Choice – Do I Have More Than I Might Think?

help with low self-esteem in brightonEver find yourself thinking ‘I have no choice’ or ‘I couldn’t say no’? These are phrases I hear very frequently when people talk to me about what is going wrong in their lives. It is common to feel manoeuvred into a corner by a situation and that there is only one, or at best perhaps two, ways out. And what is more, neither of these ways seems very appealing. What, if anything, can we do about it?
Very often we limit the number of choices available to us without even realising it. Armed with a set of assumptions about how to respond to the world and interact with other people, we may miss making the kind of choices which have the potential to make positive and lasting changes to our lives. For example, if we have made the unconscious assumption that we must always say ‘yes’ to the demands of people on whom we depend (for love, friendship, work etc) and to not do so would be a bad thing that will only make a situation worse, we may not even consider saying ‘no’ as a plausible choice.
Trying out saying ‘no’ to others for the first time can be difficult. Making such a choice can feel very unfamiliar and scary – especially since we might have had a lifetime experience of saying ‘yes’ when we don’t actually want to. Also, we know that we can survive saying ‘yes’ in these kind of situations; it might feel uncomfortable and frustrating but we can predict with some certainty that things will settle down again and life will carry on. When, however, we dare to start to say ‘no’ in such circumstances, we are going into unknown territory and are less able to predict how the other person will react or how the situation will pan out.
Another barrier to change with regard to making different choices is other people’s reactions. If we have always been the person who says ‘yes’ to others’ demands regardless of our own needs and preferences, when we start to experiment with saying ‘no’, those other people might well protest. They want us to change back to the way we were before! Withstanding such protests when we are in an unfamiliar place ourselves can add to our difficulty. It is also possible that by saying ‘no’ more often and seeking negotiation we run the risk of losing some people’s friendship, love or interest. At the same time, I have also seen relationships strengthen when a person who usually goes along with the other’s demands (perhaps for a ‘quiet life’) starts to say ‘no’ and opens up a situation for discussion and compromise.
Counselling can provide the space to consider the choices we are currently making, to examine their impact on our lives and to decide whether we want to make changes to the way we interact with other people. Finding out that we have more choice over what happens to us in our lives can be a revelation that has a potential impact on how we feel about a whole range of relationships – as a partner, parent, friend, employee, colleague and so on. Who knows – we might never have to feel ‘I have no choice’ ever again?
Copyright: Caroline Clarke
Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan /

Comments are closed