When we’re recovering from depression, anxiety, addiction, or trauma, there’s a LOT that is, or seems, out of our control.
It always annoys me when I see people assert that people who are struggling should simply “take control” of their mental lives. It’s just not that easy.
If we COULD simply “take control’ of what we’re thinking and feeling, I assure you, we would.
If it was a straightforward matter of “taking control” of our behavior, I assure you, we would.
But human thoughts, feelings, and behavior is NEVER quite that simple or straightforward.
We don’t have “control” over everything that goes on in our head and heart, and we don’t have “control” over everything that happens in our lives.
We have INFLUENCE over some things that happen inside us and something that happen around us— but not complete influence.
That’s not a reason to give up.
That’s a reason to get realistic about how we can use the limited amount of influence we have, to our advantage.
One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to do what we can to create a life consistent with what we want more of.
For example, I want a life that includes a lot of love.
I want a life that includes a lot of laughter and non-toxic humor.
I want a life that includes a lot of affectionate, consensual physical touch.
If those are the things I want, I need to do what I can to create a life that is consistent with those things.
If I want a life that is full of love, I need to do what I can to limit the aggression and hostility in my world— primarily the aggression and hostility that I direct toward myself.
If I want a life that includes a lot of laughter and non-toxic humor, I need to do what I can to limit the sarcasm and mockery I direct at myself.
If I want a life that includes a lot of affectionate, consensual physical touch, I need to do what I can to limit the self-hating thoughts I have and statements I make about my body.
I cannot control everything that goes on in my head and heart…but what I do influence, I want to influence in such a way that maximizes the chances that I’ll create the life I want.
To the extent that we influence what we think, feel, and do, we want to think, feel, and do things that are consistent with what we want— and we want to intentionally limit those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are inconsistent with what we want.
What I’m talking about isn’t easy.
For many of us, the default setting is self-aggression. For many of us it feels “natural’ or “normal” to viciously make fun of ourselves, hate our body, obsess over our flaws and faults and imperfections.
Many of us have even been taught that the only way to avoid being “narcissistic” is to viciously attack and deprecate ourselves at every turn.
But we’re simply not going to create the positive, comfortable life experience we really crave if we’re cutting into ourselves all day, every day.
I know, it may not feel “natural” to be kind to yourself.
I know, part of you may be worried that to extend yourself kindness or compassion may be opening the door to “narcissism.”
Being kind to yourself won’t make you a narcissist. Giving yourself the benefit of the doubt won’t make you into a narcissist. Having your own back won’t make you a narcissist.
What being on your own side WILL do is giving you a fighting chance to create the life you actually deserve.
Don’t get all up in your head about “controlling” your life.
Reel it in, and get curious about what you can influence— inside your head and heart, and out there in the world.
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