Before making big decisions, many people consult with others first, people who they believe are qualified to help them weigh their options. In the workplace, you might seek the opinion of a particular person because they have the most knowledge about other employees or the customers, or about the workplace culture. Or, you might ask a friend because you view that person as level-headed, or as having your back. However, when it comes to personal issues I often see people consulting a decision-maker who demonstrates very few of the skills we would want in a good decision maker: People let Anxiety be the boss.
I’ll point out that Anxiety (and other strong emotions, for that matter) has a really poor track record of accuracy and success when it comes to predicting what might happen. It’s great when it comes to anticipating the worst, but more often than not, those things it says we should fear usually don’t happen as often as Anxiety says they will. When the doom and gloom does happen, it usually isn’t as bad as Anxiety leads us to believe it’ll be. If weather forecasts were as inaccurate as Anxiety is, we wouldn’t rely on them, but we continue to do so, often.
Most commonly, what Anxiety wants is for us to avoid something, and it’s hard to resist doing that because Anxiety uses the intimate knowledge it has of our own thoughts and fears to get what it wants. It’s important to remember that, while potent, Anxiety is not a qualified decision-maker. Strong emotions rarely consider all the relevant data when weighing the options, so decisions based mostly on anxiety are probably not well informed. Just as I wouldn’t let a kindergartener be the sole decision-maker for what my family should eat for dinner (cookies anyone?), it would be similarly ill-advised to let Anxiety rule.
Truly effective decision making involves a balance of multiple factors that usually does include some element of emotion. Just as I might consult with the kindergartener about what to eat and take that input under advisement, I can also check-in on my feelings to help inform my decisions. But that shouldn’t be where the conversation ends. Your life might feel (and function) better when you challenge yourself to be the boss and find ways to balance anxiety and strong emotions with other information to help you make decisions for your life. The most likely truth is that you are far stronger and more capable than you’ve given yourself credit for being. Tap into that strength and see what you can do.
Shift Cognitive Therapy + Assessment is a team of psychologists and counsellers in Oakville, ON. We specialize in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) and Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT) for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression and anxiety for children, teens and adults.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy & Emotion-Focused Therapy
The goal of cognitive behaviour therapy is to help individuals become aware of the thoughts and patterns of behaviour that keep them feeling stuck. Its focus is on the ‘here-and-now’ to help relieve current symptoms and address current problems.
Emotion-Focused Therapy is an approach to couples and family issues that focuses on identifying and correcting repetitive and dysfunctional patterns that leave people feeling alone and unsupported. EFT helps members of a couple or family to remain engaged with each other in order to better communicate what each really needs from the other.