It’s truly amazing the amount of stress and drama that can surround the apparent experience of "making choices". For a moment, just reminisce about the times you had to make really big decisions. I mean decisions that could dramatically change the trajectory of your life. Remember how that felt? Remeber the amount of time and stress involved? That was real right? Surely there is no denying this.
Well, I would like to pose a very confronting question to you today. Do you really even have a choice?
Recently I was talking with a friend who mentioned that while she understood on some level that free will did not exist, she wasn’t sure about choice. Did it exist on some level? And if not, how could she best communicate this to others?
In this post, I’ll share my understanding of choice and discuss some of the other related issues. I'm hoping it will help you understand whats going on in your head when you are making "choices" and give you some ideas about how you might explain this concept to others.
Consider for a moment the pressure and stress that has been created throughout your life as a result of believing you or others needed to “take control and make the right choice”
Do we have a choice?
Remember, it is our conditioning, beliefs, values and opinions which govern how we identify, interact with and respond to situations. For this reason two different people can respond to the exact same situation very differently. They see it differently through their unique filters and conditioning, then respond accordingly.
This is what seems to be taking place constantly within our brains, and yet for us to truly have freedom of choice, these factors can't be involved. They would interfere with our so called freedom of choice.
Are all options available?
For freedom of choice to really exist, we must have the freedom to choose from all available options right?
After all, it’s not really freedom of choice if there are 5 options but you are only able to select one or two. But this seems to be our reality. Due to our conditioning, we can only respond in the way that our conditioning allows. While there may be several so-called options on the table you are destined to eventually pick the one that fits with your values and conditioning.
If you have come to value family over everything else in life, you will automatically respond to situations via that value. You will only respond in ways that support and benefit your family. Choosing things that may harm or negatively affect your family just isn’t an option.
Choose to be happy
One thing I often point out to people is that if you have freedom of choice, why not just choose to be happy all the time? Then, no matter what happens in life you could just be blissfully happy all the time. Likewise, you could choose to never feel angry, and always feel contented, valuable or beautiful.
But this isn’t reality, is it? But why?
Because your conditioning governs this, not “YOU”.
Sure, you may indeed end up being predominantly happy and blissful in life, but that would in fact also be the result of your beliefs and filters too.
Our brains are f#%king with us
Here lies the root our confusion. Our brains are messing with us! Our brains create the illusion of free will and choice.
Various studies have concluded that when participants are wired up to brain monitoring technology and told to decide to move a finger or a similar simple task.
The actual response or “choice” takes place about 1500 milliseconds before the subject is even aware of it! The decision was already made and responded to subconsciously before the individual is even aware of it!
Eventually, the conscious mind seems to catch up and witness the final stages of activity. For some reason or other, the individual's mind then takes ownership of the whole process and the illusion of choice and free will is born.
Basically, it’s like a delay in conscious awareness. The brain has already processed the situation and started responded before we are even conscious of it. Then we think “I did that”, “I choose to get the vegan ice cream”, “I chose to be a kind and helpful person” What a sneaky brain!!
When we can't choose between this or that
Another contributing factor to all this confusion about choice is that we often end up in situations where it feels like we just can't make a decision between A and B. We seem to alternate between option A and B and feel uncertain about which option is best. This can be very stressful and time-consuming.
What seems to be happening here is that both option A & B fit within our values. Both option A & B have an equal combination of pros and cons. So, our subconscious mind goes about analysing and comparing the two options in great detail. Once again our conscious mind arrives late to the party and declares "I'm busy deciding here". In reality, the party has been going for a long time. The conscious mind has just gatecrashed at the tail end of the party.
Eventually, the subconscious mind will come to a conclusion and you may get a feeling "ah yes, I choose this". This was not "your" doing though. In fact, the conscious mind was not really involved much at all.
It seems that in reality, we don’t actually choose, we respond. This confusion likely stems from the illusion our brains create and the social beliefs we have developed around it.
This might come as a shock to you and perhaps leave you feeling a little defensive, threatened or insecure. I feel that’s normal. Your entire identity and ego structure are formed around the very concept of being the chooser and being in control.
I encourage you to sit with this feeling. Perhaps even laugh about it. Consider for a moment the pressure and stress that has been created throughout your life as a result of believing you or others needed to “take control and make the right choice”. You may let go of all that go now. You may even come to see that life is just happening.
Encountering situations will still happen. Responding to situations will still happen. Learning, growth and development will still happen. But there is no longer a stressed out chooser stuck in the middle of it all. It’s beautiful really.
Just a thought ❤️