Learning what you don't know won't hurt you

My friends and I talked about the researcher’s findings as they related to our brain. Some of the data was daunting. A few of us wondered if recovery was even possible in light of these findings!! Then we added up our sober time. We had hundreds of years of sustained sobriety between us. People do recover. There is hope. Research is great but the healing power of God is amazing!!

The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 The Message

God heals. Are we willing to use our powerful God-tools so that we can fit every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ?

A few truths for early recovery

Living in a city with a large university dedicated (in part) to researching Substance Use Disorder (SUD), provides me wonderful opportunities to learn from the experts. In a recent talk, I heard a guy who researches the “brain on drugs” speak in depth about the nature of SUD and the broken reward center. Now, who is to say whether this particular bit of the brain was broken because we abused our brain with compulsive over-use of a particular substance OR whether our brain was broken before we used and because it was malfunctioning, we ended up with a compulsion we could not control? Researchers study these things and I am grateful for their hard work. Hopefully we will learn more soon.

What we do know this - most people who experiment with substances of various kinds even when they do so with gusto and in excess, do NOT end up with a Substance Use Disorder. This is a puzzler. Did the 90% of “others” not try hard enough? I do not know. Are the 10% or so who do end up with an addiction unlucky? And what about the genetic component? We know these things run in families, what is that all about? Research continues. Many questions in the field remain open for debate. But while we wait, many of us in long term recovery have learned a few things about getting sober.

These are practical truths that I am sure will one day fit into the models of recovery that research supports. Please do not miss my point. Research is awesome. But we also have a world of experience built up over decades from folks who fought the disease and survived. Here are a few practical truths that we can apply TODAY (while we wait for the research to figure other stuff out).

* We have a lot of thoughts that need to be examined for accuracy; many will need to be rejected and replaced with thoughts that are closer to reality. (SUD has a thought-disordered component that responds well to treatment if people stick with the program.)

* Our emotions are all over the place in early recovery. We were SHOCKED to discover that our feelings are real but may not reflect our current situation accurately. (We need support as we navigate recovery because it is hard and we are freaked out.)

* Our impulsivity gets us in trouble. Regardless of what our brain is doing, we all need to figure out a way to slow our roll and reduce impulsivity. (In recovery, we need adult supervision. It is not a good idea to spend time alone with our thoughts and feelings without regular reality checks with supportive mentors.)

I love research AND I love learning from folks who have clean time. Who can you go to today for support in your own journey of transformation?

Over-spiritualizing creates big problems

In my work people often ask me, “How do people get sober?” They are skeptical, curious, hopeless, angry, afraid.

Some even come looking for actual answers. Their question sounds more like, “HOW DO people get sober?” These people want answers. They want action steps. They want solutions.

All the different ways people show up with these questions are fine - no judgment here. But the attitude that they bring into my office impacts my answer because frankly, there are many, many ways to get sober.

One way it does not work is to super spiritual-ize the journey. I learned this years ago when a spouse came in and wanted to know how to fix his wife. He brought his Bible (this NEVER happens) and the following passage:

It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

~ Ephesians 1:11-12 The Message

Then he raged. He spoke of his wife’s issues and her stubborn resistance to treatment. He talked about their place of esteem in the Christian community and how God did NOT want them living “like this”.

“What do you mean exactly by ‘like this’?” I asked. He went on to list all the ways he felt his wife was a disappointment. He felt cheated. He wished for a wife who loved the Lord and submitted to her husband’s authority.

Three days later he was arrested for assault and battery of his wife. A week later she was in treatment. Ten years out she works with abuse and trauma survivors; he is in and out of jail for a nasty habit of trying to beat his subsequent wives into submission with the same fervor he used on his first wife.

I believe in the message of Ephesians 1; I worry when we try to use it to control other people’s decisions. I do not believe that Ephesians 1 is talking about designs for us that give no regard to who we are and how we want to live. This is more of a divine tango than an order to march in lockstep with God. God is relational and intimate. He does NOT beat us into submission. He is not codependent. Dr. Dale Ryan often speaks of God’s patience with us. He talks about how God is not concerned that his work in our lives will extend into the next life. Our cooperation requires that we are honest about ourselves and not hide behind false spirituality. A person who beats their spouse may be spouting the words but they are not living the life. A person struggling with a Substance Use Disorder who admits their problem and seeks help is daring to hope.

