“I just don’t know what the right decision is,” she said over the phone, and I could tell she was fighting back tears.
“I’m so unhappy. Maybe if I wait a little longer, he will change. I’ve already tried for so long to make it work. I just want to be in a happy relationship with someone who likes to do things with me. I would love to go to plays, ride bikes…you know, just have more fun. He doesn’t want to do any of that. But what if I leave and never meet anyone else? What would I do then? At least now I have someone, and I’m not completely alone.”
That dreaded question we all struggle with at times in our lives: Do I stay, or do I go?
We question whether to stay or go in relationships, jobs, careers, locations; the list can go on and on.
When you’re in this space, your brain does all kinds of mental gymnastics trying to find a place of peace.
One minute, you imagine how your life may look if you decide to leave. You momentarily feel energized, confident, and ready for this new adventure. The next minute, you feel terrified and paralyzed at the idea of leaving as you think about all the unknowns.
Back and forth, this mental game goes. It is exhausting, draining, and adds tremendous stress and anxiety to your life.
To help you break free of this trap…yes, it is a trap…do two things:
1. Recognize the pain avoidance program your brain is running.
2. Update the program.
Let's Play A Game!
The brain is interesting in how it attempts to help you avoid emotional pain. Some of you may recall the 1980’s movie, War Games, starring Mathew Broderick. In the movie, a computer takes over and starts a nuclear missiles countdown. The government is unable to regain control of the computer, so a smart kid asks the computer if it wants to play a game. The computer begins to play out all the possible scenarios of a nuclear missile attack. Ultimately, the computer concludes that there are no winners.
In other words, all options result in loss.
This is what your brain is doing when it ping pongs back and forth between staying and going. The brain is playing a game; it is trying to figure out which choice will avoid emotional pain. The brain does not realize this is not possible.
You, on the other hand, are the programmer of this brain, and you can train your brain like Mathew Broderick’s character trained the computer; to realize there are no outcomes that avoid emotional pain.
As the person on the phone and I discussed this game of the brain, she had an insight. She said, “I have lost hope in this relationship, and holding onto the hope that he will change keeps hurting me. That pain could go on for a lifetime if I keep waiting and hoping he will change. If I decide to leave, it will be painful too, but I can see a place where I can be happy again one day and not keep hurting”.
Her insight in that moment did not change her pain; in fact, she began to cry. However, she had made her decision, and an immense weight was lifted off her immediately.
With that insight, she updated her brain program. Her brain had been so busy trying to find a painless path that it could not process the bigger picture. Once her brain quit trying to avoid pain, it could play out the bigger picture, and she could find her answer.
If you are struggling with the question of staying or going, help your brain realize that emotional pain is going to be a part of the journey regardless of the road you choose. Then let the brain explore the bigger picture, and see what insights arrive for you.
Want to learn more about patterns?
At Connection Point Coaching we provide you with knowledge and insight into how the mind and body create beliefs and patterns of behavior that influence your choices and performance. We also provide you with tools to help activate and redirect your energy in more efficient and effective ways so you can break free of sabotaging patters and get to where you want to be!