A critical area for all of us is decision making. Often people have made a decision and yet find that putting the decision from thought into behavior is quite difficult.
Most of us have read Hamlet and saw how he suffered from his virtuous ambiguity which left him frozen and unable to act. We might think of this as silly. Each of us, however, has been in a situation where what we’ve wanted to do and what we do are incongruent.
Often, the reason for our inability to put our thoughts and desires into action goes back to early child feeling about separation and autonomy. There is a deep yearning in each of us for approval and acceptance for our behavior. When we want to put thoughts into action and do not believe our family or the internal image we carry of our family will approve or that our behavior will lead others to dislike us or to be angry at us, we are often unable to act. For example, you may want to on vacation for the holidays, but were unable to actualize your plan because you fear your family will disapproval. Anguish and resentment may follow making the situation worse instead of better.
In order to overcome this type of resistance to behavior, it is often valuable to make a decision tree of the problem and how it can be handled. By writing down the decision tree and exploring each alternative the individual wants to take, we allow ourselves to concretely see why we want to do what we’re doing. This often allows us to put our thoughts into action. Sometimes, what we fear is more within us that what will actually happen if our thoughts and intentions are known by others.
Secondly, there are certain behaviors that we might need to get rid of so that we can live longer, healthier lives. The obvious examples are to stop smoking or lose weight. Yet, in spite of the cognitive knowledge we have the instinctual need for food or gratification from smoking supersedes our cognitive abilities. These behaviors are examples of how our unconscious is more powerful than our thought processes. Often, all the good cognitive knowledge in the world does not overcome a powerful instinct. We need to go back to our primitive instincts and examine how we were frustrated and how current behavior, which may or may not be positive homeostatic. By that I mean that it gives us a sense of balance and security. No mater how false our sense of security is, it is powerful and influential in how we make our decisions to act.
It can be difficult to overcome or totally extinguish these types of behaviors. Rather modification is often a beginning on a long journey to resolve the gap between our thoughts and our behavior.