approximation which works pretty well, and lucky for that, because it's "all" we've got. Or put another way, we're lucky to have the option of choice at all, unlike other animals, so that we don't have to be stuck with only what nature throws to us by chance. We're not omniscient and capable of knowing all outcomes and solutions, but neither are we hopelessly doomed to automatic reactions to the environmental stimuli around us.

And another way to look at your "indecision" is as a decision itself. Your working at a job which does not meet your personal potential is a continuous decision that you make, yielding unique results of its own, just like taking a chance working at a more challenging job would be a different choice of yours with a different set of unique results. Neither of these results could you predict "perfectly," but you can figure out a pretty good idea of the kind of life results you might expect in deciding either one. Both will have pros and cons, one might look to have better prospects than the other one, but neither will make deciding on new life circumstances in the future unnecessary. Life is an ongoing "thinking on your feet," not a "figure it all out and then do it." In fact, the only way we ever figure out how to figure out at all is by doing, doing again, doing again, doing again, doing again...

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You need to talk to a psychologist and perhaps be referred to a psychiatrist. There is no shame in this--it is rational. They deal with ordinary people like you every day and know how to help. If you want to feel better, call at once. Go to a hospital if you feel like suicide. They will offer immediate help.

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I'll second or third the suggestions of the above posts.

 

Just to throw in a few thoughts I had while reading:  Anything > nothing generally, so, why not just flip a coin, roll dice, pick an option out of a hat, set time limits for making decisions and go with whatever is ahead at the end of the time limit or something like that if you can't make up your mind? In addition to the above comment about not being able to know everything ahead of time when making a decision and not needing to anyway, I'd like to add that time and effort involved is a huge part of what may make one choice or another preferable because you don't have all the time in the world. Does it look like maaaaybe that salad on the left looks a little better than the one on the right, but you aren't positive what hides under the lettuce or something? Just go with the one on the left because even potentially less awesome salad is better than getting nothing and going hungry. Not taking any action is always one option among your other options on anything and it is the default choice if you don't make up your mind to do one of the others and go through with it, along with often being the worst possible option.

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I'll throw out the standard qualifier that I have no formal, or even amateur, training in psychology, and that you'd do good to get yourself to a psychologist, or at least read the writings of one online (for example, DrHurd.com).

That said, it's a myth to think that there is some "perfect" solution to anything in life. Perfection itself is a myth. Weighing pros and cons is a human approximation which works pretty well, and lucky for that, because it's "all" we've got. Or put another way, we're lucky to have the option of choice at all, unlike other animals, so that we don't have to be stuck with only what nature throws to us by chance. We're not omniscient and capable of knowing all outcomes and solutions, but neither are we hopelessly doomed to automatic reactions to the environmental stimuli around us.

 

Perfection, I take to mean, is consciously always making rational decisions within the context of your knowledge. It's not a myth. Just because we aren't omniscient or we don't know the exact outcome, that doesn't mean there isn't an objectively right (or perfect) method of decision making.

 

 

I want to commit suicide, but I can't decide that, either. My life is going up in smoke because I just can't decide anything :'(

 

First, indecision is a decision! You say you can't decide to commit suicide, but you are still here, aren't you?

 

See a psychiatrist asap.

Edited by thenelli01

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Perfection, I take to mean, is consciously always making rational decisions within the context of your knowledge. It's not a myth. Just because we aren't omniscient or we don't know the exact outcome, that doesn't mean there isn't an objectively right (or perfect) method of decision making.

That would be a realistic idea of perfection, but it wasn't what I was talking about. The OP has a problem with omniscience, it sounds like to me. Trying to be "perfectly" omniscient is the false perfection I was talking about.

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That would be a realistic idea of perfection, but it wasn't what I was talking about. The OP has a problem with omniscience, it sounds like to me. Trying to be "perfectly" omniscient is the false perfection I was talking about.

 

That's not what you said though. If you think his definition of perfection is wrong, then attack that, don't claim perfection to be a myth. It is confusing to him and other people reading this thread.

