Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog is intended to give you a flavour of how I work as a counsellor. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links above.
If you are making yourself a hot drink, how do you decide which mug to use?
My cupboard is full of an assortment of mugs, accumulated in a random way over many years, some chosen by myself, some received as gifts, a couple as prizes, some borrowed and never returned, some that seem to have materialised by magic.
As I open the cupboard and view this array of mugs, I am not paralysed by indecision – I don’t stand there for hours trying to pick the right mug – I am able to make my choice quickly and without pain. How do I do that?
The answer is that I have, in my head, a “mug hierarchy” which places the mugs in an order of preference for me – without me really thinking about it consciously. But now that I do think about it, I realise that the decision-making process is quite complex. Some of the variables are:-
- Am I drinking tea or coffee?
- The shape of the mug
- The colour of the mug
- The words or pattern on the mug
- How near the mug is to the front of the cupboard
- What memories the mug holds for me
- What time of day it is
- What mood I am in
This is probably not the end of the factors that influence my choice – and for you, there are likely to be other factors – perhaps you choice is influenced by the weather, by what you are doing, or by who else is sharing a drink with you. Or it may be that your cupboard contains twelve identical mugs and so you simply pick the one nearest to you.
So, our important mug decisions are made without much conscious thought, but a whole raft of different factors go into helping us make that decision. Dare I say it – but some decisions we make are more momentous that our choice of drinking vessel. Some decisions we make affect our lives, and other people’s lives, in significant ways. Do we also make these decisions without thinking about them, using some sort of complex internal algorithm that we don’t really understand?
Too often, I think, that is exactly what we do. We might act on a whim, in spite of what reason tells us. We might ignore the wishes of others and just do what feels right to us. We might do what we’ve always done without stopping to think how circumstances may have changed things. Or we might find ourselves paralysed by the choice, so bewildered that when the kettle boils we still haven’t decided which mug to use, so that we never do get that drink we wanted – or worse still, we pour boiling water on our feet because there is no mug to catch it.
Do you ever look back on decisions you’ve made and think: “I can’t believe I did that” : “What was I thinking of?” : “It feels as if someone else did that”. (Addicts probably say these things to themselves every day). These, I think, are the decisions made through subconscious processes – the whims, the instincts that sometimes can be misguided or wrong.
Talking through our choices can be really helpful – it may be that there is a friend or relative who can help you do that. A professional counsellor may have more skill to help you understand your decision-making process; to unpick the different factors that guide your choices.
Understanding is key; if you understand what is pulling you in one direction or another you can decide whether the forces that pull or push you are useful or not, are they helping you to make the right choice or distorting your judgement? Are you going to be able to sit down and enjoy your cup of coffee, or will be cursing the fact that, once again, you’ve chosen the mug with the broken handle?