Self-control is a very interesting thing to think about. Everyday, I make choices that are me choosing to rein in my impulses and my reactions. And everyday I’m subjected to people who choose to not control their impulses or reactions. It always raises the question: why do I have to control myself when no one else has to?
Of course, that’s not exactly how the world is, but that is certainly how it feels. In some instances, trying to empathize does nothing to make me feel more content in having to control myself. Sometimes it does help to try to imagine what’s going on in their world. Look for that empathy not to justify them, but more to help yourself to deal.
Segue 1: I play a dice rolling game from time to time. It involved a die with a cheese, a cat, and some footprints. You want to eat as much cheese as you can without getting caught by three cats. Simple game. As with many such things, it was incredibly frustrating at first. I would be able to get maybe 2 or 3 cheeses and then the cats would get me. And somehow, the computer would be able to get 12. It takes 13 cheese to win.
I would get incredibly angry because of the game ‘cheating’. Making the odds better for itself when there’s no way a game could even begin to care who won.
Segue 2: I once read part of this self-help book about the battle in one’s mind. And the authors tried to relay this concept of instead of trying to win the fight– against anxiety, depression, cognitive distortions– simply stepping away and not taking part in the tug-of-war for control. The wording they used was baffling to me; that book was not a good match for me at that time, however, I find myself thinking of the concept from time to time.
Tie in to Segue 1: As I play my ridiculous little game, I finally just gave up on it. Not that I don’t still play it– it is a beautifully mindless game– but now I’m not trying to win. I’m simply trying to observe who gets the best run of cheeses. Or who gets eaten by the cat first. The most worked up I get now is when the computer has, like, 10 cheeses, but only one cat, so I know it’s going to roll again though it should really just take the 10 cheeses it has, blast it! It’s no longer a question of ‘winning’. It is a bout of observation.
Tie in to Main Point: I am not right. I am not wrong. I am. As they teach in DBT and Cog therapy, non-judgmental stance. I control myself because that is the only thing I have control of. I cannot make anyone else do anything or change their behaviours.
It’s not an easy way to be. I’d rather people simply did what I think is right. I wish they would be considerate and respectful of others. I wish they’d just give me a break when I’m tired. But those are all my opinions. As much as I’d like to think that the world revolves around me, I must admit that it does not.
Nor does it revolve around you, dear adventurer. May we continue our journey with less judgements on others. As my therapist says, ‘There is no right answer. There is a you answer.’