I once heard a lecture about fostering critical thought that aimed at defining risk and the information that we have when we must make choices. Some choices are easier than others, depending on what may happen if we make the wrong choice, and if we've exited a high demand group, we are likely brutal perfectionists.
The personal costs involved in making choices influence us, and access to information about the ways others have tackled similar choices also impact this hard work. Understanding these factors can help us to feel better about the process of decision making, especially if we feel a bit rusty. I've warmed up with age, but I still often struggle with making big decisions, especially ones that concern optimism about myself. But looking into taking risks can help us develop and practice optimism that can help us build as much safety and stability as we can. All people need it, but at least we human beings are all in the same boat.
This type of deferment promotes moral disengagement. By relinquishing decisions to another party, tha abnegation that results creates an illusion that compliance relieves the person of their duty, responsibility, and accountability. It seems that the party involved is not taking the real risk but that someone else is absorbing risk for them. Though the person might suffer consequences for someone else's bad choices, the idea that making that sacrifice for the right reasons only binds them more tightly to the process of surrender. The sense of common suffering for a good cause reinforces their commitment to duty and devotion to their choice to give their options over to someone else.
It can be a rude awakening, however, when the illusion lifts as the system crumbles. In the short term the compliant person gains a sense of ease as if they've taken a short cut around hardship. This can actually seem like critical thinking when submitting to highly skilled manipulators. But in the long term, the consequences eventually catch up to the person, though the burden may be more obscure if those consequences are not that directly connected to their role in the process. This subtly adds to the power that a destructive system holds over trusting people who fall into these trappings.
So lets get more concrete about understanding risks and the information that we have as we make them. To understand how to improve our skills, it helps to better understand each part of the hard work.
1. Reasonably Safe Outcomes.
- Easiest decisions to make
- Each possible option includes a near certain outcome
- Possible options are limited in number
- The potential cost falls within a fairly predictable range
- Much information exists about others who have made the same decision
- If I choose A, I can basically count on x. If I choose B, I can basically count on y.
- These decisions involve risk
- My action will result in a wider range of outcomes, but those outcomes are limited.
- If I choose either A or B, I might end up with x, y, or z.
- For each possible outcome, I have some fairly predictable information about the cost of those outcomes.
- I can take into account whether I want decline or postpone the risk.
- If I end up with the less preferable outcome, it may result in disappointment, but it will not be a complete and total surprise if I examined all of my options and the consequences I might face.
- Outcomes are ambiguous and cannot be predicted with any confidence. (We're “flying blind.”)
- We cannot predict the outcome of what will result from our choice.
- We have no idea what the consequences of the outcome will cost us or if there will be a cost.
- If others have faced similar choices, there may be no known or predictable outcomes or costs that can help us.
4. Situation Shifts from Gambles into Uncertanty.
- Thinks get even more complicated when we believe that we are making decisions based on the factors described in a gamble or were gambles in the past, but they shift at some point into what turns out to be uncertain and ambiguous.
- We believe that we had enough information in advanceto make a wise decision with an idea about potential risk, but we inadvertently find that we didn't have enough information.
- (I'm living this out with my new health insurance plan as the costs escalate, and there was not any more additional information that allowed for me to anticipate the costs until after I've sought treatment.)
- HARD FACT: Though we live in a world where most choices seem to be gambles for us because we have information and numbers, real life choices often resemble something more like uncertainty than they do gambles which we can manage to some degree. Nothing can guarantee that we won't venture into a gamble without it becoming some type of uncertainty.
- NO ONE LIKES UNCERTAINTY!!!
More to come on how to decrease your limit and manage risks and their consequences so that you can establish as much safety and stability for yourself to support recovery.
For further reading until the next post:
- Judith Herman's Trauma and Recovery
- Peter Levine's Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma
- Bessel Van der Kolk's The
Body Keeps Score