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Hamlet’s children

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Yep, that’s us. More and more of us these days. People who are struggling too much, too often, too helplessly with indecision, ambivalence, and over-thinking.

For those of you who were sleeping in class or busy on your phones when his name came up, Hamlet was the title character in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. He was the Prince of Denmark, and he was royally pissed. His uncle had killed his father and married his mother, and now Hamlet wanted to kill his uncle. Families!, right?

Now Hamlet could’ve just gone ahead and killed his uncle (though then we’d have had either a really short play or a long courtroom drama). But no! Modern man that he was, Hamlet was twisted into knots of indecision. Should I kill him now? Or wait? Or not kill him at all? What to do. What to do. After all, Hamlet was the “To be or not to be...” guy. He couldn’t even make up his mind about that! (Though in the end he found the opportunity to do both.)

Now in the play he didn’t have any children, indecisive or otherwise, but here we are, his children nonetheless. Normal heroes? Hey, you kill my pop, I kill you. Stab. Done. There’s nothing to think about!! But we, oh no, we, like Hamlet, agonize over everything.

I was working with a woman yesterday—a smart, talented woman—who was agonizing over whether and in what way to thank a guy who’d said something nice about her in public. There you go!

Our first bestseller, TOO GOOD TO LEAVE, TOO BAD TO STAY, was exactly about this. Guess how it came about? We had these patients, two freakin’ psychiatrists!, who couldn’t decide what to do about their marriage. Now wouldn't you think two shrinks would be really smart and know a lot about people? But they were flailing like a small cat in a large wet paper bag. “Should I go, or should I stay?” over and over.

Or perhaps, should I move to Texas or stay put?

Or, should I keep my job or change jobs...or careers?

Sometimes, it’s not about what I have versus what I don’t have. It’s about which of two things I don’t have.

Should I buy this house or that house?

Should I go to Europe on vacation or to Hawaii?

Should I marry this person or that person?

What all these states of indecision have in common us that

the things we do to try to make a decision don’t work,

and yet we keep doing those things anyway.

We make lists of pros and cons. We scour our hearts for what we feel, for what we really feel, for what we really, really feel. We poll our friends. We lie awake at night wrestling with the issue. We try not to think about it. We do nothing but think about it. We make up our mind and then unmake it.

And we live in that state because it feels like the state of someone trying to make a tough decision. The more we wallow in the quicksand of our indecision, the more we say, “See, isn’t this a really tough decision? You can tell by how much I’m struggling with it!”

Actually, no. There are big decisions with big consequences, sure. But for you and me these so-called tough decisions are only tough because we don’t know how to go about making them. You CAN bust out of indecision and ambivalence and I WILL show you how. Stay tuned for next week’s post.


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