The presence of choice

I didn’t have any other choice.

I have heard this reasoning from lots of people to validate the decisions they’ve made. I’ve used it myself.

People’s lives are largely based on the choices they have made throughout their lifetimes. The circumstances they find themselves in are often the result of decisions they have made. If they enjoy their circumstances and love the lives they have, and if they keep using the same choice and decision-making process they have always used, they will probably find themselves in similar circumstances most of their lives. Even if some disaster out of their control sweeps their lives out from under them, if that person’s way of being is to be happy and enjoy life, that person will find a way to make their lives happy and enjoyable once again.

The same holds true for people who are not enjoying their lives, who are unhappy in their circumstances. Even if someone comes along and plucks them out of their miserable state, if the person rescued does not change their way of being in the world, they will eventually find themselves back in a similar miserable situation.

The kind of choice-making I am talking about is reserved for those who have free will and the capacity to enact the changes that they seek. There are those who are exempt, like infants and babies. But as soon as children develop awareness of self, they start making decisions. And we learn a lot of our decision-making behavior from the adults around us.

As children witness other adults’ decision-making behavior, I am not sure how much choice they have about adopting those behaviors. In survival mode, we all rely on what we know works because we witness it. Even if it other people’s behaviors do not work and their lives are miserable, if we have not witnessed a different behavior to model, we will rely upon what we know.

Until we wake up.

Once we grow and differentiate from others, we all have the capacity to change our way of being in the world and change the way we make decisions. We have the capacity to discover what is the best choice we could make given the kind of life we want to have.

As my friend, Laurie at Speaking from the Heart, would say: “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

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4 Responses to “The presence of choice”

  1. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I’m sure you know how much I enjoyed/resonated/agreed with this post. yes, Yes, YES!

    When you said,

    “Even if someone comes along and plucks them out of their miserable state, if the person rescued does not change their way of being in the world, they will eventually find themselves back in a similar miserable situation.”

    It immediately brought to mind the multiple studies that have been done, on people who’ve won the lottery. It’s estimated that 80% of them will be penniless, divorced, or have commit suicide within 3-years time.

    My point being, TRUE JOY doesn’t have anything to do with outside circumstances — those are always going to fluctuate, day in and day out. True joy comes from the inside.

    Great post — thank you!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — it is amazing to me that our society continues to insist that happiness comes from finding the right mate, the right job, the perfect hairstyle, the perfect car, etc. I can promise you that when I win the lottery, it is all going into my retirement account.

  2. jeffstroud Says:


    Great post! I resonate with your thoughts as well. Lines like ” I had not choice” and, “they made me do it” are language of the victim, not a person who is empowered by their own thinking and creation of choices.

    The language of the 12 Steps of Recovery offer new thoughts to those addicted, for once they thought they had no choice, yet they find they do once put down the addiction and trust in higher power!

    I am Love, Jeff

    Ps: Hey! There is that Laurie person again!!!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff — I am beginning to think that the 12 steps should be the basis for a whole lot of behavior therapy. That’s the article I am working on right now and can hopefully interview Vince DiPasquale at The Starting Point to get his expertise on that.

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