Staying With the The Devil You Know

The Monty Hall problem is a famous puzzle in mathematics. In this dilemma, a contestant on a gameshow is attempting to correctly choose the one door out of of three that hides a prize. The contestant selects door and does not open it. The host then opens door three, revealing that there is no prize. The player is then given the option to stick with their initial choice or switch to the second door.

Most people intuitively feel that remaining with the initial choice of door one is advantageous or that the contestant now has an equal chance with either door one or two. Mathematically, however, the player has a better opportunity of winning (67% chance) if they change their selection.

When this solution was first published, the outcry was enormous, well beyond what would be expected for a math-related article. So why were people so resistant to the idea of letting go and taking their chances on something new?

Once people make a decision or arrive at a solution, they take on a sense of ownership of that idea. And once they possess it, they become wary of letting it go. In a sense, releasing the choice becomes a loss. And we often act to avoid loss.

The first choice for the contestant is knee-jerk. At that point, all of the doors have an equal chance of containing the prize. But once the second choice is offered, the situation has changed. Inaction is tempting both because it needs no overcoming of inertia and accepting a loss due to a failure to act is easier than accepting a loss that arises directly from an action.

And then of course, there’s ego that has a difficult time admitting that maybe the first choice wasn’t the right pick after all.

And all of this simply to avoid leaving behind a door that may not even contain a prize.

We face a version of this dilemma in life. Except then, we know what is behind the door. And yet sometimes we struggle to choose another option even when we know that what lies behind the door we picked is certainly no prize.

I think we’ve all chosen the devil we know at times. Maybe you stayed in a job too long that wasn’t a good fit. Perhaps you tolerated an abusive situation after the pattern became clear. Or possibly you have clung to a self-narrative long past its expiration date.

We justify our decision to stay with the status quo –

“At least I know what to expect.”

“I know how to navigate this situation and I don’t now how to do the other.”

“Maybe this is the best I can do.”

“I still have hope that this situation can change.”

It;s scary to leave what you know. It’s hard to admit that maybe your first choice wasn’t such a good one. It’s so hard to let go of one selection when you don’t yet know where the other will lead.

But if you know that the door you chose isn’t right for you, maybe it’s time to select another. After all, that one might just hide the prize you’ve been looking for.

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7 Subtle Signs You Have a Backseat Driver in Your Life

For a long time (okay, even now), when my now-husband would vocalize his opinion about something that he thought would be good for me, I recoiled. It felt almost invasive.

Smothering.

Controlling.

Not because of what he was saying, but because of what I have been through.

My now-husband is direct, expressing his thoughts and feelings overtly and directly (a trait I very consciously looked for the second time around). Sometime I chafe, but I love the fact that it’s all on the table. And even though it’s not always comfortable, I love that he challenges me to defend my decisions and actions because it serves to help make me better.

My former husband was covert, passive aggressive and manipulative in his approach. Unflinchingly supportive on the surface of any thought or action I undertook, while silently steering me in the direction he wanted. He never questioned me, never told me what to do (except to relax while he tackled some chore on his own). His control was subtle, which is exactly why it was so powerful. My defenses were never triggered until it was too late.

The following strategies are commonly used by people who are passively controlling. Those who, rather than overtly take over the wheel of your life, cunningly influence how you turn the wheel. All of these signs can have multiple meanings; on their own they do not indicate control. But when more than one show up along with a sense that boundaries are being crossed, it warrants a closer look.

The tears may be real, but the emotion is not. This trick is learned in infancy, as babies realize how tears can halt punishment and bring attention. Some never abandon this trick and persist in using tears to manipulate those around them. Look out for waterworks that only come when something is desired and seem to halt as soon as the goal is obtained.

Affection and attention are doled out as a distraction and a pacifier. This was my ex’s favored ploy. It sounds crazy to complain about an attentive husband, but when I look back, the affection was increasingly used whenever I came dangerously close to the truth. His great big bear hugs felt protective at the time, now they seem more like a martial arts-style submission.

Decisions are held back. Waiting to make and/or communicate a choice is a particularly crazy-making form of covert control. Everybody else is held in limbo, their own lives and decisions delayed. Doing nothing can carry with a great deal of power when others are depending upon you.

Money is used as a mode of communication. Sometimes finances are used in overt control, such as when one spouse makes all of the financial decisions and doles out an allowance to the other. But it can also be more indirect, such as when purchases are kept hidden or the partner with the higher income feels entitled to make decisions for everyone.

Judgement is passed. This can be direct, “You look like you’re trying too hard when you wear that skirt,” or indirect, pronouncing something unacceptable in someone else. My ex took it a step further and frequently renounced choices and behaviors in others that he was guilty of himself.

