“I’m so confused”! Many of the clients I see come to me because they are confused about some aspect of their life. They ask things like: “What should I do?” “Should I stay or should I go?” “Is this person right for me?” These are some of the questions of confusion. Miriam Webster (2014) defines confusion as, “a situation in which people are uncertain about what to do or are unable to understand something clearly. Confusion can happen to anyone about anything, and it brings both challenges and gifts.
So Much to get Confused About!
No one is immune to an attack of confusion. Even Albert Einstein once said, “I used to go away for weeks in a state of confusion” (Wisdom Quotes, 2014). But we don’t like this state at all, and prefer to feel confident and certain about our lives. We like to know who we are, what we want, and where we’re going—at all times. So, what kinds of things create confusion and keep us up at night?
· Career Confusion: This includes confusion about things like the type of career to pursue, changing careers, seeking promotion, resigning, retiring, starting a business, confronting your boss, and many other issues that arise in the workplace.
· Relationships: Relating to others can be very confusing! We wonder if we should end a relationship, start a relationship, confront someone, or express our feelings.
· Life Transitions: These include transitions like marriage, divorce, having kids, being an “empty-nester”, retirement, or caring for aging parents.
· “Existential Angst”: Many people are confused about what it all means. Why are we here? What is our purpose? What will give life meaning?
· Confusion about Self/Identity: This is confusion about who you are, what you like, what’s important to you, what you believe, and who you want to be.
· Too Many Choices/Options: It’s great to have options, but too many choices can leave us confused and stressed.
You can probably add many more items to the list of life situations that create confusion for you. Getting confused is a part of being a human. But instead of seeing your confusion as something you must escape, you can find the messages and lessons in your uncertainty and doubt.
Consequences of Confusion
You may think you are depressed or anxious, when you are really struggling with confusion, uncertainly or doubt. Sometimes confusion is about minor things, and lasts only a few hours or days. But other times, we become confused about the big things, and confusion persists for weeks, months, or even years. This is the kind of confusion that is the most distressing, and even debilitating. Some signs and consequences of confusion include:
· Difficulty concentrating and distractibility. It’s hard to be fully present with other people and activities when you’re feeling confused about something
· Ruminating and obsessing about the situation or person you are confused about
· Trouble sleeping and/or bad dreams: when we sleep, our brain is processing the day, and anything we are trying to figure out—including things we are confused about
· Contradictory thoughts or behaviors—you may feel one way today, and another tomorrow.
· Feeling exhausted because your brain is working overtime trying to resolve your conflict
· Feeling irritable, anxious, or stressed
· Feeling paralyzed about making decisions, or making hasty decisions
Confusion is not a pleasant feeling, but it is rarely a sign of a serious problem. Life is complex, and every day we are bombarded by a variety of options, opinions, choices and decisions to make. It can be overwhelming!
Confusion can be a Gift
Your feelings communicate information to you and to the people around you, and your confusion is trying to tell you something. Like other feelings, confusion has a message and even a gift to share with you. Your lack of clarity can be a sign that you are on the verge of a breakthrough or an insight that will change and improve your life. William Shakespeare said, “Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!” (Wisdom Quotes, 2014). Your state of confusion may be telling you:
· You are off-course in your career or relationship
· Your current situation/relationship is not healthy for you
· You need more time to make a decision
· You need more information—about yourself or the situation
· You have lost track of your authentic self and your innate wisdom about what you think, feel, know, and want
· You are afraid
You may begin to understand what you’re confused about, but clarity about what to do may continue to elude you. You know you are at a crossroad in your career, but what should you do? Your relationship is not going well, but do you stay or do you go? Confusion may hang around for much longer than you’d like, and it may even start to interfere with your daily life. When that happens, it’s time to take some action.
Clearing the Confusion
Confusion often comes with anxiety, insecurity, body tension, whirling and obsessive thoughts, and fatigue. If it persists too long, it can start to interfere with your daily functioning and well-being. There are many things you can do to help yourself move from confusion to clarity.
· Trust yourself: You really do have a wealth of wisdom within you. There is a part of you that knows what’s true and what’s best for you
· Put things in order: Try organizing your closet, your silverware, or your garage. Putting things in order can help you feel calmer and more in control. It can also help settle a chaotic mind.
· Try Mindfulness: Mindfulness is simply the act of paying attention. Confusion can cause you to feel scattered and fragmented, and being mindful can help you feel more peaceful and centered. You can try meditation, or simply taking time to consciously be mindful of things and people around you.
· Get support…but not too much: Talking to people you trust about your confusion can help you get some clarity. But be careful not to get too many ideas and suggestions from others, as this can make you more confused!
· Write in a journal: Writing can really help to explore and clarify your thoughts and feelings. Try “interviewing yourself” in your journal. Ask and answer questions to get clear about feelings, needs, and thoughts.
· Move around: Getting some exercise, especially outside, can help you get out of your own head and clear the fog of confusion.
· Take a break: Do something fun or engaging that allows your mind to take a break from ruminating. It should be something that takes your attention and focus.
· Talk with a professional: If confusion is distracting you from your work and loved ones, disturbing your sleep, or lingering too long, it may be time to get some help. Occasionally, prolonged confusion or worry can be symptoms of a more serious disorder such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) (NIMH, 2014). Talking with a mental health professional can help you get unstuck and regain your bearings, so you can move forward.
No matter what is causing your confusion, you want to resolve it. As you try some of these suggestions, you may find that your confusion clears and answers start to emerge. Trust yourself. As Cicero said, “No one can give you wiser advice than yourself” (Wisdom Quotes, 2014). You have what it takes to sort through your confusion and regain the peace and clarity to move forward in your life.
Merriam Webster. (2014). Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/
National Institute of Mental Health. (2014). Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved May 24, 2014, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/index.shtml
Wisdom Quotes. (2014). Retrieved May 21, 2014, from http://www.wisdomquotes.com/