Jailed by the Illusion of Choice
One of the most pervasive attachments human beings have is to the illusion that they have a choice in anything. Yes I know it pushes all kinds of buttons regarding free will and determinism to bring this up and yet, I perceive it’s useful to present the following.
Choice…is an addiction to ego.
Now at this moment you can continue reading this article from the seemingness of “it’s my choice to quit or not quit” and yet I would assert that you have no choice in the matter. You will either stop reading because you sense it clashes with what you believe and the need to preserve that belief will direct you to the supposed ‘choice’ of stopping.
Or you will continue reading directed by any number of different forces contingent on your programming, i.e. “I’m curious” which would drive reading further, or “I want to see what he’s asserting so I can debate it” – another ego directed quasi choice. You simply feel compelled/called/drawn to reading it. In any case, you probably have no idea what forces are working within or on you that have you read it. You might even perceive that it’s your path to read it and continue.
We are never actually “choosing” anything…leaving aside some cosmological, metaphysical influence…we are always the composite product of input from the world around us.
Here’s how it works. When we’re born we become the recipients of varying forms of input for the rest of our lives. You don’t “choose” what you take in; you absorb it like a sponge. It’s those events, values, needs, beliefs, residues that are influencing everything we call choice in a given moment. Every bit of information we take in, every book we read, movie watched, song heard, every person we listen to, leaves an imprint. If we investigate deeply enough we can find a connection to something or someone who has had input to us in the past.
What appears to be choice is simply the synthesis of input coalescing into a particular moment’s directive that looks like choice. We may feel the need to perpetuate the illusion in order to stay sane but it’s an illusion nevertheless. It’s only the ego that needs to keep thinking, “I’m in charge and I show it and know it by the ‘choices’ I make/don’t make.”
The illusion of choice puts us at the mercy of many feelings we neither need to experience nor often desire. Thinking one has a choice leads to things like:
- Self recrimination, “I made bad choices” (note to self – do personal beat down at earliest opportunity)
- Ego gratification, “I made great choices” (note to self – do personal high five, chest bump or Rumplestiltskin dance of triumph)
- Frustration and disappointment, “I chose all the ‘right’ moves, so why didn’t it go the way I wanted it to go” (note to self – decry the gods or others for not making my life easier and throw tantrum)
- Blame and judgment, “It’s all your fault for the stupid choices you made” (note to self – hold onto grudge and power gained from blaming others for as long as possible)
Being addicted to needing to feel like we have a choice equals having no choice because any time it vaguely looks like our ‘choice’ is taken away or not present at all, we are at the mercy of our reactivity, which means we are puppets to having to have choice.
Yup, like it or not, we’re reacting, responding machines grounded in whatever input we have or haven’t received and then fulfilled by the neuron-directed impulses in our brain. What looks like a choice is merely the natural behavior that flows from the construct that we have inadvertently put together.
But don’t just believe me, try this experiment. Look at something you believe is a choice you made. Then see if you can track back the incidents, experiences, information, etc. that might have influenced you make that choice in the situation vs. another. You may be surprised to see that when you follow the linkage, it tracks back to many other things that informed the moment. Most of the influences behind our choices are invisible to us. In fact, we like it to be that way in order to feel like we are making a choice.
The ego is so addicted to thinking it’s driving the bus that we have a difficult time considering that we’re not in charge in any way. We hate the fact we may simply be playing out the mandates of our programming and conditioning.
And this doesn’t include considering that there may be a ‘higher power’ or the quantum condition of entanglement, directing the whole thing in the background, which is another conversation entirely.
Don’t worry, you still have the choice to believe me or not, if that is what you need to think.