The favors and gifts are given with some sort of reciprocity in mind. The stereotypical idea of a wife using sex to get her husband to do things comes to mind here, but it’s by no means the only modality used. Handouts can be used with great efficacy to shape behaviors. After all, there’s a reason we train animals that way.

They accuse you of being controlling. Projection and gaslighting at its finest.

 

In a healthy relationship, each partner challenges theother and accepts influence from the other. It flows both ways, balanced.

When there is controlling behavior present, the interange is not equal. One holds more power than the other.

And when there is a backseat driver, a more passive controller, this inbalance can be difficult to pinpoint.

Control thrives when you’re too close too it, too afraid to see it and unwilling to erect and maintain boundaries.

Take a step back, trust in yourself and practice making decisons by yourself and for yourself.

 

Related:

I Hate Mums

I Reject Your Reality and Substitute My Own

Subtle Signs You’re Being Manipulated By a Covert Abuser

The Misuse Of Affection

Why Do We Fall in Love With People That Are Bad For Us?

Have you ever fallen for someone that turned out to be bad for you? Who left you worse off than you were before? Who perhaps used you or abused you?

My hand is sure is sure raised.

And I know I’m not alone in this.

So why is it that we fall so easily for those who treat us badly? And what can we do to keep it from happening again? Learn more here.

10 Reasons Being Gaslighted Is the Worst

There’s a reason governments utilize psychological torture techniques on suspected terrorists.

It works.

It’s a way of controlling somebody discretely. Without obvious threats or harm. Simply by controlling their reality and steering their perceptions. Planting seeds of doubt and carefully nurturing them until a dependence upon the manipulator is created.

And you don’t have to be a prisoner suspected of treason to face this torture.

It can happen in your own home.

In your own marriage.

Only there, it’s not called torture (although maybe it should be).

It’s called gaslighting.

And here’s the top ten reasons why it’s the worst-

10 Your Protector Becomes Your Persecutor

It’s horrifying when you realize that the person you love, you trust, has been slowly and intentionally lying and manipulating you. It’s like that nightmare you had when you were 5 where Santa Claus suddenly turned into a monster. Only this monster is real and you shared a bed with them.

9 It’s Invisible While It’s Happening

The whole point of gaslighting is to control somebody and distract them from what is really going on. As a result, it’s very difficult to identify when you’re in it. Generally, all you recognize is a sense that something is off and perhaps a sense of generalized anxiety. In some ways I’m glad I never spent time in a “bad” marriage. But then again, it’s scary to only realize after the fact that I was in one.

8 Your Memories Are Tarnished

I have 16 years of good memories with my first husband. And at least part of that history is false. But I have no idea what parts. So it’s all damaged. Ugly water stains on beautiful wedding photos. Was any of it real? I’ll never know.

7 It Doesn’t End When the Relationship Does

Some of this is by design. Often the abuser defames your character to others, leaving you in the position of either trying to convince them of a new truth or cut them out. But even without the character assassination, gaslighting persists. It’s in you, an unwanted tattoo imprinted upon your doubting brain.

6 Impact Is Hard to Recognize Until It Builds

The flood of feelings that led to my emotional hangover the other day was building for some time. But I couldn’t see it. It becomes very difficult to separate the implanted thoughts from your own. And sometimes the false ones take the lead for a time.

5 It’s Difficult to Explain to Others

Because until you’ve been there, you don’t believe that somebody can really have that much influence over your thoughts. Like much abuse, gaslighting starts slowly, ramping up the distortions until your reality is altered. And when you try to explain it, you either get judged or dismissed.

Subtle Signs You’re Being Manipulated By a Covert Abuser

Covert abuse is sneaky.

It doesn’t leave a bruise on your cheek.

Or cut you down with scathing words.

Or even obviously isolate you from others.

Instead, it wisps in slowly through tiny cracks. Velvet-trimmed lies whispered into trusting ears. The smoke builds until you no longer remember what it is like to see clearly and your head is filled more with the thoughts of your abuser than with your own.

It’s often only possible to identify covert abuse once you have escaped its clutches (and even then, it usually takes a period of months or years to fully grasp what happened). It’s like a domestic form of Stockholm Syndrome, the persecutor masquerading as a protector.

The following are the subtle signs that were present in my ex husband. Small dots of data that when connected, paint a crimson flag of warning. If you see a preponderance of similar signs in your relationship, it warrants further investigation. If you recognize these traits in your former relationship, it can give you some information that can aid in the healing process.

These signs are subtle and can have many causes and manifestations. Just because someone fits these descriptors, it does not mean they are covert abusers or narcissists. But it does mean that you should look twice. Especially before you leap into marriage with them.

Continue to read the rest.