How do you make decisions? We’re influenced by experience, preferences, perhaps trustworthy advice. And there are emotions, too. When we’re feeling fearful, angry or resentful, we likely won’t make the same decisions as when we are brimming with confidence, love, and hope.
Regardless of the process, for many decisions our options are clear and we choose—for better or worse.
However, sometimes we face decisions where choices aren’t clear. Despite listing pros and cons, seeking advice and having gut feelings, we don’t know what to do.
If so, here’s a thought for you. In Take Charge of Your Life, Dr. Glasser distinguishes between “true conflict” and “false conflict.”
What Glasser calls a “false conflict” is a situation where we could act to resolve it but we don’t. That may be because hard work is required that we don’t want to do.
Those conflicts may involve other people, but we can also struggle within ourselves. For example, I want to improve my health but don’t want to do the hard work of exercising. Or I want a different job, but I would rather avoid the effort of improving my skills. Maybe I want an improved relationship but I’d prefer the other person make that happen.
In cases like those, it can be hard to accept that the issue isn’t that we don’t have a clear choice. The issue is that we don’t like the choice. So annoying, eh?
A “true conflict” is different. Here, there genuinely is no solution. As Glasser says, “There is nothing to prevent us from wanting to satisfy two totally conflicting pictures at the same time, fully aware that it is not possible.” We can want what we want, but we can’t necessarily have it.
Although a true conflict has no solution, we keep trying to find one. Our efforts aren’t necessarily productive. As behaviour is our combination of acting, thinking, feeling and physiology, we might not even realize that we’re engaging in futile behaviours. Constantly thinking about the problem, stressing, feeling anxious or depressed, even stomach discomfort or headaches could be part of that behaviour. Sadly, they don’t help us progress.
For this type of conflict, Dr. Glasser offers what sounds like counterproductive advice. He says, “Do nothing to attempt to resolve the conflict.”
Now, it’s important not to take this advice as an excuse to avoid working on a false conflict. Remember, that’s a problem that we could solve with hard work.
If you do have a true conflict, you may find it surprisingly hard to do nothing. It’s difficult to accept that it cannot be solved; I have to wait.
In the meantime, you might try choosing actions that are helpful regardless of how the conflict ultimately turns out. For example, increase your strength and your resilience. Learn to communicate effectively and practice at every opportunity. Reach out to strengthen relationships, even if they are not the relationship that’s currently troubling you. Make financial choices that put you in a stronger position, not a weaker one. Take actions that build your confidence and increase your joy.
Those actions won’t solve an unsolvable “true” conflict. But when the time finally comes where a solution becomes possible, you will be in a better position to do what’s necessary.
Have you had a true conflict?
Welcome to Reality Check:
articles and observations inspired by the work of Dr. William Glasser
- Choosing Behaviour
- Choosing Perspective
- Control and Choice
- Develop Understanding
- Doing, Thinking, Feeling, Physiology
- How it is sometimes
- Love & Belonging
- Perception & Reality
- Personal Freedom