“I have a hard time making decisions and knowing what I want, and I easily get confused and overwhelmed. It’s a big problem—especially at work and with my husband.”
When a client (let’s call her Anna) said this to me in her first session, I thought we’d work on her issues about making decisions. But I got an intuitive feeling that something deeper was going on, so instead I asked her to do an exercise.
Me: I’m going to say an incomplete statement, and I want you to fill in the ending with whatever pops into your head—no editing. Here we go: When I was a child, I had to be confused, because if I wasn’t…
Anna: I’d get in trouble.
Me: And I’d get in trouble because…
Anna: I’d be too powerful.
Me: And I’d be too powerful because…
Anna: I saw what was really going on.
She looked at me, wide-eyed. And then she told me about her volatile, alcoholic father and meek, enabling mother. Her dad’s moods ruled their home, and everyone tiptoed around him, trying to keep the peace.
As a young girl, it was obvious to her how unfair and unhealthy it was, and she desperately wanted to say something. Yet she knew if she spoke up, her father would fly into a rage—she’d feel unsafe and get in trouble, and her mother and siblings might be attacked, too.
Her clarity, power, desire to speak the truth, and knowing what she wanted were dangerous to her. And so her subconscious created a confusion pattern to protect her.
Because if you are confused, you can’t rock the boat.
So being confused and not knowing what I want can be protection patterns?
Yes. When you are clear, you are powerful. When you are confused, overwhelmed, or indecisive, you are scattered and it is hard to move forward. If you’ve had experiences where it wasn’t okay to be perceptive and speak your mind, your subconscious may have adopted patterns of confusion and self-doubt to keep you safe.
Think of it like the difference between a standard light bulb and a laser.
The light from a laser can travel forever, because the light protons are the same frequency, are emitted from the laser in a unified order, and don’t spread out while traveling. They are aligned and powerful.
The light from a standard bulb is the exact opposite: the photons are different frequencies, they aren’t focused, and they quickly scatter and become diffused.
Children are born like lasers. Ask any parent—an infant knows what he or she wants and needs, and strongly (and often loudly!) expresses those desires.
What causes people to stop being lasers?
Anna was the first of many clients Jana and I have helped to discover this pattern and then reclaim their calm, self-assured confidence.
Many of those clients didn't grow up in emotionally abusive families, or have other obvious reasons for suppressing themselves, and yet they still had confusion patterns. Why?
Whenever you have an emotionally painful experience, your subconscious creates beliefs to try to protect you from feeling those negative emotions in the future. So even if an incident wasn't as intensely unsafe as Anna’s, your mind may still have formed beliefs to keep you from knowing and expressing what you want.
Here are some other reasons why someone might take on a confusion pattern:
- Feeling unheard or unimportant at home or school.
- Being criticized, laughed at, or constantly corrected when they made mistakes.
- Feeling too smart or different from their classmates.
- Being discouraged or forbidden to pursue careers that fulfill them.
- Working at a job that dismisses employees’ creative ideas, suggestions, or concerns.
- A controlling husband or wife (or boyfriend/girlfriend) who invalidates their feelings and needs.
But I only have this issue in one area— I usually feel confident in the rest of my life.
This often happens. Your mind forms beliefs about specific experiences, and the confusion pattern takes charge only when you are in a similar situation.
- A CEO who successfully ran a large company, but buried her wants and needs when she was with her husband.
- A happily married man who felt stuck in a dead-end job. We discovered he was suppressing a desire to create a new business, because he was afraid his success might make his brothers jealous.
- A working actress who often cancelled plans with friends because she'd feel sick shortly before they'd go out. Deep down, she no longer shared her friends' interests and values, but couldn’t admit to herself that she needed to move on.
- A woman in her fifties who ran a couple of volunteer organizations—she could easily manage big groups of people and put on impressive gala events, but couldn't figure out what she wanted to be "when she grew up."
How do I get stop being confused and overwhelmed?
First, acknowledge that you may have beliefs that are blocking your clarity.
If you keep defining yourself as scattered and unable to make decisions, you won’t be able to discover what you are suppressing.
Like with Anna, if I’d focused on helping her make better decisions, we wouldn’t have discovered the deep-seated beliefs that were driving her patterns.
She thought she was inherently scattered and indecisive. It was essential she realize that she’d buried her power, astuteness, and strong wants and desires—AND that these true parts of herself were still inside her.
Once she recognized this, I could work with her to release the beliefs from her past that were restricting her, so she could reclaim her true voice, power, and confidence.
Stop saying you are confused and don't know what you want.
When you talk about your overwhelm or lack of clarity like they are facts, you are literally instructing your brain NOT to figure things out.
Instead, try saying things to yourself like:
- I'm allowing myself time to slow down, ground myself, and figure out what I need right now.
- What if it's possible that it's okay for me to express what I want, even if other people want something different?
- I'm learning how to be clearer and more organized.