What Were You Thinkin’? — Looking Back on Pre-election 2012

Dr. Phil McGraw is a psychologist who became known to us on Oprah Winfrey’s show for his pithy diagnosis of and advice to people with troubled situations in life. Typically, the subject or subjects would explain their situation, answer a couple of his questions, and then hear, “What were you thinkin’?”

Whenever that question is asked – be it Dr. Phil asking it of someone who had sex with his sister-in-law, or we asking ourselves the question after a particularly stupid act – there are a limited number of answers.

1. I wasn’t thinking.
2. I rationalized what I was doing and convinced myself it made sense.
3. I based my decision on emotion or hormones.
4. I was drunk.
5. Could you please repeat the question?

It’s fun to hear Dr. Phil espouse his Texas country wisdom nowadays (as they say in Texas) to folks on his very own TV show.

A comedian (I’m sorry I don’t recall which one) does an impression of something Dr. Phil might say: “Everybody knows you can’t milk a donkey unless you have a bucket.” It makes no sense at all, and yet, it kind-of makes sense when you hear him say it.

The thing I really like about Dr. Phil is that he can be compassionate when it’s called for, but he also confronts people about taking responsibility for their own stupid or misguided actions. A loving mother who “helps” her drug abusing daughter by giving her spending money and a free place to live is likely to get an earful from Phil. Something about a donkey and a bucket.

Making good decisions – devoid of rationalization, alcohol’s influence, or excessive emotion – can be hard work. I’ve made plenty of “What were you thinkin’?” decisions in my life. Some had comic consequences, like the time I thought driving with a 42 ounce soft drink between my legs was a good idea – until I had to hit the brakes hard. Some bad decisions aren’t funny at all, and some haunt me to this day.

Election day is coming up. Sometimes we regret who we vote for, while other times we regret not voting. And, it can be discouraging when your candidates don’t win. The decision to vote is important, as is the commitment to learn more about the candidates than the attack ads tell us.

Who we vote for is a big decision, and it can be subject to rationalization and emotion like any other decision. Getting the right balance of what we think and what we feel can be tough.

We’ve got a couple of weeks left before the big day, and let’s hope we all know what it is that we’re thinkin’ when we make our choices. I sure as heck don’t want to answer to Dr. Phil!

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