 

Conflating perfect with omniscient is the issue. It sets up man with an unattainable goal that he could never achieve. It sets up issues like in the OP - a state of paralysis. Perfection in the context of man qua man is to consciously always use reason to make decisions within the context of your knowledge. That is the goal you should shoot for.

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That's not what you said though. If you think his definition of perfection is wrong, then attack that, don't claim perfection to be a myth. It is confusing to him and other people reading this thread.

Conflating perfect with omniscient is the issue. It sets up man with an unattainable goal that he could never achieve. It sets up issues like in the OP - a state of paralysis. Perfection in the context of man qua man is to consciously always use reason to make decisions within the context of your knowledge. That is the goal you should shoot for.

Yes, exactly. You noticed the OP was making this error, as did I, which is why I responded as though he was conflating perfection with omniscience. And in the last post, I clarified at your prompting, in case anyone didn't understand what I meant by context alone, which leaves us... going in circles, now.

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Perhaps the back of "indecision" can be broken by remembering that THE decision, to act or not to act, is always being made, and cannot be escaped, even through indecision, because not acting IS the decision. 

 

Once the indecisive person realizes not acting is in fact NOT avoiding a decision but making a decision, the reality of the consequences of that decision (not acting) may sink in to a point where AT LEAST a decision to do SOMETHING (regardless of what) is made if it is better than the decision not to act.

 

EG

 

Assume the originally apprehended choice is to do A or B each which has a positive value (i.e. not really a risk of loss) compared to doing nothing.  the problem is originally seen as it is hard to tell whether A or B is better.

 

The solution may be to understand that the choices really are A, B, or C (where C = do nothing) and that here the outcomes of A or B are BOTH better than C, and that in some sense once A and B are so close to each other in value, or once it is apparent A or B must be chosen before they are lost, then choosing EITHER A or B, even randomly, is better than choosing C.  

 

The psychological emphasis here is that NOT acting IS in fact a decision which carries with it the least desirable consequences.  

 

(Of course if A and B are risky or represent actual loss compared to C (inaction) then it may well be appropriate to choose C)

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 12/4/2013 at 11:08 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

Once the indecisive person realizes not acting is in fact NOT avoiding a decision but making a decision, the reality of the consequences of that decision (not acting) may sink in to a point where AT LEAST a decision to do SOMETHING (regardless of what) is made if it is better than the decision not to act.

Does that mean that "allowing" (a verb, an action) is, in fact, volitional (something you choose to do)?

Psychologically it seems a very helpful way of seeing things. But to allow is to do nothing. It is not to act.

It can be confusing to say that looking forward is a choice to NOT look behind you. Although it is true, one does not make that choice, or one does not have the "experience" of making that choice.

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4 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

Does that mean that "allowing" (a verb, an action) is, in fact, volitional (something you choose to do)?

I tend to think in these terms (you may not), when conscious I am always acting.  I am looking, thinking, reading, or even standing, craning my neck, smiling or frowning etc.  There is literally for no time of wakefulness I can with intellectual honesty claim complete inaction.  I may from time to time act in ways which do not affect external objects and actors to a great degree, this is true of the action "hiding" for example, whereby I make no sounds, crouch and hold still.  The fact is every moment I am awake I am consciously engaged in some action whether it affects objects and things other than myself or not.  So in a sense sheer inaction is impossible.  That said, inaction upon the external world is of course possible, but that kind of inaction does not mean total inaction and in fact entails a conscious decision ( a mental action if you will) not to act on the external world but to act in other ways eg sad face while standing still.

One thing to be careful of is to remember that all action is by the actor.  Deciding to let a glass vase falling from a shelf hit the floor is the act of deciding not to move.  The glass vase hitting the floor is the act of the vase and the earth interacting not an act of the actor.

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16 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

One thing to be careful of is to remember that all action is by the actor.  Deciding to let a glass vase falling from a shelf hit the floor is the act of deciding not to move.  The glass vase hitting the floor is the act of the vase and the earth interacting not an act of the actor.

Yes, but is that "always" the experience?? I know that I am always the actor. That is not always "felt". I also know in fact that I am always "self-interested". ALWAYS! (I am one of those people who thinks "we are always selfish". Even having seen the article in the virtue of selfishness disputing that).

Why is it that "experience" can seem to contradict objective reality?

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28 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

Why is it that "experience" can seem to contradict objective reality?

I think this is analogous to when a person draws the wrong conclusion from sense data... the straw looking bent when in a glass of water is not an error of your senses but an error in the way you interpret reality from what you see.  You no longer suffer the incorrect conclusion once you link the straw's appearance withe the facts of reality, straight straws appear bent due to refraction.  The same goes for your "experience" of reality when it seemingly contradicts it... once you learn the proper relationship between reality and what you experience it should be more useful to determine what reality is... until then don't rely on it too much!! :)

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33 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I think this is analogous to when a person draws the wrong conclusion from sense data

Yes, but you can cause many things that you did not intend. Things which if you thought long and hard, you could have seen but you had to pick and choose what you would pay attention to.

Every time that you look to the left, you don't see what is to your right. But your experience is "I choose to look to the left", not "I choose to NOT look to the right" (even though it happened -objectively, and someone correctly could say that you did). Both are true but "your experience" is only one of them, that you looked to your left. In this case, you have not drawn the wrong conclusion from sense data.

It is based on a chosen perspective, a paradigm. In other words, we forget that we are the actor sometimes. Even though we are (objectively), we can be oblivious to it (experience). By the way, similar to the desire to "survive/be alive". We always are doing it without knowing it. We always value survival without knowing it.

 

 

 

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I may have a simple remedy for you, as I myself have been burdened with an indecisive brain. You evidently have a particular way of addressing choices or decisions that average people may not quite understand. So immediately I'm left to believe most people will not be able to advise you, as the variables of your situation are a bit diverse and uncommon (not easily relate-able). Generally you get a sense of the feelings that manifest in a character of a book, by relating to their tribulations. It seems to me that your tribulations are a bit more unusual!

The technique I'm going to mention here, is fundamentally at it's core applicable to anyone. And really quite simple!

The way to do this is to simply choose one route or another without trying to weigh your options or use any logic to guide your course of action. Just make a choice and stick to it, confidently... and feel pleased with your choice even if you have to "fake" it. Just have faith your choice will yield positive results. In fact, pretend it will if you must.

Just say "I'll try doing it this way" and as if for no reason, do it!

Once you have made the choice, see how things unfold and when you realize there is no immediate consequence to the decision you made, every sequential decision should be easier and approached with the same tenacity and randomness. Pick one or the other. And just do it!



 

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47 minutes ago, Marzshox said:

The technique I'm going to mention here, is fundamentally at it's core applicable to anyone. And really quite simple!

The way to do this is to simply choose one route or another without trying to weigh your options or use any logic to guide your course of action. Just make a choice and stick to it, confidently... and feel pleased with your choice even if you have to "fake" it. Just have faith your choice will yield positive results. In fact, pretend it will if you must.

Just say "I'll try doing it this way" and as if for no reason, do it!

Once you have made the choice, see how things unfold and when you realize there is no immediate consequence to the decision you made, every sequential decision should be easier and approached with the same tenacity and randomness. Pick one or the other. And just do it!

I’ve used the “just do it” technique successfully many times - to get over strong mental roadblocks like longtime OCD, to get past overthought life ruts that might be described as indecisive, to find a solution differently when my line of action or thinking has seemed to be totally ineffective, etc. It’s liberating to “just do it” in some totally different direction than you’ve been trying, it gets you thinking in other ways about other things, and it’s satisfying to see different results. Come to think of it, this technique may actually be essential to human progress.

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5 hours ago, Marzshox said:

Just say "I'll try doing it this way" and as if for no reason, do it!

 

4 hours ago, JASKN said:

I’ve used the “just do it” technique successfully many times

We've all done it and we all will do it at some point. But isn't this ultimately the definition of "Panic". Doesn't this indicate an emergency situation?

I am not trying to make a moral judgment but to break it down philosophically. It is kind of like a moral derective about when you are stuck ... since if you are stuck forever, you will die, so doing something is better than doing nothing.

What bothers me is the Objectivist argument about the "arbitrary" or that morality is not about emergencies. That is what confuses me in this situation.

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