Who are you? Are you admitting your stuff or pointing the finger at others?

Wednesday Meditation Moment

It often helps to have words to guide our meditation. Use the Serenity Prayer as a spiritual practice today. Take time to breathe and receive from God at the end of each line.

God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Change? We fear change.

We resist change. I think it is, in large part, because we believe it is harder than we can manage. Change is hard, but we make it feel insurmountable when we expect more of ourselves than the process of recovery actually asks of us. In point of fact, believing the lie that change is too hard is pro-addiction thinking. It is the disease system trying to trick us into believing we cannot do it, so why try?

I suppose this is why I believe that spirituality is such a key ingredient for desperate folks looking for their freedom. In a spiritual program like the 12-Steps, we are NOT asked to do the heavy lifting, we are promised that God will do the hard stuff - and he is eager to do so!

So what is our part? Here is what is being asked of you:

* Believe that God has more power than you do.

* Accept that you do not have enough power or capacity to reason to solve your problems without a higher power.

* Trust that restoration is possible for you.

I’m not going to kid you, this is the first part of the solution. But boy wowser gee whiz - it is a pretty freaking big part with a lot of implications.

Answer the following:

If I believe that God has more power than I have, what changes for me in terms of my relationship with him and my actions on a daily basis?

If I accept that I do not have either the power or the capacity to solve my problems, what changes in the way I deal with my problems?

If I trust that restoration is possible for me, what’s my next right step?

A mind trick that's not a mind trick

Life threatening problems like eating disorders, depression and Substance Use Disorder need solutions that are effective - not gimmicks. It’s a Jedi mind trick to follow George Costanza’s methods for dealing with inconvenient truths - “It’s not a lie if you believe it” - is not a helpful way to live.

It is NOT normal for a 5 foot 7 inch adolescent to weigh 92 pounds; to claim health with these stats is pulling a George Costanza. Although my eating was a problem, it was not THE problem. It was the symptom. My problem was that I was dedicated to believing things that were not true. When we persistently hold onto thoughts and ideas that are not true, we are living in denial.

When the experts sat around and wrote up a definition of addiction, they all agreed that denial is a tell-tale sign that a person is suffering with a Substance Use Disorder. As hard as it is to admit, the issues we are in denial about are obvious to others. It’s like having the measles but denying the rash. Others stare at the rash or avert their eyes; we collude with the disease when we avoid mirrors to avoid noticing the spots. This is not easy work; it takes a long time to untangle beliefs and actions that spring from a place of denial.

Jesus said, “If? There are no ‘ifs’ among believers. Anything can happen.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth than the father cried, “Then I believe. Help me with my doubts!”

Mark 9:23-24 The Message

I love these two verses in scripture. Jesus encourages the dude to believe and not doubt as an invitation. The father responds beautifully. He is not in denial. He is willing to tell Jesus the truth.

“Then I believe!” He cries. But he knows that there is also doubt and he is honest about his condition. “Help me with my doubts!”

By the time I began eating again, my brain was compromised from malnourishment; my heart was damaged; my body was weak. I was not at my best. Neither are you, dear reader. But no one expects you to be at your best right now.

In this process, from a spiritual perspective, what do you think is being asked of you? Tomorrow, we will discuss that - and you might be surprised by what you hear!!

The Costanza School of Theology

George Costanza offers us another perspective on insanity that might be helpful in our pursuit of recovery and faithful living. (Click here to view on Youtube.)

George and Jerry have been having coffee in the diner. Jerry has been dating a girl who he told a ridiculous lie to in order to project a certain image; the woman, a police officer, half-jokingly demands a polygraph. Jerry goes to George, a guy who lies constantly, for advice on beating the polygraph.

George says: “Jerry, remember one thing: it is not a lie if you believe it.”

George was wrong; just because something FEELS true to us does not make it so.

