Doug and Lynn Nodland

Doug and Lynn Nodland

What difficult decisions are you trying to make? Maybe you go back and forth trying to decide what’s best for you.

If you use the regular decision-making tools, you identify your alternative choices, make a list of pros and cons and then take action on what seems to be the best choice. So what stops us then? It isn’t always as easy as it seems. Today, we’ll look at fear, what ‘gaslighting’ is, and how they both can make decision-making more difficult.

Fear can impact decision-making by showing up in different ways. If we have decisions where there will likely be a good result from either decision, that seems like a wonderful choice. However, people can still get trapped by a fear of missing out by not making the “perfect” decision. Jim Camp said, “Unnecessary fear of a bad decision is a major stumbling block to good decisions.”

For example, they may be trying to decide where to go on a family vacation so that they have a great time. If they don’t make the best choice, the others could be disappointed or even angry. Of course, one way to eliminate this problem is to ask others to be part of making the decision. Then at least others can’t complain if the vacation ends up to be a bummer.

Another situation where fear impacts decision-making is when a decision must be made between two situations where both could have negative results. This is a very difficult decision because there seems to be no good alternative. This ends up to be a forced choice between the decision that is dreaded or feared the least.

Here’s an example of this “between a rock and a hard place” decision. People who are facing an imminent hurricane have to decide to board up, stay at home and “weather the storm,” or pack up to evacuate and not know how that will work out. Hopefully, people can make this decision with a clear head.

There is something that makes decision-making even more difficult when they don’t have a clear head and that’s the fear that results from ‘gaslighting.’ Gaslighting leaves people questioning reality. Think how difficult it is to make good decisions when reality is not clear. We see it in relationships, organizations and politics. This formerly obscure term became more popular when, in 2017, the American Dialect Society gave “gaslight” the title of Most Useful/Likely to Succeed word.

Actually "Gaslight" was the title of a 1938 play, by Patrick Hamilton. It was also made into a popular movie by the same name in 1944 that was directed by George Cukor. The movie featured a host of great talent including Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotton and Angela Lansbury. The plot sounds psychologically scary.

In the story, the husband tries to drive his wife crazy so he can have her put in an institution and, therefore, gain her inheritance. He does this by turning the gaslights up and down in their home. When she notices the gaslights flickering, he tells her that she is just imagining it. Sounds like an oldie but goodie movie. We’ll have to check this one out.

So what does it mean to “gaslight” someone? Ramani Durvasula, author of "Should I Stay or Should I Go?: Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist," gives this explanation, “Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse that involves denying a person’s experience and making statements such as ‘That never happened,’ ‘You’re too sensitive,' or ‘This isn’t that big a deal.’” Notice how in the movie, the husband denied reality to make his wife doubt herself.

Gaslighting is used to cause confusion and doubts about what is real. It can happen when a person or organization seems so caring at times and then at other times, is downright cruel. They will “love-bomb” their victims and then turn around and be horribly manipulative. Tracy Malone said, "Gaslighting is confusing because they switch to intermittent concern.” In the movie, the husband would sometimes be loving, while he also planned his wife’s demise.

What about you? Don’t let fear stop you from making decisions. But remember that gaslighting can show up in personal relationships, organizations and politics. It’s easy to get drawn into the “attractive” parts of the interaction, while your gut is telling you something is not right. If you experience fear or gaslighting, trust yourself and get others to support you to recognize reality. Then you’ll struggle less and be able to make good choices when faced with difficult decisions.

Chanhassen residents Doug and Lynn Nodland are success coaches and owners of The Balance Center. Doug and Lynn can be contacted at More information and videos at