Is Someone Else Controlling Your Life? Owning Your Emotions

The following is based on a true story…

1:11 pm.

It’s the middle of a beautiful afternoon and our old friend Bill is taking a stroll along the beach.

How beautiful! Bill thinks to himself as he enjoys the walk. What a lovely day!

Suddenly, a drifter yells something at him. “You’re ugly! And dumb!”

Bill turns to confront him. His heart starts beating faster. His palms moisten. Who dare call me such things! he thinks, as his blood pressure rises.

“Hey man!” Bill yells. “What’s your problem!?”

Is someone else pulling your strings?

“Nothing!” Says the drifter. “You’re the one with the problems. I just told you about them, idiot!”

Unsure how to respond, Bill grows more angry and musters up a “whatever” before walking away.

“Good luck with being ugly man!” the drifter echoes.

1:12 pm

It’s the middle of a beautiful afternoon and our old friend Bill is taking a stroll along the beach.

Who the hell does that guy think he is! Bill thinks to himself. What a total douchebag! I can’t believe these freaking idiots out in the world!! 

****

Bill has just let someone else ruin his afternoon. Or in Internet jargon, he was completely pnwed. He allowed a random stranger to take over his consciousness. All his enjoyment of a beautiful and relaxing stroll was instantly flushed away as he chose to occupy himself with the musings of a drifter. Bill let someone else control his life.

Do you ever let someone else control your life?

Respond, Don’t React

What Bill did was react. His primal instincts kicked in before his rational side could weigh what was happening. It’s a great instinct for survival in the wild or a war zone. It’s not a great instinct for maintaining high levels of happiness in a modern society.

What Bill should have done was respond. A response involves properly assessing the situation before acting. It is not dictated by the wild, ballistic nature of emotions. Quite the opposite — it processes emotions without being controlled by them.

Respond, don’t react.

Does this sound like something you would do? Maybe you are thinking, “Ben, I’ve told you before, I wouldn’t let some random homeless person impact my mood.” Well how about this:

  • You are driving in a car. Someone gives you the middle finger. What do you do?
  • You are at a party. Someone you know tells you your Significant Other should break up with you. What do you do? 
  • You’re Significant Other is late. You have to wait 15 minutes longer than expected. What do you do?
  • You’re in a discussion with your Significant Other, who says that you are always wrong. What do you do?

For most people, these are progressively harder spots in which to respond, not react. Perhaps even reading this, it isn’t obviously clear why you would want to respond in each scenario since many people feel they have been “wronged” in these cases.

Well, it’s not any different than what Bill went through on the beach; The words of a random person yelling at you have no bearing on your life…unless you let them. Just like the angry gestures of someone in a car have no bearing on your life…unless you let them. Just like your Significant Other being late has no bearing on your life…unless you let it.

Why?

Because by reacting to all of these situations, you are simply at the whim of whatever external scenario passes in front of you. Only they haven’t physically harmed you. They haven’t really done anything at all. The only “change” in your day — just like in Bill’s — exists inside your mind and inside your mind alone. You’re the only one suffering.

“But Ben, I’m not always wrong! When my girlfriend tells me that, it’s infuriating! It’s not true!”

A good question might be to ask yourself why it’s so upsetting to be told you’re wrong. But that aside, if you want to actually demonstrate how you aren’t wrong, or have any kind of productive conversation, it’s best not to have some huge emotional reaction. That is decidedly counter-productive.

Respond. Don’t react.

Remember, no one else can you make you feel something but you. If someone has achieved this, smile, laugh, and acknolwedge that you have let them take control of your emotions. Hopefully the effect is only temporary.

 

 Is Someone Else Controlling Your Life? Owning Your Emotions

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