In everyday reality we are constantly making choices and faced with conflicting options. In contrast to having-it-all, we need to select one course of action while relinquishing alternatives.
Failing to do so, we advance divided and weaker, glancing sideways, wondering and second guessing. Renunciation is the skill of making a conscious inner decision to let go …
It is natural for us to face conflicting options; to be forced to choose between desires that lead in divergent directions. How then do we best recognise these contradictory issues and decide upon a course of action?
Karen Horney nominates four preconditions:
- we must be aware of what our wishes are, or even more importantly, what our feelings are. Most of us find it difficult to answer simple questions about our real feelings and desires; i.e. we do not know what we really want or feel.
- we need to develop our own set of values, beliefs, guiding principles and convictions. If not merely adopted from others, these beliefs will connect us with our Real Self. Failure to do so and we will drift along the path of least resistance instead of facing a conflict and making a decision one way or the other.
- once we recognise a conflict, we must be willing and able to renounce one of at least two contradicting options. The capacity for clear and conscious renunciation is rare because our feelings and beliefs are muddled – and perhaps in the end we are not secure and happy enough to renounce anything.
- to make a decision presupposes the willingness and capacity to assume responsibility for it. This includes the risk of making a wrong decision and the willingness to bear the consequences without blaming others i.e. being able to feel that “this is my choice, this is my doing.” Taking self-responsibility like this requires levels of inner strength and independence not commonly found.
Karen Horney concludes writing “To experience conflicts knowingly, though it may be distressing, can be a valuable asset. The more we face our own conflicts and seek our own solutions, the more inner freedom and strength we will gain.”
Are you up for a challenge? Where are you feeling conflicted, frustrated, upset, doubtful, guilty or stressed? Can you articulate the conflicts involved in making you feel like this? Can you apply the preconditions above to better understand your situation and options? Are you able to wholeheartedly commit to a course of action – while calmly renouncing the alternatives? Give it a try …
Reference: Karen Horney ‘Our Inner Conflicts’ page 25 – 27.