The Third Option
There is always a solution.
One of my primary jobs as a therapist and spiritual counselor is to be that objective person who can see what I call the “third option”.
What is the third option?
The third option is that other possibility for moving through a tough situation. Perhaps there are several “third options”, but when we are feeling stuck, we tend to see our situation in rigid, black or white terms. For example, someone who feels stuck in his or her career may only be able to see two limiting options: “Stay here and suffer, but at least I’m getting paid,” or, “Quit my job and be unemployed because the economy is so bad.” This is a good time to look for those third options!
Why is the third option so hard to see?
In the above example, you may be able to quickly see that there are certainly other possibilities than those mentioned. But, when we are in the middle of our own stuck place, it can be hard to see third options! Our own circumstances trigger our emotions, which keep us from being able to see other possibilities. Can you guess which emotion is most prominent in our example above? You are correct if you guessed fear. Fear is one of the biggest blind spots we have as human beings. It keeps us from seeing beyond the two walls that feel like they are caving in on us! Fortunately, our fears are seldom accurate; so having an objective viewpoint can help us see other choices that are there, closer than we may perceive.
A close second to fear in why we’re sometimes not able to see the third option is that often they are wrapped up in things we may not want to do—and those might just be the action steps that would support us the most! Let’s face it: Our problems are here to stretch us, and stretching pulls us beyond our current state of flexibility…and comfort. That means that 99.9% of the time, we will have to do something we’d rather not. The plus side is that it often feels great to do just that!
How can we learn to open ourselves to the third option?
When we find ourselves feeling stuck, the first thing we must do is to recognize the potential (and need!) for growth. This will help relieve the worry and fear, and allow us to take a step back from the situation and see the bigger picture.
Next, brainstorm possible solutions. Remember how we learned to brainstorm in elementary school? Everything goes! Write down all those potential solutions, even and especially the silly ones! Have fun trying to think of ways to resolve the situation. Make sure that list includes those options that you think you would never do. You might just come up with something you would do after all!
Try asking yourself these questions:
There is always a solution, and we can find it when we step back and look at the bigger picture!
Lynn Barrette, LCSW Blending psychology with spirituality, I offer tools for forgiveness, acceptance, meditation and relaxation, and positive parenting solutions.