Let’s step into the kitchen of a French chef, Jacques Pépin. Now being a skilled chef with his own restaurant, Jacques knows that on busy nights, he doesn’t have a second to waste. He slices, he dices, adding a dash of this spice or that spice to the sauces he’s making. He knows the customers want great food as soon as possible. He moves with the speed of a cheetah and makes decisions on a dime.
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. When he was starting out, young Jacques used to move like a turtle. He would hem and haw trying to decide which recipe he should even make to pass his culinary exams. He demanded perfection, and would spend days thinking about what the perfect recipe. This wouldn’t be a problem except sometimes the culinary exam didn’t allow you more than a few hours to decide on the recipe and cook it.
Young Jacques suffered from “analysis paralysis.”
Analysis paralysis describes a situation where the cost of careful planning and thinking outweighs the benefit that could be gained by actually making a decision and following through with it. In fact, perhaps you can relate to young Jacques.
If you find you have a hard time making decisions, it’s time to learn about a concept called shame.
Shame is a painful feeling inadequacy about yourself. If you’ve ever felt confused, lonely, bitter, angry, or just plain empty, that’s a sign of shame.
The sense of shame you feel comes from the abuse you experienced as a child. If you had a loving, healthy family with clear boundaries that nurtured feelings of trust, you probably developed a sense of healthy self-esteem. If you were abused and not allowed to deal with the resulting trauma in a safe environment, you are carrying the effects of the trauma with you. One of these effects is a painful feeling of shame.
And “analysis paralysis” is the effect.
You may notice that you have trouble making decisions. You may hem and haw like young Jacques over something as simple as figuring out what you want for dinner. Now indecision is a part of life, but if you find yourself hemming and hawing for long periods of time it may be time to consider whether you’re suffering from “analysis paralysis” as part of an overall pattern of shame.
How do you tell whether you just like to think a bit or you’re actually suffering from shame?
You have to become more self-aware. Ask yourself – do you have a hard time making decisions because you’re afraid to be wrong? Are you afraid of not making the perfect decision and looking bad? That’s your hiding place of shame. That’s a clue that this is an aftereffect of the abuse.
The best way to overcome it is by practice and therapy.
Practice making decisions. Give yourself 60 seconds to decide what you want for dinner. If you reach the time limit and you still haven’t decided, order the first thing you see off the menu. This reinforced time limit helps you begin making decisions quickly. After awhile, you’ll find it easier to decide. As you get faster at making decisions and see that everything works out ok, you’ll find yourself less afraid to be wrong. You’ll find that you start building self-esteem little by little.
If you’re overcoming child abuse, then working with a therapist to help you process unresolved trauma will be one of the keys to your healing. As you’re cleaning out your psychological “clock” so to speak, you’ll find those feelings of shame begin to empty away. You won’t be afraid to let go of being perfect all the time and controlling everything. Now you’re dealing with the underlying cause of slow decision making and not just the effect.
By practicing making decision quickly and using the therapeutic process to help yourself heal, pretty soon, you’ll be slicing and dicing your way through life decisions in no time flat. You’ll be moving as fast and efficiently as a master French chef.