How Susan Resolved Her Inner Tug-of-War

Have you ever endured being around a difficult person or recurring situation?  It’s unpleasant. And you’ve been draining your energy big-time.


Then you reach the end of your rope.  You snap.  And instantly decide that you never want to be around that person or in that situation ever again. 

But, what will you actually do? And how will you feel about your choice?

Susan had reached the end of her rope.

Susan had been diligently visiting her husband’s family regularly for many years. She tried hard to reach out and connect with her husband’s relatives.  But despite her best efforts, it was an uphill battle. She felt disheartened that she hadn’t been able to create satisfying relationships with them.

Most of all, Susan felt left out. When she offered to help in the kitchen, she was rebuffed, while other family members were welcomed. She was excluded from some family activities, even when she asked to join in. The family members talked lots about themselves and events from their family’s past, and showed little interest in her or what was happening in her life.

After enduring these visits for many years, Susan still felt like an outsider, and she had reached her breaking point.  She no longer wanted to visit these people.  And, she had other considerations.

It’s Complicated


Even though in her heart of hearts she didn’t want to continue visiting, Susan was struggling with her choice.  She had an internal tug-of-war going on.

Susan didn’t want her relationship difficulties to get in the way of her children’s relationships.  She truly wanted to continue to give her young children the opportunity of having relationships with their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.

How could she possibly honor herself and her feelings while being sensitive to the welfare of her children?  It seemed like a “no-win” situation.

When Susan brought this issue into a session with me, I asked her what was important to her in this situation, what she valued the most. 

Here’s what she valued:
- her emotional well-being            
- her time
- the quality of her relationship with immediate family
- her children’s well-being

Then I asked her which one of these was most important to her right now in this situation. She was crystal clear: her children’s well-being mattered the most.

In that moment, her internal struggle vanished and Susan decided to continue visiting with her children – and find some ways in which she could nourish and support herself during the visits. She felt comfortable and at peace with this choice. This is her boundary – her authentic choice - for now.

Authentic choices become crystal-clear when personal values are examined.

An authentic choice is the one that comes from inside you, and it’s based on what you hold near and dear to your heart. No one else can make this choice for you. It’s yours to make. 

And, it can be easy.

You don’t have to wait until you’ve reached the end of your rope.

Whenever you’re struggling to make a choice, feeling pulled in different directions, here’s what you can do to make your choice crystal-clear. 

1.    Prepare.  Pause. Sit down with pen and paper nearby. Feel your body sitting in the chair, feel how it’s being supported by the chair and the floor. Take your time. Notice what your breathing feels like.  Where do you feel your breath in your body? Take a slightly deeper breath and notice what that feels like in your body. Take your time. 

When you start feeling more relaxed and more in touch with your body, you’re in a place to allow your internal responses to flow more freely.

EXAMPLE:  A friend invited me to go for a walk, on short notice.  We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and I really wanted to see her. And, I had promised myself to finish writing a newsletter that day.  I felt torn.  I wanted to do both, but there wasn’t enough time. So I paused my thinking, felt my body in the chair, took some deep breaths.

 2.    Question.  Gently ask yourself: “What’s important to me in this situation?” As the answers come to you, write them down. These will usually be one-word or short phrase answers. 

These are the things that you value in this situation. You may value privacy, personal safety, respect, quality of relationship, personal time or space, orderliness....or something else. If you find only one value, that’s okay – you can skip to step 4.

EXAMPLE: When I relaxed and considered my “walk or newsletter” decision, here are the things that were important to me: my time, my relationship with my friend, quality time with my friend, getting daily exercise, honoring my commitments, maintaining momentum in my business.

 3.    Discern.  If you have more than one value, pause and take a few more breaths, and ask yourself: “Of all these values, which one is the most important to me right now?”

Avoid over-thinking. If you’re relaxed in your body, the response will usually pop right out.

EXAMPLE:  Of all the things that were important in my walk-or-newsletter decision, honoring my commitments was most important.

 4.    Choose.  Take a few more breaths. With this most important value in mind, what choice would you make right now? 

The choice may be in the form of “I don’t want______.” Or “I want _________.” Or “I intend to ________.” Or “I choose __________.”

EXAMPLE: When I realized that honoring my commitments to myself and my clients was most important, I chose to continue working on the newsletter that day.  I also chose to ask my friend to go for a walk at another time that would work for both of us.

Just like Susan, you can end an internal tug-of-war by following these 4 steps to allow your authentic choice to surface - easily and effortlessly.