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  • Olivia Sanders
    Olivia Sanders

    When It Is Hard to Decide: On the Difficulty of Mixed Feelings

    Decision making can be tricky at the best of times, but dealing with complex and conflicting emotions can make it nearly impossible. So when you find yourself in a situation of having multiple and often conflicting feelings about something, navigating this can be incredibly challenging.

    This scenario is unfortunately common. It could be indecisiveness over whether to stay in a job, worrying over whether to commit to a relationship or marriage, feeling like you are on the brink of some kind of change in life with no idea or direction as to which way to turn, or any other major life decision. Frequently, feelings of confusion, anxiety, and powerlessness come along with the mix.

    When faced with this kind of situation, it might be tempting to just plow ahead regardless, to remain in the same spot, or to run the other way quickly! However, this is not necessarily a good plan. Avoidance rarely solves anything. The first step towards beginning to untangle the situation is to recognize that these conflicting feelings are not futile; they are actually trying to tell us something valuable, though it might take some exploration to get to the heart of the matter.

    In being honest with ourselves and acknowledging what each emotion means and signifies, we are able to begin to understand where each feeling is coming from- and why. Is this decision rooted in the past, present, or future? Are some of the feelings based in fear, or disappointment? Are there worries that if we take this big leap then it will not go as planned? It’s important to recognize specificity in the feelings, so that we can gain clarity as to why we feel certain ways.

    Doing a cost/benefit analysis can also be very helpful in situations like this. What are the potential risks versus rewards? Evaluating them more objectively is immensely helpful in making a decision. Making a list of pros and cons may sound overly simplistic, but it really can make a huge difference. It’s possible that one set of emotions isn’t actually more “right” than another; it could just tell us a different aspect of the story in terms of how things might turn out.

    Recognizing that we do not have all the answers, and feeling comfortable in the midst of uncertainty, can also help move us forward in making a decision, rather than feeling paralyzed by it. These mixed feelings can be overwhelming and they may lead us to start questioning if what we are feeling is even valid, or if our “negatives” should even be taken into account. It’s important to remember that all feelings are valid, and we should give ourselves the chance to explore and take seriously each emotion that we have.

    Exploring our feelings further and having patience in figuring out why we are feeling them is the final piece in making a decision. Taking the time to go within ourselves, pay attention to loved ones, consider advice from trusted sources, and sit in the forefront of our minds with the goal to really understand what is happening, will ultimately help us decide what is the wisest choice for us. That said, finding a balance between knowing when something needs to happen quickly and giving ourselves the time and space to make a sound decision, is key.

    Dealing with mixed feelings can be hard and overwhelming, but also contains insight that can help guide and inform wise decisions. Recognizing what is true underneath the surface and understanding ourselves better, can lead to choices that feel empowering and authentic in the end.

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