Failure of the decision-making process

Screen Shot 2016-03-29 at 7.33.42 AM

So, MC and I often take evening walks together. It is a chance for us to talk. Often times we talk about ideas, thoughts, theories, politics, science, news, etc. Often, the topic is “our” topic and looking at some of the underlying factors from a more academic point-of-view.

Recently, MC and I were discussing the “two-wolves within each of us” story and an article from the NIH site, and we saw how these fit together with each other as well as with some pre-existing thoughts and ideas.

Here is what we’ve been tossing around. This was a collaborative process, but since MC is traveling, I posted it. This was just our bouncing ideas back and forth together, but we wondered if others might feel something similar has occurred?

Like the two wolves within us, there are two parts of the decision-making mechanism within us. Henden, Melberg and Rogeberg (2013) explained the decision making process is composed of two phases. The first, phase-one, is based on impulses and acting on those impulses. The second, phase-two, is based on making healthy, rational and sound decisions. Phase-two is actually the control mechanism that helps us resist those impulsive thoughts, ideas and urges (Henden, Melberg and Rogeberg, 2013).

When growing-up MC had the phase-two of that decision-making process done for him by his mother. He resented that and, in turn, resented that part of the decision-making process on many levels. He never fully learned to do it for himself. He even looked to me to do it for him. Funny thing is, I never wanted that job! Regardless, prior to d-day, he surreptitiously went for all the things he told himself he had been wrongly denied in his life. He told himself he was owed those experiences he was “denied.” He chose to let self-pity rule, allowing this perceived injustice to guide and rule his decision-making process. Essentially, seeking the impulsive and not allowing phase-two to regulate and overcome certain phase-one impulses (i.e., those areas where  he felt he was denied and owed something).

Now, he sees it with clarity. He wants to change it and strengthen phase-two of the decision making process into an instinctive, natural and stronger part of himself, that he does for himself. His mother denied him the chance to learn that for himself as a normal child can and should learn to do for themselves. He could use that fact as another point of self-pity, but that helps nothing and only perpetuates that continuation of phase-one dominating (feeding the bad wolf). Instead, just recognizing that fact, understanding the weakness and working on building up and strengthening phase-two (feeding the good wolf) of the decision making process, while not allowing self-pity to have a place at the table, is the goal.


Henden, E., Melberg, H., & Røgeberg, O. (2013). Addiction: Choice or Compulsion? Frontiers in Psychiatry4, 77.

Unknown author. (n.d.) Tale of two wolves. Retrieved from

Wolves image retrieved from


6 thoughts on “Failure of the decision-making process

  1. Another analogy that can be of use is based on the Freudian psychoanalytic theory of personality.
    The “Id”, the pleasure principle, which wants immediate gratification. When not satisfied the result is anxiety.
    The “Ego”, dealing with the reality of daily life as we can not get what we want…:). It can be more complicated but I will just list here that the ego is our capacity to abandon the impulsive ideas of the id, as these are not realistic or better..not acceptable!
    The “Superego”is our moral standard based on upbringing and societal rules.
    Where people go wrong is where they have lost the balance between the three. There will be competition and rebellion. Those with a good balance and ego strength manage to function despite the pull of the temptation, when they know that what they are obsessing over is wrong.

    So, yes…it is ego strength….

    But of course…and no psychoanalyst or therapist for that matter would disagree, upbringing and society influences the development of the superego.

    Take care…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right, The Id, the Ego and the SuperEgo. I can see that too. Our counselor, I should say former counselor now that she has retired, is a big fan of Eric Berne. The analogy also works well with his theories of child, parent and adult. MC is working on staying in adult mode. I do think that his relationship with his Mom set a habit of retreating to child mode when faced with potential conflict. I think the relationship with my Mom was probably in the opposite direction, which may actually explain why my “phase-two” decision making processes were more developed than MCs. I don’t know. I was a psych major in college, though my Masters is not at all related. Still, I find these topics of great interest, not just personally, but academically. As always, thank you for your insightfulness and input Dr. E! TL xx


      1. Thank you TL. Eric Berne, yes, “transactional analysis”: analyzing clients’ social transactions to gain insight. It is very powerful.
        Talking about relationships…You studied psych, so you know…anyone who had different ideas from Freud was either thrown out or ignored by the group of psychoanalysts.
        too bad as personality theory AND social relationships are important in therapy.
        Thanks 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, it is true. And, there are so many seemingly differing issues and views and too many treated as if they conflict, whether it be differing psychological ideas, working-mom/SAHM, divorce/reconcile, or even differing diagnosis and treatments. I think there is so much value out there, and often elements of these ideas can and do overlap, yet we fail to see it because we get so damn entrenched in one idea over another, in one definition over another, in one label over another.

          The Henden et al. article I cited above was actually an article about addiction, compulsion and choice. I was trying to make sense of why I so readily saw my mom’s issues as addiction, but not MC’s issue in that way. When it talked of the two-phases of decision making, it was in terms of chemical addictions getting in the way of phase-two working properly. And, I definitely saw that in my mom.

          As MC and I were talking about this all, first we immediately caught the connection between the good wolf (phase-one) and bad wolf (phase-two) analogy. But, also, it just started clicking with other things MC had written about his childhood, including (a) not being allowed to make choices for himself, (b) not being allowed to regulate his decision-making process for himself, and (c) not being allowed to make mistakes and certainly never learn from them. We had an AHA moment, addiction can certainly be one source of interference with proper phase-two functioning, but what about interference with the development of that part of the decision-making process in the first place. Click, click, click.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thank TL. Very insightful. You are right. There are so many helpful resources and where one falls short, there is another to pick up where the first left us guessing.

            I am interested as well in obsessive and compulsive behaviours and its relationship to addictions and (other) impulsive choices.

            Thanks a lot!

            Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s