When we think of others who appear controlling, we might well imagine someone who manipulates and emotionally (psychologically) abuses others, and this may well be the case. However, the truth is we are ALL seeking some level of control, and on a horribly frequent basis! Ask yourself these three questions:
- Are you ever unhappy with the reality of any situation, thoughts, or environment?
- Do you ever judge someone for their words or behaviours?
- Do you ever suffer low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety?
If you answered “no” to all the above, congratulations – you must be dead and no one told you!
The Judge is Sitting
We are always consciously and subconsciously assessing each moment, and each other, judging these periods based on formative and other past experiences – or perceptions. These are our beliefs and markers for that which we deem acceptable, or not.
But what if our beliefs and perceptions are flawed?
We operate outside of consciousness much of the time. You may believe you are in control and know, moment-to-moment, what is happening, why, and how it matters. There are, however, the choices associated with awareness, and what we are faced with. Here’s a passage from The Enchiridion that captures this perspective:
“Of things some are in our power, and others are not… examine it by the rules which you possess, and by this first and chiefly, whether it relates to the things which are in our power or to the things which are not in our power: and if it relates to anything which is not in our power, be ready to say, that it does not concern you.”
Viktor Frankl who endured the horrors of a World War II concentration camp told us nearly the same exact thing in Man’s Search for Meaning: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms— to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Emotions are by design made available to keep us safe, as well as other pointers. But if we learn in our formative years that it isn’t safe or appreciated to express emotions, then we create alternatives. Less optimal mind states of repression and suppression become the way to avoid having to deal with the important messages emotions provide us. Healthy emotions send a message – we become aware and act:
- I’m hungry, I eat, I’m no longer hungry. (That’s honouring an important signal)
- I’m thirsty, I drink, I’m no longer thirsty.
But what if I’m angry and I don’t manage this emotion well?
Anger is a natural emotion, is healthy, and to be expected for us. But what if we modify the trigger for anger? Here is a reasonably simple example of altering the thoughts that lead to negative emotions and subsequent behaviours.
I’m in a queue (any queue) and I’m getting agitated and angry at how long the wait is taking:
- I’ll need to become aware of the emotion and name it! “Feeling Anger“
- Consider why Anger is present? Am I late because I didn’t leave enough time, or am I judging the skill of the checkout assistant and customers behaviour?
- Is an alternative thought available? (It is!)
- As I need what I’m queuing for, can I choose to make the most of the time? I’m not in control and slow my thoughts – making the most of ‘not being able to do anything else’! (Acceptance)
The Dam gets Built and the Pressure Builds
The simple example above may hardly seem to be worth concerning ourselves with, but add this one example to each and every negative emotion we are subjected to each day and the ‘bucket gets full’.
Once the emotional bucket is full, I can expect to be led toward anxiety, depression, intolerance and a loss of resilience for life – and the factors of impermanence that make us aware we are alive.
If you or someone you know needs their emotional bucket emptying, drop me a line or call soon.