The Paradox of Choice

Do you every feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices you make on a daily basis?  You are not the only one.  In the following TED talk, psychologist Barry Schwartz discusses how choices can sometimes lead to paralysis, not freedom.  Dr. Schwartz is also author of the book, The Paradox of Choice.

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Why Me?

sad web largeSince I work with people facing life’s hardships, it is not unusual for me to hear the question, “Why me?” when a death, injury, or tragedy happens.  In fact, when I was a psychologist on a rehabilitation medicine floor where people were admitted after serious accidents or sudden life-changing medical events, this question was constantly being asked.

After all, if you are a 19-years-old who just broke his neck after diving into a swimming pool, you really might wonder, “Why me?”  Similarly, if you are driving down the highway and your car is hit by a drunk driver, killing one of your children, you might rightfully ask, “Why me?”  Or, if you have always been conscientious about your health and then suddenly have a stroke, you might also feel compelled to ask, “Why me?”

What I have learned is that none of us is immune to the sorrows and tragedies of life.  At some point, every single one of us sustains loss and experiences suffering.  Following such an event, we often have a strong need to make sense of what has happened, so we ask, “Why me?”  Sometimes we assume the answer is linked to our goodness or badness:  “I got hurt because I was being really mean to my mom.”  The minute you understand that “good” people suffer as well, it’s harder to automatically connect tragedy or hardship to your own behavior.

The reality is that we are living beings, and as such, we are vulnerable.  We are part of nature, but sometimes forget that although nature is beautiful, it can also be extremely brutal.  Joy, sorrow, success, disappointment, blessing, or hardship–these are all an integral part of life’s complex tapestry.  We are challenged to humbly understand and accept the reality that we sometimes have little control over what happens in our lives.

So, perhaps the question each one us really needs to contemplate is: “Why NOT me?”

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The Gift of Forgiveness

It is impossible to get through life without being hurt by somebody. All of us know how painful it is to be the target of gossip, lies, or thoughtless remarks. Some have even been wounded by infidelity, abuse, or an unhappy marriage. When the emotional pain runs deep, some people respond by hanging onto the hurt and building a wall around themselves to keep from ever being hurt again. That is certainly one way to respond in such a situation. Another alternative is to find a way to move beyond the pain you currently feel by exploring forgiveness.

Defining Forgiveness
Forgiveness is making a personal choice to leave behind the feelings of anger, bitterness, or resentment you may feel because someone hurt you. You forgive for your OWN sake, not necessarily for the sake of the person who wounded you.

It is ironic that as long as your negative feelings go unresolved, you stay emotionally connected to the person who hurt you and they continue to have power over your life. Forgiveness is like choosing to open the cage door, so that your hurt does not imprison you forever. When you forgive, you free yourself from burdensome feelings that make it difficult for you to move forward in your life.

  • Forgiveness does NOT mean that you forget what the other person did to you.  Especially when you are deeply hurt, you should not forget. Instead, sift through what happened and learn from the experience.
  • Forgiveness does NOT mean that you condone what the person did to you. You are not saying that you believe the other person was right or that you excuse their behavior.
  • Forgiveness also does NOT mean that you want to continue a relationship with that person. You can forgive someone AND choose to never have any contact with them again.

Forgiveness is completely a choice you make. You have the power to decide whether you want to forgive someone or not. No one can force you to do either.

The Process Of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a process. Depending on your situation, that process can take a long time or it can be relatively quick. For example, forgiving your best friend for saying something mean to you may not take as long as forgiving someone who has been severely abusive to you. Below are some ideas for facilitating the process of forgiveness:

