Paralysis by Analysis, Opposite of The Inevitability Trap

How often have you had this happen?

You are grappling with a difficult issue.

The answer just isn’t coming clear.

The more you bat it around,

the more you go over the pros and cons,

the more confusing it gets.

Paralysis by analysis.

The more you analyze, the more stymied you become.

You just don’t know what to do.

In the last post, we talked about The Inevitability Trap- (, where a person anchors on one possible outcome as the only outcome possible, dismissing or ignoring factors that might make a difference. In this case, you are at the opposite end of the spectrum. You’ve done your due diligence, covered all the bases, considered all there is to consider, and it is still not clear what you should do.

There is a reason for this. So stay with me here.

You are banking on deliberative thought - the processing a person is aware of, the analysis you have been doing - to make that decision. And deliberative thinking is capable of making certain kinds of decisions, particularly when there is a choice between a couple things - yes or no, either/or, binary choices, a problem that has a one step solution. The deliberative brain is quite adept at reaching that answer.

But it is not so good when the conundrum is a dilemma- multiple valuable, yet competing factors that demand a response. There is no answer to a dilemma. There is, instead, a strategy, which is to find the best balance among all these factors, one that allows talking a step forward you feel good about.

The deliberative brain is not where these value judgements are made. When you expect to reach a decision there, you are asking a part of your brain to do something it is not really equipped to do. Expecting it to do so is what leads to paralysis by analysis.

Your mind, however, is quite able to share its judgement about what that best balance is, if you let it. This balancing act - these value judgments - take place, not in the sphere of awareness, not through deliberative thought, but in what Shankar Vedentim terms the Hidden Brain -

processing that happens outside awareness, thought we have no control over and no insight into how it evolves.

And here is the key point. Deliberative thought communicates in words and numbers. The Hidden Brain not so. It is not possible to understand or even articulate what the Hidden Brain processes because the Hidden Brain does not use words. It communicates through feelings.

Here is the challenge. Language and numbers drown out feelings. You see, the deliberative mind is very strong willed. If allowed, it will dominate the conversation, intending to tell you what to do in order to have ’The World As I Want It To Be.’ And when this perspective diverges too far from ‘The World As It Is,’ the door is open for a misguided choice- one that in retrospect was not the best option available at the time. Your mind does not forget such choices; it remembers the effect of a misguided choice, and it works hard to protect you from that same fate, further complicating the process of reaching a judgement about what to do.

So have you ever had this happen?

You are grappling with an issue. Ambivalent about the options.

Paralysis by analysis has set in.

Tired of gyrating on this any more, you go for a walk,

or maybe take a hot shower,

or maybe you are driving aimlessly,

or something else appears to divert your attention from the dilemma,

or maybe when you wake up in the morning-

boom, it comes clear exactly what your next step is going to be.

The ambivalence has melted away. And it feels right.

What happened?

By those actions, you got deliberative thinking out of the way, so the voice of your Hidden Brain could bubble to the surface and be heard - so it could tell you the proper balance among all those competing, but valuable factors. And how did it feel when the path forward became clear?

Once you have avoided the Inevitability Trap, in which deliberative thought only rationalizes, justifies, and defends the one possible outcome as the only outcome possible, and once your deliberative thought has landed you in paralysis by analysis, the key is to recognize that the path forward to your proper choice lies in the Hidden Brain.

The action to take is to set deliberative thought aside; it has done its job, which is to inform the Hidden Brain about factors not considered, or not fully explored. Trust that your Hidden Brain will deliver….if you let it.

Then ‘The World As I Want It To Be' has moved close enough to ‘The World As It Is,’

and the path forward, the next step to take, comes clear. And it feels good.

But don’t expect this to just magically start happening. You will have to prove to your mind this is so. It will take practice, because practice makes………..better.

So try this-

next time you find yourself peering at your to do list,

stuck because it’s not clear which you should do next,

take advantage of the opportunity.

Pause, let the thought about that next step bubble to the surface.

See what pops into your mind, and do it.

Later in the day, pause and reflect- how did that go?

This is how you come to learn trust in your Hidden Brain. In this way, the next time you struggle with paralysis by analysis, you’ll know exactly the proper tool to reach for to get to the proper next step.


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