Forks in the road of life appear to involve choices. But it is never clear that there was actually a choice at all once the ‘decision’ has actually been taken to go this way or that. Given the existence of an infinite number of parallel worlds or, to put it another way, an infinite number of possible action choices, it is sometimes very hard to say with absolute conviction exactly why this or that one is or was the one we chose.
And so we try to be ‘ecological’ or ‘organic’ about the decisions we make in the hope that this will at least enable us to have been as true as we can be to ourselves or our beliefs about what is right. But history shows that beliefs can be used to justify all kinds of awful actions. So if we cannot be certain about what we are doing, the best thing seems to be to try to be true to what we feel in our hearts is right, even, perhaps, if it subsequently turns out to have been wrong.
When you are in a cleft stick or double bind in your very closest, most important relationship with another person, for example about whether to tell him or her the truth about something you have done perhaps for fear of causing hurt to one or both of you or the relationship between you, there just isn’t a ‘right’ thing to do. Whatever you do will be wrong – telling the truth will be hurtful, but not telling it will be a betrayal of the trust your partner has in you.
The way of this world sadly is that sometimes, at least, whatever we do will be wrong.
So what should you do in such circumstances? I wish I knew. The least ‘wrong’ or hurtful thing? But if so, least hurtful to whom or to what? To your significant other? To yourself? To the relationship between you? And how do you know? Whatever choice you make will have a relationally discombobulating effect like that of the ancient Paradox of the Liar (“This sentence is not true”) and serve to create distance in your relationship.
So, all you can do is try to cause as little harm as possible. Alternatively, you could perhaps avoid relationships in the first place, retreat from the world altogether, become a hermit, a recluse.
But we live in a world of other people. If you have chosen to try to stay In this world of relationships with others, you have to recognise that sometimes ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ and to therefore be prepared to own up when a decision you made proves to have been harmful or wrong and hope that the love and respect you have for your partner and his or hers for you will be ‘sufficient unto the day’ and that he or she will forgive you the hurt you inadvertently perpetrated.
If we always knew what was right we wouldn’t be human.
Blog written by Caroline Cairns Clery, Family Psychotherapist at The Surrey Centre
For more information on Carrie, visit: TheSurreyCentre/Counsellors