March 15, 2022

Making Intentional Decisions When We Feel Stuck

I recently did an Instagram poll to gauge how often people feel torn between two healthy ideals. When scrolling through social media there are many “camps” promoting individuals to “Say No” or “Say Yes” or “Show Up” or “Set Limits.” All of these ideals are healthy at different times; however, there is not a one size fits all approach to mental health, even though the world of social media wants it to appear that way. In fact 93% of you owned that you often felt torn between one or more of these ideals. This prescriptive nature of emotional well being, got me thinking that we may need to dig deeper and start the conversation about how to know when to do what. I was intensively trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in 2013. Marsha Linehan, who created DBT, is the guru on learning how to balance two opposing forces. In fact, dialectics is the art of knowing how to accept that two opposite things can be true at the same time. Here is what she has to say when we have an interpersonal dilemma where we need to balance two opposing forces.

Some Factors to Consider- Taken From Marsha Linehan’s DBT Workbook

Capability (my capability to give and the other person’s capability to give in this moment)

Priorities (What are my goals here, how is this relationship, is my self respect being threatened by any of these actions?)

Self respect ( Will saying yes/no make me feel bad about myself now? Later?

Long term vs. short term goals- Will keeping the peace now create problems down the road or does letting go of keeping the peace now better serve the longevity of the relationship or my values?

Give and Take- Is this relationship reciprocal? Am I holding up my end of the bargain most of the time, is the other person?

Homework-Have I done my homework? Do I know what I am asking for? Do they know what I am asking for?

Timing- Is this a good time for them and is this a good time for me?

I will walk through an example to see how you may apply some of these concepts to your life. Remember, you may come up with different decisions at different times, and answer in different ways for different relationships or situations.

Last week in my Instagram poll we discussed Setting Boundaries Vs. Inclusion. An example that I provided was that your child functions better in small groups and often gets overwhelmed in larger groups, but you feel pressure to invite the entire class to his/her birthday party for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I think this one pulls for examining what you are capable of doing, what your priorities are, the nature of the relationship and long and short term goals.

Capability- Am I capable of hosting a party for the entire class? Is my child capable of attending a party (and enjoying it) with 15+ children present? If Yes to both, consider inviting the class. If No to both, your decision is leaning more towards holding the limit. If you answer yes to one and no to the other, still stuck…keep considering other factors…..

Priorities- Which is the most important value to me at this time? Protecting my child’s needs or including others? Which is stronger, NOW?

Relationship-Consider your child’s relationship with his/her classmates. Is he/she close with 1-2 children or does your child have close relationships with most of them? Does your child feel like she does not know any kids in the class well?

Long term vs short term- How may this play out now or in the future? Be careful not to get catastrophic here. We can not read into the future, but we can guess a few potential outcomes.

Once you have examined the importance of all of these factors to you and your family at this time, you can develop your best way to respond to others in a way that fits with your values the most.

For example, if you decided to have a small party and another parent asks about it you could feel prepared to say, “This was such a difficult decision for me. I really wanted to include everyone, but my child has been getting overwhelmed in large groups recently so we kept the party very small keeping her needs in mind. We would love to have a one on one playdate with your child at another time.”

Or, if you decide that including the class is what is going to work best (with some discussion with your child) you could walk through some things for your child to try when getting overwhelmed and consider time, place, situation for the party to reduce other stimulating factors.

I believe that the most powerful part of this process is clearly being able to communicate your wants and needs here. This type of communication is the foundation of strong relationships and self respect.

Considering our values, relationships, our capacity at the moment, and others capacity at the moment can help guide us in making tough decisions. An intentional decision making process helps us come up with the language to communicate our values and needs to others in a thoughtful way. This honesty and transparency in our communication style can enhance connection and understanding in relationships in a new way. It can also help us stay true to our values and self respect, ultimately improving our relationship with ourselves.

Thanks for reading today. I welcome thoughts, questions and concerns.


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