  1. It is important to start by being honest with yourself about how injured you feel. If you cannot acknowledge the emotional impact a situation had on you, it will prolong the pain.
  2. Find some way to express your feelings in a constructive manner. You may choose to talk to a friend, a therapist, or to even God. Typically, talking to someone who can be supportive and neutral helps you get clearer about your situation and identify the emotional wounds that need healing.
  3. If you were abused in some way and the person who hurt you still poses some physical or emotional threat, be sure to take steps to protect yourself from future harm.
  4. At some point, you will fully understand that you are paying a heavy price for hanging onto feelings of hurt or anger. You may then become motivated to do what you can to stop hurting. Rise to that challenge.
  5. Attempt to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. That point of view may not be rational or emotionally healthy by your standards, but taking the perspective of the other person moves you out of the role of victim and restores your power. Sometimes compassion can develop for the other person when you take this step. You may see their weaknesses, true intentions, or the complexity of the situation for the first time.
  6. Think about any responsibility you have in the situation that transpired and forgive yourself. If you also hurt the other person, remember that you did not intend to do so and would have made a different choice if you could “rewind the clock.”
  7. If it is relevant, think about a time when that person forgave you and how much gratitude or relief you felt. Consider giving this same gift back.
  8. Write down what specifically the other person did to harm you. As objectively as possible, state what actually happened, so that you can concretely identify what needs to be forgiven. Did they make a hurtful comment? Did they lie to you? Perhaps, they damaged something meaningful to you?
  9. Write a letter to the person who hurt you. Express all of your positive and negative feelings. Describe positive aspects of your relationship with the other person and express forgiveness for the hurtful behaviors. Be aware, that you may experience many different emotions as you engage in this task. You may feel tearful, angry, or even resentful as you revisit the hurt. NOTE: You do not need to mail this letter!
  10. Make the forgiveness tangible. At this point you may choose to mail the letter you wrote. You may also choose to destroy the letter if you no longer want to have a relationship with the person. Sometimes telling a trusted friend what you are doing can make the experience feel more “real” and bring closure.

The process of forgiveness can really challenge you to grow as a person. When done properly, it can be a liberating and empowering experience that allows you to regain emotional freedom and a sense of well-being. Remember that you do have a choice about whether you live your life with bitterness or resentment. You CAN choose to let down those walls and embrace life to its fullest.

NOTE:  This post is a reprint from Healthful Changes: Proven Strategies for Taking Charge of Your Life available free at:

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Be Grateful for This Day

It is easy to forget that this moment is all we really have.  Watch the inspiring video by Louie Schwartzberg below to cultivate gratitude for whatever this day brings into your life.  If you are interested, there is a free 21-day gratitude course offered at the following link:


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An amazing resource I have been sharing with clients recently is a book by Dr. Kristin Neff called Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.  Dr. Neff is a faculty member and researcher at The University of Texas at Austin.  She studies how the relationship a person has with themselves affects how well they function in life.  She is considered to be the world’s leading authority on self-compassion.

People mistakenly belief that being “tough” on themselves is what makes them successful. Research on self-compassion reveals the exact opposite: People who maintain a compassionate stance with themselves tend to be much healthier and more productive than those who beat themselves up when they make a mistake or encounter hardship.

If you had a parent who used a harsh tone or criticism to “motivate” you, you may naturally struggle with constant self-judgment.  Shifting into a kinder relationship with yourself is challenging, but such a vital part of moving toward greater health and happiness in life.

Please explore Dr. Neff’s website to learn more about self-compassion.  You will find many free resources on the following site that may be of tremendous benefit to you:

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Remove Your Inner Thorn

Anyone who is alive has experienced moments that are painful, hurtful, even wounding.  Sometimes these injuries can become debilitating, while other times, we simply lick our wounds and move on.  In this interesting interview, Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, speaks to Oprah Winfrey about the “thorns” people carry with them after a wounding experience, and the importance of finding a way to heal these hurts.

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Why Judging People Makes Us Unhappy

Criticism of others and self-criticism are two common topics in any therapist’s office.  Here is an insightful article on judgment that I found on

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~Henry David Thoreau

A friend of mine likes to joke that dying will be a relief because it will put an end to the “heavy burden of judging” as she calls it. She envisions herself lying in a hospital bed and, moments before death, noticing the ceiling and thinking, “What a hideous green.”

Here’s a modest proposal: Vow that for the rest of the day, you won’t judge your friends and you won’t judge any strangers you happen to see. This would include a friend who’s a non-stop talker; it would include a friend who’s always complaining about his life. It would include the strangers you pass on the street or see in a waiting room.

I call it a modest proposal because I’m not even addressing the issue of self-judgment, let alone BP or Gaddafi. No. I’m just asking you not to judge friends or strangers.

It’s entirely possible you won’t make it past a few minutes without judging someone!

So, why not just “judge away?”

Continue reading at the link below:


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