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Psychobabble: How Do You Get A Philosopher Off Your Porch?

Angie Garrett

When it comes to making a momentous decision in your life, how do you do it?

Perhaps you visit a prayer temple in Kathmandu, or you turn inward for guidance.  Maybe it’s the advice of a parent, or spouse, or mentor that you turn to. Lake Effect essayist Linda Benjamin says actually figuring out where to turn for advice is one of the keys to making sound decisions.

One of the challenges all of us humans deal with is the challenge of who to listen to? Some people—personal gurus, for example—can be very convincing, sure-of-themselves and charismatic. I would, at times, like to think there is someone in the world who has all the right answers for me.

Having wise counselors in my life has been essential. I mean the kind of people who tell me the truth or their version of it, with no hidden agendas. Some of the people I consult: my dear friends, my sister, my therapist (and every therapist should have a therapist!), and my dreams (because they can be looked at as wake-up calls from the unconscious mind).

Ultimately, I am the one who will experience the ramifications of my decisions. So, I like to listen to what has been called my "Inner Knowing." This is a different voice from our cautionary authority figures or institutions. And it’s a different voice from that of our primitive I-Want-It-Now brain.

Sometimes I look the thinking of the past, once accepted by many people, that has changed. Slavery, inter-marriage between people of different religions or races, gay rights. There are people who seem so sure of themselves and their beliefs that they may seem to be channeling a Higher Power. And yet, nobody can know how things will turn out, even based on correct guesses of the past.

Even when I think of the things I believed when I was a child, I am embarrassed to admit, I once tried to talk two people out of marrying one another, for fear of “hurting their parents”---who were of different religions. And theirs became one of the most solid marriages in the family.

"How do you get a philosopher off your porch?"....(Wait for it.)

"You pay for the pizza."

No offense to worthy pizza-deliverers everywhere. But few of us, as high schoolers said "I believe my calling is to deliver pizzas and to hungry busy folks everywhere.

If someone isn't living an authentic, and relatively happy life themselves (and we cannot know from appearances whether they are or not)—Perhaps he/she isn't someone we want to have as the judge and jury of our lives.

My rule of thumb is this: I consult my wise advisors as a way to tease out my own answers. Other people's ideas (people I respect) stimulate my creative problem-solving process. And sleeping on a problem, a reaction or an action--- waiting a day or two, isn't a bad idea, either! Ultimately, if  I let things be decided by not making the decision or by blaming someone else for “bad advice,” the decision was still mine—even if it originated with someone else or if I did nothing at all.

Writer Jarod Kintz says, "When faced with two equally tough choices, most people choose the third choice; to not choose."

I know in some relationships, an partner or ex-partner will consider him/herself a victim. The victim might not consciously take responsibility for their role as passive decision-maker. (We’re not talking about physical abuse here) “not being present” in the relationship. Either using numbing substances or not paying attention to the other person—can be benign neglect, until the other person no longer finds it benign.

There may be a childish satisfaction in blaming others for our bad decisions. But perhaps the challenge of using our brains, our hearts and our instincts to find answers---and occasionally making mistakes and learning from them--is what human evolution is about.  I know I wouldn’t, today, however well-meaning I thought I was, be presuming to tell anybody who to marry or consider that “hurting their parents” was more important than being true to themselves.

Linda Benjamin is a Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Milwaukee. She has been a news broadcaster and has hosted a live call-in radio self-help show in New York.