To "decide" something ...
I’ve been working with deciding. To “decide” something has such enormous power. It has the same root as other words that denote killing something off – when we decide we kill off the other possibility, the other choice.
The funny thing, I’m finding, is the process leading up to the decision. The countless times I’ve told myself it’s been decided, when in fact, it hasn’t. And I know that it hasn’t because suddenly I’m contemplating the other possibility again, I’m changing my mind.
Now, that’s one of the really nice things about minds – they can be changed, and they ought to be, often – because we are often wrong (more often than we like to admit). When we are pushed into a corner about something we’ve been wrong about, and admitting it is about all that’s left to do, then being able to change your mind is a very handy thing. But not when it comes to a decision!
If to decide means to kill off the other choice, then if you are suddenly changing your mind, does that mean the decision wasn’t made in the first place?
This line of inquiry bumps right up against two other important issues: changing habitual behaviour, and living into the new world you create for yourself with an incisive question. As I’ve been ruminating about decisions, I’ve also been pondering habits. And it seems to me that something sneaky is going on in the human psyche. I seem to have a slippery slope in my mind that delivers me smoothly into well-worn bad habits without my noticing it………..something akin to addictions – like wheat, and sugar, and Netflix. There seems to be little effort involved in deciding to become compulsive about a Netflix series, to the detriment of many other things I may have thought I had decided to prioritise. In fact, it’s almost as though I didn’t have to decide anything at all. But to decide to go walking every day, come rain or shine, requires an entirely other level of will power, effort and intention.
We know now, through the leaping breakthroughs of the field of neuroscience, about the laying down of neural pathways, the brain’s ongoing elasticity, the amount of repetitions it takes for something to become a habit and the seeming all persuasive lure of dopamine. And since neuroscience is science there are facts and proof involved. And yet, and yet…………….. After 25 years of being a non-smoker I had a cigarette again. And then I had another and another. Can you believe it? Madness. Literally. I’m glad to say now, that I’ve decided to stop. But I have a renewed level of sensitivity to the issue of decisions now: 25 years of stopping before ticked all the neuroscience boxes, and yet…….in the flick of a Clipper lighter that neural pathway went up in a puff of smoke!
It’s complex isn’t it…….we know we are not our bodies, which house our brains, along with all the other organs. We have bodies, but we are psyche’s – we are souls.
We have the capacity to be consciously aware of our consciousness. I’m wondering if the world we’ve co-created, through activity or passivity, is soul-eroding to the extent that understanding and applying the rules of neuroscience, or, indeed Malcolm Gladwell, is simply not enough. Some topics for thinking sessions emerge again and again, driven, I feel, by assumptions – which could be called decisions in a true sense of the word – that have become so deeply buried in the psyche as to appear as fact, as truth.
Sometimes to be willing to face these untrue assumptions, lived as true, and to dismiss them, is an act of faith. They feel true, and so to unravel them we have to take a stand: that existential act of courage. And then sometimes we can really meet their untruthfulness in the deepest part of our being, and then it is not so much as we decide, but that the possibility of a decision emerges, and then we get to choose it.