It’s choice – not chance – that determines your destiny. Jean Nidetch
It is always easy to blame other people, chance or fate for the bad things that happen in our lives. We consequently avoid any responsibility for the turn of events, telling ourselves that we were unwitting victims of circumstances and that we did not have a choice.
A few years ago, when I was a volunteer prison representative for Shannon Trust, I remember talking to a prison officer about one of the prisoners who was taking part in our project. I told her that this man was bound to end up in prison. He did not have much choice because he had had a very unsettled childhood. His mother was a drug addict and he did not know his father. She looked at me and said: “I had a very bad childhood too. I never knew my mother or my father. I was raised in care and shuttled from foster family to foster family. But I made a choice. Don’t try to find excuses for him. We always have a choice”
The notion of free choice is frightening because it means that we have to take responsibility. In his theory of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre alleged that people live in anguish because they have to make choices. “We are condemned to be free”. We are free to make choices and we are responsible for everything we do. Even choosing not to choose is still a choice. “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” It is choice not fate that governs our lives.
Nevertheless, our choices can be forced, coerced or influenced by many factors. Magicians and cognitive scientists are able to manipulate our choices using choice blindness techniques. Two Swedish cognitive scientists, Lars Hall and Peter Johansson conducted some experiments to show that people are blind to their own choices and can therefore be easily influenced (http://www.lucs.lu.se/choice-blindness-group/). They made people believe that their (Hall and Johansson’s) choices were people’s own choices. People were so convinced that they were indeed their own choices, that they justified those, even if they were not their own choices in the first instant.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, are also able to manipulate our choices through various mental manipulation methods such as triangulation and gaslighting. However, the decision to stay and play the game is ours. We have a choice. Getting into a relationship with a person with Narcissistic Personality Disorder was my choice from the beginning. A very poor choice, based on what I believed was reality, but my choice nonetheless. There were many red flags that I chose to ignore and many lies that I chose to believe.
Life is a matter of choices.
I can choose to stay stuck in the past or move forward.