Monday, 25 October 2010

Coins and chairs - what to decide

Does this sound familiar I wonder... Tossing and turning at night as to what's the best thing to do? Here's a couple of techniques I came across that have really helped.

For minor choices e.g. whether to go out or stay in etc then flip a coin. Heads can be go out. Tails, staying in. If you secretly want it to fall one way or the other you will be wishing it falls that way. If it really doesn't matter either way, follow how it falls. And if you're not completely happy with the result it comes up with flip it a few times until you are.

For major decisions e.g. moving home try using two chairs. A counsellor taught me this one when I was dithering about whether or not to move. On the one hand I loved where I lived. It was in the country, open fields with sheep bleating and distant church bells and a lovely long (but narrow) garden, nice neighbours, a nice terraced house with open fireplace and lots of wonderful memories.

On the other hand it had become associated with death as that's where I grieved over losing my father and two dear friends and two dear neighbours. It was isolated and a cold house as it had no gas central heating. It was out of the way for most of my friends to pop in and visit. It was like retirement cottages since the only young family had moved out.

So following the instructions I set two chairs out. I then wrote down all the pros and cons of staying and then did the same for a new place to live. I paused to have a cup of tea before finally sitting in the first chair - staying put. Once you sit in a chair you imagine that's the decision you've made. No going back, no swapping. As I sat there with all my memories and thoughts both good and bad I began to cry. I thought about all the things I would miss if a left and how much I loved the place, but I was also thinking about all the problems I had there too. I left the chair and had a long break.

Eventually I returned and this time sat in the other chair - the one for moving house. And I did the same exercise, imagining all the positives and negatives of finding a new place, new neighbours (would they be sociable and supportive like the ones I had or not - they might be better or they might be worse). I also thought about the upheaval and the stress that can cause and of Poppy my cat and whether she'd be ok with a new place.

My counsellor had warned me that I might have to repeat this exercise several times before finally coming to a decision. The trick is to really believe that the decision has been made once you sit in each chair. When I sat in the staying chair, there was no going back; when I sat in the moving chair I had moved.

I chose to move as more than anything I needed new life around me. My tears (and there were many) were of letting go. Yes I miss that house even to this day as it was very special to me but I still feel I made the right decision for what I most needed. I moved to a small town which has lots of interesting shops and restaurants and I am surrounded by young couples and families. Some of them became good friends and others not so much but civil enough. Moving enabled me to clear debts so I could treat myself a little and start living again.

In this example I got the choices down to two, if possible try to do the same as it can make it easier. (I didn't add more chairs for all the possibilities of where I could be moving to which kept it simple). However, sometimes that's exactly what you need to do. e.g. getting a row of chairs out for all the houses I was interested in and trying each of them out.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made, but this exercise helped me to explore all my thoughts and feelings so that I became sure it was the right one. I hope you find this exercise helps you as much as it did me for those emotionally difficult situations.

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