Once upon a time, there was a monkey. He was sitting on a banana tree. The bananas hanging to his left and his right looked both so yummy that he could not decide which one to grab. After two days, the monkey fell from the tree. Dead. A tragic death by starvation.
I will admit that I made this up. Here is an example that I read about in a newspaper today:
A wife called the police on her husband. He was driving drunk. When the police caught him, his blood alcohol was over 1.0 mg/ml. The husband is in trouble now.
The first thought that might cross our minds could be: “How could she”?
Well, we don't know the whole story and how many times she tried to influence him to change. The 6-year-old daughter was in the car, and that was the last straw that broke the camel's back.
I am sure the decision to call the police was not easy on the woman. It was a classic Catch 22.
A dilemma is a situation where you have to decide for one of two options, of which both seem to lead to undesired results.
No matter which way I go, I will not get what I want.
A classic example from Paul Wathlawich:
A mother gifts two ties to her son. No matter which one he wears first, the mother will ask: “Why did you not chose the other one first?”
Typically, we get into dilemmas through other people, within relationships. Catch 22 situations can be found in all walks of life. Often we feel that we are forced to decide regarding a meaningful situation or important need. Or in other words: We feel that the decision has existential consequences so that it is not easy for us to let go of either option.
When people are in a dilemma, they often alternate between
If you are faced with a dilemma too often, it can lower your self-esteem. You might question and doubt yourself faster and faster. Naturally, the fear of failure will increase.
The worst thing about a dilemma is that attempts to get out of it are taking place in the problem loop. As if the tires of your car got stuck, and you try to hit the gas, change the gear, but whatever you try—the car is just sinking in deeper.
Catch 22 situations rarely go away by sitting them out. It will be on your mind until you decide. A dilemma is an energy thief. The sooner you decide, the better for you.
It's in the nature of a dilemma that there is no ideal solution.