Therapy Blog

Is Choice an Illusion?

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Philosophically, choices can present us with a bit of a conundrum: Since we do what we’ve done, was there ever really a choice? Are we truly masters of our own destiny, or are our lives pre-determined somehow?

Some say that choice is an illusion . . . a false sense of control provided by the egoic mind in an attempt to maintain its perceived separateness from everything else—to keep its individuality—it’s sense of ‘self-ness.’ They call it an illusion because whatever happens, IS what happens. We just ‘do’ what we do based on genetics, conditioning, and environment/culture (according to Eckhart Tolle, for example).

But since we do have a brain, there is nothing wrong with using mindfulness to get ourselves closer to the truth. And even if choice is an illusion, there is no reason not to engage that illusion as a tool that guides us deeper into the true nature of things. A map is not the actual street, it just gives you the ‘illusion,’ or a representation, of the true streets . . . but the fact that the map is not the street itself does not render it useless—unless you try to drive on the map.

The ego just prints the map, better yet, it projects it onto the blank screen of our awareness—appears to give you the choices; if you are conscious/awake, then you experience your ‘self’ as an experience of a continually unfolding moment vs as a product of externally based choices.

So you can choose to see choices as an illusion, or you can be less concerned with how to ‘label’ a choice (as an ‘illusion’ etc), and just get on with enjoying whatever you call it.