The Line Between Conscious and Unconscious Decisions
Every day we make hundreds of decisions. Many of them are made conscious, some are not.
And then there are the ones you think you’ve made on a conscious level, but those can get us into trouble even more than a wrong one. With the wrong choice (wrong for you), you recognize it pretty quickly. But when you think you’ve made the right one, and it turns out poorly, you start to question why.
I am an intelligent woman, and yet I ended up in horrible relationships in the past. Why, when everything that I had learned and known about myself, did that happen? Because there was still a residual story in my psyche that I unknowingly acted out in my relationship.
Most times, decisions are transparent. The ones that I make unconsciously (or on autopilot), still have a certain sense of clarity about them. Like, I choose to brush my teeth daily; I decide to have a coffee in the morning. (It may be a routine, but it’s still a conscious choice.)
Then there are decisions driven by habit (repeated experience and become somewhat unconscious). I decide to drive a car, but I don’t have to think about how that’s done; or the experience of reading the same contract hundreds of times, is similar to driving the car – I’m in autopilot. There’s still a clear line between a conscious and an unconscious choice.
And then there are the murky ones in-between. Like when I knew that I was making choices around my ex that was not going to be in my best interest.
I kept overriding how I was feeling in the relationship. I’d feel disrespected, but say things like,
“Nobody understands him like I do, I need to support him.”
I’d feel unloved but say something like
“If I show him what real love is, he’ll come around.”
Most of the time, I didn’t feel good around him. We would get together, and I’d start to tell him something I was proud of, and he would interrupt with what was going on with him, or he wouldn’t pay attention and then mutter,
“Yes, that sounds good.”
I would end up feeling unheard. Even when it appeared that he was supportive, I noticed that it was only when it suited what he needed. I was so enamored that he had paid attention, that I didn’t recognize it was for his benefit alone.
I thought I was consciously deciding to be with his toxic behavior (many more serious behaviors than in this post.). I was choosing to be the better person, taking the higher road and that he had his reasons for being that way. Eventually, he would see the love I gave him, and that would change his ways. I could be all rainbows and lollipops about it.
I came to realize on those nights alone, what I felt was all too familiar to what I felt about my mother so many years before.
I had done a lot of work around healing my abandonment issues, but I didn’t recognize this relationship was just another form of abandonment.
In my daily life, my work relationships were as good as could be expected (there’s always going to be the one mean girl in the office.) I made the right business decisions, and my other personal relationships were healthy with a few little bumps here and there, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted.
So how did I manage to be in a toxic relationship for 14 years?
Because this is where the line blurs.
You think what you decide is conscious – you’re aware of the choice you’re making. You might say,
“I want to be with him, I can love him enough until he loves me back,”
or, “He’ll come around, and we’ll be ok,”
maybe even “Most men are like this so I may as well stay with the one I have.”
So you end up staying or getting into another bad relationship wondering how you got there. You think,
“How is it with all my experience and intelligence that I can’t find a better man?”
There’s something in you that needs attention. It’s causing these unhealthy choices in a partner. This isn’t about mindset. This is about uncovering that past hurtful experience that you probably remember but aren’t able to take that step back from and notice how it’s being drawn into your relationship.
The key is to move that needle in big chunks until you’re clear about what you need in a relationship and comfortable enough to ask for it.
It doesn’t mean that you won’t encounter another toxic relationship. It does mean that now that you’re aware of what triggered you, you can’t become unaware.
If you’re in a relationship, you’ll have the ability to set new expectations. If you’re at the beginning of a relationship, you’ll notice pretty quickly if he’s a good match or you’re just settling.
When you do the work, you’ll shift from being the woman who demands little from her relationship to the powerful woman who sets loving and healthy boundaries.