There came a moment in my illness when I, inexplicably, decided to believe that which is true. I didn’t so much know what the truth was, I just knew that I was not living truthfully with myself or others. I was in hiding. I collapsed and in that moment came closer to the truth than I had in a long, long time. I did not realize it at the time but I completed one part of the second step. I was admitting to my insanity and I knew without doubt that I needed help and restoration.

I white knuckled my recovery for a long time. I forced myself to behave differently. I began to eat more and exercise less. I relapsed regularly. My mind was obsessed with food and counting calories in and out. My behavior changed; my weight returned to a more normal range; people stopped asking me why I did not eat dinner because I started showing up for meals. But I was not in recovery.

I had not yet completed my Second Step - which asks me to believe that God is powerful and can restore me. Until I took that step, I was making the same mistake over and over again. I was trusting myself to come up with a solution.

Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

In the meeting rooms they talk about “half measures”; I was half a measure short of a full commitment to restoration. I had exceeded my capacity to save myself.

Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing.

~ 2 Corinthians 1, selected verses, The Message

Fortunately, God works with half-dead people all the time. No problemo.

We struggle to view ourselves accurately

I am in recovery from an eating disorder. Mine took the form of starvation - commonly referred to as anorexia. Back in the day when I suffered from my condition there wasn’t much conversation about such things. Generally speaking, people thought I was self-controlled. Part of the issue was denial. People close to me did not notice (or pretended not to) that I started acting weird. I stopped showing up for dinner; I disappeared when my friends ordered in pizza. I skipped events where food was served. I over-exercised. I got really skinny, which was all the rage in terms of style. Dieting and starving and such were the norm. My grandmother even bought a contraption that was supposed to jiggle off fat. It had a wide belt and when powered up it would shake and shimmy and the user would wrap it around their body and just wait for the fat to melt away. In fairness, I am sure any veiled attempt to bring up and discuss my bizarre change in eating habits was met with resistance. I did not think I needed help; I certainly was not open to feedback. Denial complicates healing.

Denial’s common definition is “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results” (but never getting different results). My denial fit that definition and then some. Scott McBean, Co-Pastor with me at Northstar Community defines denial like this: DENIAL IS AN AGGRESSIVE PURSUIT OF FANTASY LIVING; IT IS A DECISION TO CHASE THE LIE OVER THE TRUTH. I was NOT living in reality. In reality we need nutrients; I despised ripe red juicy apples, rejected chocolate chip cookies, and refused hot, warm bread freshly baked out of my grandmother’s oven. We need to socialize and hang out with our tribe; I stopped returning my friends’ calls. We need rest; I spent my nights doing crunches and running to keep my calories in the deficit column. My heart and mind were broken and I needed rescue.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;

if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Disciples so often get into trouble;

still, God is there every time.

He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;

not even a finger gets broken.

The wicked commit slow suicide;

they waste their lives hating the good.

God pays for each slave’s freedom;

no one who runs to him loses out.

~ Psalm 34:18-22, The Message

How might denial be complicating your life?

Spiritual Blind Spots

In recovery I discovered that there were lots of things about God that people had conveniently forgotten to teach me OR I had failed to hear. It could easily be the latter. My parents were not spiritual people; my grandparents were the only religious influence I had growing up - and it is a lot to ask the church to cram all knowledge a kid needs about God into summer visits. But it was enough. It made me hungry for more.

As an adult, I worked a heavy duty spiritual program. Over the course of years of study I realized that many of my beliefs were off-target. I received the highlight reel of faith in bits and pieces. But much like families of origin - it is really hard to recognize that our families and our faith experiences often leave big gaps in knowledge, much less wisdom. We have a difficult time knowing what we do not know.

This is why it is important to talk through what we have been told, what we perhaps interpreted as truth that we just got confused, and how these beliefs are messing with our abundant living.

Have you ever laid out your beliefs and examined them for accuracy? Have you ever considered that if life and faith are not being wrestled with and confronted and then lived out in real time - maybe it is time to step up our commitment to our spirituality?

Running for my life

In the bible we find an amazing book of poetry that speaks to people living through impossible situations without much support. Early in my recovery I could not read the psalms; they triggered me. I felt irritable, restless and discontent when I read them.

I thought they were a bunch of baloney.

Then one day I was reading about David. My childhood had taught me about David, the giant slayer, but my summer-go-to-grandma’s church Sunday School teachers had definitely skipped over the chapters where King David became an adulterer, a murderer (by proxy), and a pretty unimpressive father. This fuller version of David’s life story completely opened the psalms up to me - since he is attributed with writing many of them. Today I love the psalms. They do not “should” and “ought” me with demands for perfect trust. Today, I read them with more context and a touch of imagination. When I read Psalm 23, I think of David running for his life, chased by his many enemies. I can see his arms pumping, his legs churning, his breath coming in deep and uneven gasps as he cries out, daring to hope but not quite believing, that what he is praying is true. He is disciplining himself to believe in a God who loves him in spite of his world offering little evidence that God does love him OR that he, David, deserves it. Got the picture? Now listen in…

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul...

~ Psalm 23:1-3, NIV

David is a guy who was a “man after God’s own heart” before and after the Bathsheba scandal. When confronted with his sins by Nathan, he confessed and received forgiveness. He did horrible things in his life; he loved God well and true for much of his life also. Complicated. Human. Loved by God.

How about you? Have you the spiritual bandwidth to live with such a complicated reality for David? For yourself? For others?

Evaluating Your Own Decision Making

Today, I’ll put it to you.

What decisions have you been putting off making? Or, what decisions are you currently confronted with?

What values are at stake in this decision?

What do you want to value? How would certain actions add to, or take away from, that value (or set of values)?

Spend some time reflecting on what you want to prioritize in life and how your current options could play into those priorities.

Decisions Create Opportunities

Now, surely most of us have made decisions we knew to be out of accordance with our values. In fact we may even do this on a semi-regular basis. How do we explain this phenomenon according to this way of seeing?

One option is this: What we say we value doesn’t match what we actually value. Let’s be honest, sometimes we’re not honest with ourselves. When this is the case, it’s totally reasonable that we might act on a value different than what we say we value. I might say that I value being close to family more than making more money. If I get offered a job where I make 30% more money (but away from family), and I instantly take it, what am I communicating about what I value? I’m taking that money!!!

The other option is this: We aren’t being intentional enough about putting our practices into action. I’m guessing that we all want to be people who are able to live consistently, to value what we say we value, to prioritize whatever we deem to be “the right things” in life. Our decisions give us that opportunity. Sometimes there are confines, and sometimes the choices are less than ideal. Even in those cases we have the opportunity to choose to value something, even if it isn’t our “ideal.”

Demonstrating Your Values When Times Get Tough

We’re talking about decision-making. Get caught up, it’s too much to summarize.

Yesterday we talked about the fact that there are different levels of priority when it comes to our values. In the decision-making process, it’s a luxury when we can choose between preferences as opposed to choosing between needs. The example we worked through in the first few days dealt with a choice between taking a fictional job in California verses staying in my current job. That’s a decision that I am, theoretically, in control of. There are no external pressures forcing me to either leave or stay. If I leave, I do so freely. If I stay, I do so freely. This is because I have a job and a means of providing for my family either way. I can choose to value warmth and traffic, or I can choose to value stability and proximity to family. Either way, I’m (roughly) in control.

If I lose my job, the confines increase. I’m no longer making a low-stakes choice between two roughly equal, but opposite, outcomes. I need to find a job in a hurry in order to provide for my family. How do I demonstrate my values in such a case as this? What do we do when we have no desirable options? Using yesterday’s example, we can either stay put and be jobless or move to Arkansas, where the only relevant job offer comes from. I do not want to stay put because I value providing for my family and don’t want to lose my house and live on the street. I do not want to move because I value proximity to our extended family.

There’s a few things we can say here. One option is to get creative. Can you sell your home and temporarily move in with parents while you do an extended job search? Possibly. I could even get a less desirable job temporarily while I search. One option is to take the job and move and instantly start looking for jobs closer to the extended family. It’s okay to choose a temporary outcome in order to create the possibility for a long-term choice that matches our values.

The other option is to settle into different values than what we have previously said we prioritized. Let’s say we’re uncomfortable taking a job temporarily because we view that as being unfair to the new employer. Well, we’re choosing to value a certain kind of loyalty. We could also say that moving would be an act of valuing self-sufficiency. That’s not a huge value for me, but I could see why it might be for some. It would also be an act of valuing the immediacy of being able to provide for the family, which takes a great deal of anxiety off the table. In this case, we’d be valuing safety and security.

Each of these outcomes is perfectly acceptable, and values different things. It doesn’t necessarily matter which one we choose but, according to the way we’ve been looking at things, it matters that we know what we’re choosing so that we can live consistent lives.

Prioritizing Your Desires

We’re in the middle of a week-long (so far) series on decision making. Get caught up before reading today.

In the view of decision-making we’ve been presenting, our actions are what indicate our feelings (or our values). So, if I say my highest value is living close to family, for instance, and then move away from family the first chance I get, then I am indicating with my actions what my feelings truly are. In this case, I would be communicating that my highest value is not living close to family but something else altogether.

Now, how does this apply when there are lots of confines around the decision-making process? For instance, I say my highest value in life is staying close to family but I lose my job unexpectedly and have little to no savings, and so I must find a job quickly. Let’s say I can only find a job in Arkansas that allows me to return to work immediately. Am I communicating that I do not value family by leaving to take that job?

I would say no. Here’s why. There are different levels of priority for our values in life. Being able to put food on the table for my immediate family is a higher priority than our proximity to family. I’d rather be able to keep a roof over our heads in Arkansas than live on the streets in Virginia near my family. That means sacrificing some desires that are of a lower-order priority. Issues of survival are always going to take precedence over preferences.

More on this tomorrow.

The Responsibility of Decision Making

If we are free to choose our values, and therefore completely consciously responsible for whatever decision we make, then decision-making is both a skill and a huge responsibility. We’re confronted not just with the decision itself, which is the surface-level part of the process, we’re also confronted with the question of what we’re going to choose to value.

We often assume we already have our values sorted out somewhere inside of us and, with enough soul-searching, we can find them. This is certainly true on one level. We all value things whether we know it or not and often act in accordance with those values without any kind of consideration at all. But, when we’re making a conscious choice to do something (or not do something) we get to choose what we are /going/ to value.

We all have regrets, right? We all have decisions we wish we could go back and re-make. That is, unless we’ve just come to a place of radical acceptance and let that stuff go (which is a good thing). The beauty of this way of looking at things is that we can choose a new set of values to act out of so that we’re not acting out of the values of the things we’ve previously regretted. That is the responsibility. We’re responsible for making decisions in accordance with what we /want/ to value, not just what we think we already value.

I’m going to pause here. All this typing is making me tired.

Taking Radical Ownership Over Our Decisions

We’ve spent the prior four days talking about decision-making, and pushing back on a really common stereotype of the decision-making process. Why, might we ask, are we pushing back on a more conventional understanding of decision-making? (By “more conventional,” I mean, the view that says we way our feelings about the options available to us and choose the stronger feeling.)

To me, it’s a question of taking radical ownership over our decisions. For instance, if decisions are solely the product of determining which feeling is the strongest, have we really owned the outcome, or do we simply get to “blame” our feelings for our choice? If we frame our decisions in terms of what we already value, or desire, or feel, then we’re letting go of the opportunity to choose what we value, desire, and feel. It’s as if our values, desires, or feelings happen to us, rather than being things that we choose (or things that we do).

If I’m trying to decide between starting life afresh in California or staying put, then I want to make sure I’m acting in accordance with my values and desires. What is the best way to do that? To choose, fresh, as if for the first time, my values. For me, in my life, I want to prioritize family above all else, both my family, Brittany’s family, and Norah’s birth family. In order for me to value those family units in the way that I want, then I need to stay nearby. Therefore, I choose to stay nearby. I choose the value (being near family) and, therefore, I choose the outcome of prioritizing that value (not moving to California or any other such place). In so doing, I exercise great freedom.

Choosing Your Values

If we only determine our values through the act of making choices, then how do we make decisions? How is this of any use? Doesn’t this only make things more complicated?

It certainly has that potential, I’ll admit. But, at the same time, I think this could be a useful way of looking at the decision-making process. Here’s what this way of seeing does for us: It gives us freedom. We don’t need to spend hours deliberating and trying to discern the perfect outcome, or the best possible outcome, or the “right” outcome. We can decide which outcome is correct by making a conscious choice to value certain things.

I keep returning to a made up example of having to choose between moving to California verses staying in Virginia. Rather than weighing which outcome I feel strongest about, I give myself permission to choose values. Let’s say I choose to value warm weather. Let’s say I choose to value proximity to the ocean. Let’s say I choose to value being close to friends from graduate school. There are all sorts of things I can choose to value. The reverse is also true. I can choose to value staying close to family, or a lower cost of living, or stability, or staying close to Norah’s birth family.

The point is this: I can choose what to value and I do so by making a decision. This frees us from getting trapped in a cycle of revving up our anxiety trying to determine what we value based on feelings. It’s okay to admit that we may not know what we value. It’s freeing to assume we can choose it.

Decision Creates Our Desires

This is the third day of a series. Get caught up if you need to!

From yesterday: According to Sartre’s way of seeing, I only know how I feel about something once I’ve decided how I’m going to act on it. This means we have great freedom and great responsibility when making decisions.

I often feel paralyzed when I’m trying to search my feelings and determine how important one set of feelings are in comparison to another set of feelings. It would be nice if there was some way to measure them. Now, if Sartre is right, when it comes to making decisions between two opposite outcomes, we have no desires or values until we make the decision. The decision itself is what creates our desires and values.

So, in my example of choosing to take a job in California vs. staying in my current job (totally made up), I do not know what I truly value until after I’ve chosen. If I choose to go to California because I want warm weather year-round, then, at that moment, I have valued it more heavily than staying close to family. But, those values are not determined until I’ve acted.

If this is correct, trying to follow my heart by attempting to discern my values in advance of making a decision is kind of a waste of time, because it is not possible. We only know what we value in retrospect.

I’m trying to go through this slowly, because I know it’s going to seem very unusual.

More to come tomorrow.

Determining the Strength of Desire

We are on day two of a series. Feel free to catch up.

When making decisions, we often try to weigh or compare our feelings about the potential outcomes against each other. The desires that seem strongest will dictate our path…right? Isn’t that how it works? You weigh the two outcomes and follow your heart. What could be wrong with that?

Well, there isn’t anything necessarily wrong with it. But let’s say you have a hard time determining what outcome you feel strongest about. The example I gave yesterday was like this: Say I have to choose between taking a job in California or staying in my current position at NSC. On the one hand, I value warm weather. On the other, I value being close to family. Whichever value I feel strongest about will guide me, yes? But let’s say I’m stuck in that process. What do I do?

Consider Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre suggests that our desires and values have no pre-determined weight. Instead, we determine the strength of our desires and values with our actions.

This is a very different way of thinking. It suggests that we cannot simply put our feelings about one choice on one side of a scale and our feelings about the opposite choice on the opposite side of the scale to see which is heavier. Sartre believes that we invent or create our values through freely choosing a certain outcome.

Now, this makes sense to me now that I’ve had some time to digest it. It makes sense because I often don’t know what I feel strongly about in advance. According to Sartre’s way of seeing, I only know how I feel about something once I’ve decided how I’m going to act on it. This means we have great freedom and great responsibility when making decisions.

More tomorrow.

How do you know what you want the most?

We’re going to spend a few days talking about decision-making. Buckle up.

We had a healthy debate in a recent service about the phrase, “Follow your heart.” This is often the advice that we give in a situation where a person is confronted with a difficult decision where a person must choose between two incommensurate outcomes.

For example, say I have to choose between accepting a job in California or staying put. I cannot do both, I have to choose between them. I ask my mother for advice and she tells me, “Follow your heart.”

What would it mean to follow my heart?

Well, I think what people generally mean when they say this is either a. /do the thing you desire most/. In this case, it’s a matter of doing the thing you feel strongest about. It could also be implying b. /the thing you value the most will create the strongest desire/. In other words, let’s say I value warm weather the most, therefore I desire to move to California. That’s a values-based choice that is manifested in my feelings.

The question is, how do you know, in advance, which thing you want the most? How do you prove the strength of desire when making a choice?