Ask Dr. Joy: Ambivalent Thinkers

By WEEK Reporter

October 7, 2010 Updated Oct 7, 2010 at 9:02 PM CDT

Are you one of those people who have a hard time deciding where to eat at night?

Can’t choose between the Iphone or the Droid?

Perhaps just choosing a pair of jeans can take you into a neurotic episode… So, Dr. Joy Miller helps us look at why some people have such a difficult time making decisions and some tips to making the process a little easier.

Tell us a little about people who have difficulty making decisions.

•Some people see the world in black and white and have a relatively easy time making decisions.

•People who see the world in more of the grays tend to be more of what helping professionals call “ambivalent” thinkers.

•Being ambivalent or seeing the gray can be a positive aspect, but those who see the word always in multiple options and shades of grays tend to see ALL of their life in this continuum

•Ambivalent thinkers can get caught in evaluating all sides of a choice and that scrutiny can keep them in an eternal battle between all the choices

But seeing things from all sides is a positive attribute. What is harmful about this way of thinking?

•Ambivalent thinkers may see so many choices that they tend to avoid making a decision because everything appears so complex

•Due to the fact that decisions seem so difficult and complex, they may have a higher rate of procrastination and lack of decision making capabilities

•Because they can see all sides of a choice, they also tend to attach more feelings with every choice. In fact, because of their extensive rumination process, they tend to end up feeling guilt about making a choice

•Their ambivalence may keep them in unhealthy relationships and friendships because they can always find reasons for self-blame or ways to discount behaviors that might be destructive, abusive or harmful

If you are someone who has difficulty making decisions, are there some tips that would be useful?

•This is an extremely common concern for many people. In fact, some people are totally paralyzed by decision-making. So normalizing the situation is helpful.

•Access a therapist or coach who can help you discover techniques for healthy decision making. Skills include pairing down choices and knowing your key values

•Know what is important to you (your values) and look at the situation as objects vs. focusing on the feelings surrounding a decision.

•Those who can make decisions easily tend to not be anxious about their choices – a key to moving towards this avenue is to know your own predictable pattern and understand more of what makes you happy.

•Lastly, just make a choice after you have paired things down. Remember it is just a choice, and not a mistake. When you see things as a choice, you can always go back and alter things a little, or change things up. A mistake says it is something about you being bad, wrong or defective…. This is faulty thinking!

•Remember doing nothing is actually choosing to do something- it is choosing to let the world & others make your choices.

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