Approximately three years ago I posted the following on Facebook:
“While working with teens, I had a quote on a cork board that read “The Universal Paradox: You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices”. I referred to this quote often and used it as a therapy tool in order to get my clients to take responsibility for their choices. When a client came in with a broken heart, a drug test that was positive or a suspension in school for fighting, I referred them back to the quote and processed their choice and its’ consequence(s). I also used the quote to help process possible future choices such as getting into a fight with a rival gang member, having unprotected sex or bringing drugs to school.
As part of the conversation I discussed freedom to make choices. Many clients framed this in spiritual terms (such as God gave Adam and Eve free will) or political terms (the Constitution provides me freedom to make any choice I want). I also discussed the concept of consequences (the outcomes of the choice) and how consequences can be both good and bad. Introducing the concept, it was often difficult for my clients to make the connection between their choices and the consequences. This conversation also included the idea that even if you make a “good” choice, there are possible bad consequences that you might not have control over (e.g.falling in love and getting your heart broken, loaning money to a friend who later does not pay it back).
Beginning the discussion, clients often assumed that their choice should be without consequence(s) or that the consequence(s) were the result of a parent/significant other/probation officer,God, universe etc. being unjust. For those who had horrible things happen to them as children, we discussed the fact that their choices were limited/nonexistent, but they could choose how to react to the past, and that reaction in itself would have consequences.
For those clients that were able to grasp this concept there was often a notable difference in how they acted and made choices. By no means was using this quote as a therapeutic tool the “magic key”. Many of my clients continued to make what I would consider poor choices.However, when we discussed their choices, they were able to articulate that they had weighed both the good and the bad of the consequences and that in their minds their choice was “worth it”. As a therapist, I counted this as a therapeutic breakthrough, as my goal is to never tell my clients how to live their lives but to give them the tools so that they can make the choices that are best for them (even if I disagree).
Currently, I see a lot of adults in both my professional and personal life that have yet to understand that they are free to choose but that they are not free from the consequences of their choices. When they are then forced to face the consequences of their choices, they act surprise, offended, and often take the victim/life is unjust mentality. Their actions in love, work, and relationships are cyclical and often destructive. They blame the consequences of their choices on everyone and everything else (especially people/situations from the past), except themselves.
That being said, as humans I believe we should try to be as kind to each other as possible. However, I have recently seen several well intentioned friends drawn into the cyclical drama of the aforementioned personality type. If you meet these type of people my advice is to self-preserve and ensure that we are taking care of yourself. Do not let them people draw you into their drama; set boundaries, be healthy and know that just like you (and everyone else), they made choices and have consequences because of those choices (both good and bad).”
As I was pursuing through my timeline, I reread the status and found it to be quite timely. This summer, I made a decision to report a family member to the authorities based on my ethical obligations as a mandatory reporter. The decision to make the report resulted in anger from the particular family member I reported, as well as other family members. I do not feel guilty for reporting and would do it again without a second thought. However, the duty to report reminded me of the freedom of choice that I had to be a social worker, but how I am not free from the consequences of that choice (in this case it meant upsetting my family system). Sometimes decisions are not easy due to the consequences. I am not sure how things will work out with my family member. What I am sure of is whatever the outcome I accept that it was because I made a choice and that there are consequences.
I finished knitting the “Easy goes it” scarf. I am not quite sure what’s next. We’ll see!