Who’s Really Pulling Your Strings?

28 Feb

From the instant you become conscious in the morning until the moment you fall asleep, someone or something is in control of you.  The question is, is it you?

Most of us would say that we are the ones who control ourselves, but do we really?

First, let’s define ‘me’.  Is me my person, my physical body?  While some of us may measure or define ourselves by our physical being, we are not, in fact, our physical bodies because if we lose a limb or get an organ transplant or blood transfusion, we are still ourselves.  No matter how the physical costume changes, we are still who we are.

In reality who we are, ‘I’, is composed of our minds.  Our soul, spirit, consciousness… whatever label you want to put on it, our thoughts, emotions and actions create the ‘me’ we all claim as who we are, so when I ask who is in control of you, I am in essence asking you who is in control of your mind.

If you are like most people, your immediate answer would be, ‘I am, of course’.  The reality for almost all of us is, the entire time we are awake we give control of ourselves to everyone and everything around us, without even realizing what we are doing.

We give external stimuli (people, events and situations) control of ourselves mentally as well as verbally without a second thought.

Have you ever said or had any of the following reactions:

  • You make me so angry!
  • How could you do this to me? (Which really means ‘How could you cause me to feel this way?’ Be it hurt, sad, disappointed, etc.)
  • What you said really hurt me (emotionally).
  • Gotten angry because someone cut you off in traffic.
  • Gotten hurt or sad because someone insulted you.
  • Gotten angry or hurt because someone said something about you behind your back.
  • Gotten angry with your child or spouse or friend because they didn’t do something they said they would do.
  • Gotten angry with your child for getting bad grades or getting in trouble at school.

Every time any of these situations occur, and thousands of others just like them throughout the day, you are giving someone control over you.  You are allowing their words, actions, inaction, opinions or even their presence to dictate your mood and thoughts.

When you tell someone ‘You make me so angry!’, you are telling them that they have the power to control your emotional state, your thoughts, in essence, you.  Imagine that every thought, emotion and reaction you have is connected to a string, like a marionette.  Whatever or whomever pulls on that string to draw out that reaction, regardless of whether it is hurt, anger, sadness, happiness… whatever it may be, whatever pulls that reaction from your mind into reality is what has control of you in that moment.  When it is not you who makes the choice to pull a particular string, then it is not you who is in control.

The outside person or situation doesn’t even have to want to control you to do so.  We voluntarily hand out puppet strings to everyone and everything around us all day long, whether they want them or not.

If someone pulls out in front of you in traffic and you get angry, not only have they controlled you in that moment, without even knowing or most likely even caring that they have done so, we usually give them control of us for hours, and depending on the situation sometimes days, afterward.  Most likely what will happen is that you will get angry and then you will stay angry.  Perhaps getting angrier and angrier throughout the morning.  All because you let some stranger have control of you and then chose not to take that control back.

It is never too late to take control of yourself back from any outside source.  The sooner you take back the control, the less energy you will expend dancing to someone else’s tune.

To use my earlier example of getting angry at a fellow driver, perhaps I do allow his actions to control me.  I get angry.  Perhaps I had to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision, so my coffee spilled on my brand new outfit.  Now I am not only angry that another driver cut me off, but I am also angry that I’ve stained my clothes (because of him).  All day long, every time I see that stain, I get angry all over again.  Each time I get angry, I’ve just tied that marionette string back around that nameless, faceless stranger’s finger.  All day long, he’s plucking and plucking at it, and doesn’t even know it.

Now I’ve spent all day dancing to a tune someone else didn’t even know they were playing, and am emotionally drained.   Let’s also assume I work at a hospital and as I am getting off of the elevator in the parking garage, I notice the same car from this morning parked two cars over and the driver is unlocking his car door.  PING!  There goes that marionette string again, and my anger overflows.  I shout, “Hey you jerk!  You cut me off this morning, I almost wrecked, and you made my coffee spill all over my new-”

Suddenly the fellow turns around, his face streaked with tears and he tells you that he is sorry, but his son was in an accident on the way to school that morning, and he was rushing here to see him, and he died.

Suddenly all of that anger and agitation you had been feeling all day shrivels up and blows away as though it never was.

Why?

Because your perception of the situation changed.

Everything that happens around us, all day every day, gets colored by our perception of the way we think things are.  We assume our reality is everyone else’s reality, when in fact, we all go through life with a completely different set of filters for the things going on around us.

When we allow ourselves to walk in someone else’s shoes for a moment, we are accessing our compassion and empathy centers, which are located in the frontal lobes of our brains (that part of ourselves which I refer to as our ‘higher self’).  They allow us to step outside ourselves for a moment and view an event or situation through someone else’s perspective, instead of our own.  Often we will find that a simple change of perspective is all that is needed to put us back firmly in control of ourselves and our emotions, to clip the puppet string so to speak, and allows us to take a calmer, more compassionate view of a person, event or situation.  Effectively putting us firmly back in control of ourselves.

The next time you find yourself feeling some negative emotion or having some negative thought, pause a moment to ask yourself if you are having these feeling or thoughts because you have assessed the situation and found that it is the correct and proper response to something that has happened – and more important than the correct response, is it the way you want to feel in this moment*, or if you’ve given someone else control of your strings.

*Always remember: just because a response is justified, appropriate or ‘right’ does not mean that you must feel that way if you don’t choose to.  You can decide that anger, hurt, jealousy etc. is justified, but you simply don’t want to expend the energy creating that emotion, that you prefer to remain peaceful and calm.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this entry, or even just a hello. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and I wish you a peaceful day!

~A

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