Recently I came across the term 'the illusion of limited choice'. I'd known the concept for some time as with anxiety and worry, as well as more generally in our lives, it's a thinking 'trap' we often unknowingly fall into.

We can become fixed on a limited number of choices, forgetting that there are many, many other choices we could be making.

In fact, I think it was my Dad who first introduced me to the concept when I was buying my first car.

On that day, we went to the car showroom in Barry, South Wales. And it wasn't long before the smooth talking salesman was practicing his well worn pattern on me. And perhaps it was all the newness and a degree of stress over decision making of what can be one of the most expensive things we ever buy (after a house), but soon I was just wondering whether I wanted this car or that one, whether I wanted it with or without air con and the most important decision for any well presented young man (as perhaps I was back then!)....which colour.

And while I contemplated all these very important things in my head, with the happy salesman gleaming before me, my Dad turned to me and said something like, 'of course you don't have to buy it today'.

Limiting Our Choices

With those few words, my choices widened and I decided that actually I wanted to look at a few more cars first.

Sorry Mr Salesman!

And it was again my Dad who reminded me when I was buying double glazed windows. Rather than just negotiating over the price of them, he again said that if I didn't feel comfotable with it or like the deal then I should remember I can walk away.

It doesn't just apply to sales becasue I see it all the time with people with anxiety.

Worst Case Scenario Guaranteed

Anxiety leads us to think the worst - all those worst case scenarios and 'what if?' thoughts inevitably lead us down a stream of anxiety, panic and dread.

Because anxiety drives those thoughts, they become limited to only bad things happening - losing your job, having a panic attack, failing a test, losing your family and so on.

The possibility of something neutral or even positive happening evaporates.

So it's time to start finding the other choices, the shades of grey and what else 'could' happen.

  • Write down all those anxious and negative outcomes you've been thinking could happen.
  • Now, write down some neutral outcomes that could happen (ever felt anxious about something and then it turned out fine? Or that thing you worried about didn't even happen?).
  • Now, write down some ways that could be interpreted as positive outcomes.

Start actively looking for the shades of grey and you will quickly start to dilute those anxiety levels. And remember not to limit your choices unnecessarily.

To your success,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket