A non-choice is also a choice

When growing up I often heard sentences like “But what could I do? I had no choice!” or “There was really nothing I could do, I had no other option!”. For a long time I also practised this kind of thinking and blamed a lot of things that went wrong on this mystical force that had left me without choice.

But having grown out of this mindset with some experience, this expression really irks me. Very often people use this to justify their behaviour and seem to think it’s a free pass to behave however they like because “they couldn’t control the situation” and only acted as “they had to”. It’s also often used wrongly to make it seem like they indeed could do nothing else then what they did. But you know what? A non decision is also a decision. When you choose not to choose, that’s your choice.

You might feel like you have no other option in the situation you are in, but think again. What would happen if you didn’t do whatever you feel forced to do? Would your world shatter? Would someone be angry with you? Would things change into something that you wouldn’t like?

Let me make an example: My mother and I had a falling out a few years ago. She was together this random man who beat her on a daily basis. She often called me, crying because he was so mean (her words) but she also defended him in front of me saying “He only beat me when he mixes alcohol with his psychiatric medications”. Time and time again I chose to try and help and support her and had her leave the relationship many times. They broke up and got together several times.

After a couple of years of this, yeah years, I finally snapped when she called me and said they had gotten back together. I cried and shouted that I couldn’t take it any longer, that I would not stand idly by while she destroyed herself like this. She threw the line in my face “But what can I do? I have no choice!”. Right then and there it clicked for me, she keeps choosing to go back to him because she sees no other way. I made it clear to her, as long as she keeps choosing to go back to him, I have nothing else to say to her. Sadly I haven’t heard from her since, but I’ve been told she have broken up with him several times since.

Did I have a choice? Did she have a choice? Yes, yes on both. I could have chosen to keep taking her calls, do nothing and unconditionally support her every move but I chose not to. She could have chosen to leave that abusive relationship, like she did many times, but then she always chose to go back to him.

So before you go out and say you don’t have any choice, ask yourself this: Where does your feeling of no choice come from? Do you want to preserve something in your life or are you afraid of the consequences from said choice? Either way, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you only have one option. Not choosing is also a choice.

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