Lemon or Cherry?
Amanda Somberg, returning longtime OPEN EXCHANGE lister, offers Counseling For Couples & Individuals.
A good friend once told me a story of his grandfather, and a memorable trip to the local bakery one Sunday morning. When faced with the choice of a lemon or cherry Danish pastry, the grandfather couldn't decide. He hesitated. He waffled. He hemmed and hawed about this seemingly meaningless decision.
The grandfather's pre-teen grandson my friend seemed perplexed by such dithering. Why was it so difficult to choose? After an extended delay of several minutes, the grandfather finally chose cherry, but he seemed uncertain and unhappy even as he paid for and consumed the Danish.
This story illustrates what I call "analysis paralysis," the condition where an overabundance of information is gathered and weighed in the hope of finding reassurance that one is making the "right" decision. Unfortunately, for chronic analysis paralysis sufferers, the gathering of information takes so much time that the opportunity (or relationship or job) often evaporates before a decision is made. By second-guessing themselves and not trusting their judgment, analysis paralysis victims live lives of regret, continually asking "what if?"
As a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, I see many clients whose lives have been ravaged by analysis paralysis tendencies. These clients often lack the knowledge that bad decisions can be corrected, usually with simple modifications. They may have perfectionistic thinking, afraid they will look foolish or make the wrong decision. Many analysis paralysis sufferers worry that they will lose everything if they try something new, and feel certain that the future holds humiliating failure. Still others wait for a "better" job offer, opportunity, or partner to come along, only to lose valuable time and chances at happiness.
Sadly, analysis paralysis is self-sabotaging. In relationships, for example, the endless delays and ambivalence cause partners to leave, usually hurt and angry. The sufferer feels temporary relief now that the pressure is off and the partner is gone; however" long-term they lament. Our "Match.com" mentality feeds this hesitation: being bombarded with endless dating options gives us false reassurance that there will always be someone prettier, smarter, and younger. Wise individuals know, however, that love and compatibility are rare, and many otherwise happy relationships have been soured by the unrealistic certainty that hundreds of available and adoring mates are simply a click away.
So how does someone tackle analysis paralysis? You square your shoulders and stare down the looming Goliath even though you feel like a small, helpless David.
If you are in a relationship with an analysis paralysis sufferer, you're painfully aware that they do not writhe alone. You are probably feeling the sting of your partner's ambivalence and foot-dragging, which can shred even the strongest self-esteem. The subtle withdrawal of your paralyzed partner causes you to be insecure and needy in kind. Your wish for safety and a commitment is the very thing your partner cannot offer.
If this is you, here is my advice:
Cherry or lemon, lemon or cherry? It is a tough decision, no doubt about it, but both are delicious. Eat and enjoy.
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