What can and what can’t you control?
There will always be things in the world that you have absolutely no control over. Just before I went to university I was hit by a car and broke my leg, this is a good example of something I had no control over.
What I did have control over was how I let this affect the way I think, it took me a long time to realise this, a long time which led me down some very dark roads. I have travelled the length of these roads over the last 11 years and now know that we have control over how we let things in our lives impact our emotional wellbeing.
Whatever the outside world throws at you, whether you feel you can or can’t control it, there is always one thing you can control which is your reaction to it.
When we lack control over events it can cause worry and insecurity which can lead to a downward spiral of nervousness and anxiety. Before things happen we can control our thoughts and choose not to cause ourselves worry. In circumstances where we have control all we can ever do is our best to achieve the desired outcome. This is a proactive choice, we can also choose to be passive and let things happen to us.
Equally, when something has happened we have a choice as to how it affects our psyche moving forward.
In both of these areas of control there is a choice, a choice between being a victim of, or the creator of our own reality.
We will all at some stage in our lives experience regret, frustration and sorrow, that much is certain. While we can do our best to avoid them, negative happenings and emotions are bound to arise. What can be crucial to our future happiness is how we choose to react and let so called negative events shape our future thoughts and feelings.
You’ll often hear stories of people with horrible, often terminal illnesses, who shine a ray of light on to the world and those around them, despite being in what we would consider to be a bad situation. They choose not to be a victim of their reality but to embrace it. It may seem unfathomable to most of us for such people to be happy with their circumstances, but they exercise one of the biggest powers we as humans possess – control over how we perceive our own reality.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36m1o-tM05g&noredirect=1 – an inspiring talk by a young man with a genetic defect which shortened his life and how he was still able to live a happy life despite his circumstances.
The first step to not being affected long term by negative circumstances is acceptance. If you can’t control something, resisting it is only going to increase your resistance and this can slowly eat away at you.
I know this first hand from getting hit by that car, which lead me in to a long downward spiral of negative thoughts and eventually depression.
Acceptance is a choice to surrender to what is and allows us to go beyond feeling like a victim
Realising that control is a choice can allow us to take responsibility for what is happening in our lives, once we take responsibility for our thoughts, we can start to change them, so that we do not feel like a victim of events that have happened to us. This change of attention to the world can lead to a radically different outlook.
“The nature of the attention we bring to bear of the world changes what it is we find there” ~ Iain McGilchrist. Psychiatrist and author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
The language of our thoughts is another area over which we have control. Much like our thought patterns the script we read to ourselves is impacted by our past but it is something we can choose to change and over which we have control.
I developed very negative thought patterns and self talk, by having this negativity running around my brain non-stop. These conscious thoughts can be so harmful to you and your subconscious that a never ending cycle of negativity can take over.
What kind of language do you think in when, for example presented with a challenging activity? Do you say to yourself “I won’t be able to do that” or do you say “I’ll give it my best shot”?
This is not to say that positivity will always lead to positive results, unfortunately it doesn’t always work like that, however, if you have control over your thoughts and a positive attitude toward something the outcome will be, at least in terms of thought different. It is the difference between; “I knew I’d fail, I’m no good at anything” and “Well, at least I did my best and can learn from this experience”. As you can see these are two massively different ways to think. The former comes from a position of low self esteem and self compassion and the latter from a much higher position of self worth.
If we recognise the fact that we may not have complete control over our circumstances but we have control over how we perceive and think about them, it can help us in so many ways. We can go from being downbeat and playing the victim card to being pro-active creators of our existence. Which one do you think is more beneficial?
It took me a very long time to realise that despite what happens on the outside, how I think about and to what degree I allow outside events to affect me on the inside is entirely up to me.
I reckon this is one of the most important realisations I have had so far and one that has helped me to go beyond being a victim and something that has allowed me to become much happier in day to day life.