My Top Three (Unhealthy) Coping Strategies to Avoid Making A Decision

My Top Three (Unhealthy) Coping Strategies to Avoid Making A Decision November 9, 2021

There are lots of decisions to be made every day. Lots. It is overwhelming if you stop and think about it (deciding whether or not to stop and think about it is, in itself, a decision. Sorry for adding one to your plate. Decisions make me nervous because decisions expose me. Choosing something necessitates the exclusion of something else. So, my preferences are revealed. My value and character are exposed, one sliver at a time.

Since it can be difficult for me to know who I am and what I value, this exposure sometimes seems reckless. It’s scary.

There are lots of strategies I have adopted to delay, avoid, or ignore my daily decision making responsibilities. Whether it be a “big” choice or a “small” one, my uncertainty makes me very, very nervous. Here are my top three ways of coping with this complex, ever-present reality. 


At All Costs, Avoid. 

Run. Hide. Project. These are all examples of the same phenomena: avoidance. If I can avoid making a choice, I can avoid the consequences of making the wrong one.

I have a lot of strategies for doing this. The most prevalent is to tell myself this is not really my choice. Assuming it is, this coping strategy can be very dangerous. And it can quickly spiral out of control. What I do is look to someone else to answer the question I need to answer. And then I blame them for not answering rightly or quickly enough. I try to pawn my stewardship off to others.

Sometimes I take a related tact: I try to control what is not mine to control. Said another way, I try to play with other peoples’ choices. The consequences are much more removed. I can get away if the heat gets too stifling. So, I borrow offenses from others, steal their discernment and remake it in my own image, etc., etc.

All of this gets pretty messy. My self-deception folds in on itself.

The thing that sucks about trying to avoid choices and consequences is that avoiding a choice is a choice. And there are consequences for it. I try so hard not to make the choices I am afraid of that I forget I am making different choices. Those are growing, with interest, consequences. As are the choices I am “avoiding”.



My next best strategy is to overwhelm myself with noise. I try to fill my time with sports statistics, youtube videos, and daydreaming about my next vacation. I try to give myself more work to do. More chores. More meetings. More projects. I try to make things I have to do in order to make it feel as though I am not making any choices. I just don’t have time for them. I have to get this or that done.

Humans are becoming more and more allergic to silence. We are terrified of sitting alone and still. Afraid of what we might think of. So, we blast ourselves with all kinds of activity, much of it meaningless or superficial, to avoid a chasm of silence that reminds us of the deeper choices.

Even when a big, life decision with a deadline shows up, I can try to busy myself out of it. Hoping, praying, that the answer will fall into my lap in the eleventh hour or that it will “just happen”. So many of my decisions, I have filed into the “I’ll just see what happens folder,” which is a misnomer, a mistake, and an unhealthy coping mechanism.


Creating Story

I love stories. I love the complex truths they tell. The different characters and the ways things can turn out. 

Perhaps my most creative coping mechanism is storytelling. If I don’t like the context of the decision I am facing, I just make up another one. This, of course, is absurd. It is living in unreality. But we all do it. And we do it often.

To deal with the complexity of my decision-making, the consequences of choice, and the unsurety of my values, I start to spin a tale. I make myself the hero and cast others as villains. Their defeat becomes the story. I adjust parameters on what is “fair”, “justifiable”, even what is “right” and “wrong”. I change the foundations of reality (in my head), so the choice is not about if I should date this particular person or not but suddenly a now or never choice between dating this person and being alone forever.

These are just a few of the ways I try to avoid sound decision making. And they don’t work. They seem to conspire and spiral out of control, making things worse. To live the best life I can means acknowledging reality and having the courage to make my decisions as best I can. Anything else may feel as though it is a temporary relief or a short-term win, but will ultimately end up harming me and my ability to steward choices.

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