Choice

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.

8 comments

  1. I appreciate your article. Yes we have free choice. But when people face huge challenges at a young age such as living with abusive parents, being thrown out of the home at age 14, facing drug addictions can make it challenging to turn your life around. I have learned to have compassion. I am also happy to support people in their recovery when they are ready to turn their lives around. You seem like a person with great compassion. I wish you a great weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Children have only the choice to endure and tell themselves that one day it’ll be over and they will be able to choose their life by themselves.
        The thing is that when they become adults they are generally broken and guilted individuals with a low self esteem. And it can take a whole lifetime to become self aware (if they ever decide to…)

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      • Indeed, both co-dependency and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are born from emotional neglect or abuse. It is a coping mechanism that children develop in order to cope with the abuse. Co-dependents then will make most of their choices based on others’ needs whereas narcissists will make choices based on their own needs. And as you say, they will maybe never become self aware.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I think one of the hardest things is finding a balance between acknowledging your own part, and that of circumstance and the deliberate acts of other people. Feeling that things are completely your fault, or not your fault at all, are equally unhelpful because they both take away the feeling that you have the power to change.

    One of the things that made me incomfortable about working with the trauma therapist I saw last year was that she kept telling me that things weren’t my fault, when I could clearly see the part my adult choices had played. I wanted to learn healthy ways to act in the future so that none of this would happen again, and she was kind of holding me back from that.

    But I have to say it made me really, really angry when I was being bullied and everyone around me kept making allowances for the “bad childhood” of my narcissistic abuser but if I had tried to get any sympathy for the role of my own childhood in making me more vulnerable I would have been accused of “playing the victim card”; that when I tried to own my part in the situation between us he twisted that into an admission that I was completely at fault and he was blameless; and also – here’s the killer – that when I did choose to walk away, I was seen as being at fault there too, too thin-skinned and holding grudges.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s true that we can’t choose what people do to us but we can choose how we react to it. I was in the same situation as you. I made excuses for his abuse because of his bad childhood. I tried to help him find himself but I was losing myself in the process, so I chose to walk away too. People have no idea what he is really like. They probably blame me, say that I was controlling, jealous and insecure but I choose not to care.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The “not caring” part is where I’ve had trouble. I initially wanted to stay in the group where all of this had occurred but I felt like I was having to continually justify and defend my being upset and so I eventually cut off a huge number of people who weren’t involved at all in the original bullying. I’m still not sure that I’m at a point of not caring what those people think, and I dread the possibility of bumping into them and feeling as if I still have to justify myself.

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