Dilemmas usually defined as when you have to decide between two impossible choices.  Mine are almost always between “I can’t do this” and “I must do this.”

Some options:

  • Avoid the situation (and thus cognitive dissonance related to it), but incur a heavy personal cost of lost or damaged trust and relationships.  Ghosting.
  • Tell the people involved that you’re out of the situation (using a plausible excuse or no excuse).  More difficult in stress and confrontation, but cheaper in relationship costs:  at least you told someone.
  • Tell everyone involved about the dilemma you’re in, being honest about it; this has variable costs.  Sometimes this costs more than ghosting, because this is where bridges get well and truly burned.  “I love you but I can’t stay because you’re a fucking racist.”  Sometimes it’s better to “grow apart.”
  • Try to force yourself into compliance through the can’t-do aspects, honoring only the must-do.  Variable costs:  sometimes resistance is just stupid ego stuff (“But I don’t waaaaant to try sushi!  It’s raw fish!”) and sometimes it’s preventing you from destroying your personality, a la Get Out.
  • Try to renegotiate the situation openly.  “I have claustrophobia and can’t deal with elevators; can we meet somewhere else other than the top of the Empire State Building?”
  • Subvert/ignore the requirements (a.k.a. cheating).
  • Go around/redefine the requirements.  “I know we’re supposed to be on a diet tonight, but I won a free coupon for pizza off the radio today and…”
  • Break the can’t-do, must-do area into its smallest possible issue, the crux of the problem, stripping off as many assumptions as possible, to see if it’s really a can’t-do/must do situation.

This last one works surprisingly well, when I can find the discipline to do it.  Jumping to conclusions happens more often than I think:  often a dilemma is just anxiety in rationalized clothing.

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