When a person acts
without knowledge of what
s/he thinks, feels, needs or wants,
s/he does not yet have the option
of choosing to act differently.
~ Clark Moustakas
Choice is available to each of us in every moment. Yet the caveat is that this requires a high degree of awareness (and often courage)! Everyone has learned, through a combination of nature and nurture, ways of habitually responding and acting. The neural pathways that have developed in our brains throughout our lives determine how we see, experience and respond to events and people.
Many people live as though in a trance, living an unexamined life, going through the motions and reacting in a proscribed way to life as it comes their way. That is an extreme of course, but most of us fall somewhere on the continuum of reactivity and choice.
I believe this is why mindfulness has become so popular recently. Even Western medical doctors are now extolling the benefits of meditation and mindfulness as a stress reducer. And how does it reduce stress? By helping people who practice meditation/mindfulness to become more aware of what is going on in their minds and body ( sensations as well as feelings) moment to moment. This awareness is a first step, a precursor, to choice.
Meditation and therapy greatly enhance each other: they both help build a moment-to moment awareness and encourage an exploration of the obstacles to choice in life.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley