I believe that you and only you are in control of your happiness. If you are happy, it’s your fault. If you’re sad, angry, depressed, it’s your fault. Only YOU can control and regulate your mood on a daily basis.
We can’t control what external events happen to us in life – but the one variable we CAN control is how we react to those situations. We can work on reacting in accordance with our best interests, rather than the habit pattern of reacting to the feelings of emotions.
Yes – much easier said than done. BUT, I do believe that there are ways we can cultivate a better ability to react responsibly.
How do we do it?
First we need to understand what reactions are and why they take place.
Here’s the way I look at it –
External events happen> > Triggers emotional response as feelings > Mind reacts to these feelings with desire or avoidance.
“Things” happen to you, which causes certain feelings inside of you, and then you react to those feelings. If it was a good experience, you react with desire (I want more of this!). If it was an unpleasant experience, you will react with some form of avoidance (get this away from me!)
When you get angry, you’re merely responding to the feelings of anger. When you get frustrated, you’re reacting to the feelings associated with your frustration.
Let’s take the classic example of “they made me angry!”
Someone probably said or did something that caused a certain uncomfortable feeling inside of you, which then caused your mind to revolt and make you angry.
If you examine any emotion, there’s always a feeling attached to it. Anger can feel tight and hot. Sadness can feel cold and shivery. Happiness can feel warm and tingly.
This is a universal law – If you dig deep enough, there is a feeling associated with every situation that happens to us in life. The more we can become aware of these feelings, the better we can become at understanding our reactions to situations.
Step 1 in mastering your mind is understanding the feelings that different situations cause for you. The first step in this journey is awareness of these feelings and noticing patterns in similar situations.
Over time, once you become familiar with these feelings, you can learn to watch them. If you used to get angry and then take 30 minutes to calm down, now it might take you 15 minutes by simply sitting with those feelings and thoughts and observing them.
Eventually you might be able to get to a place where you are able to watch the waves of anger/sadness/anxiety pass you by instead of riding the wave and jumping in.
What’s the point ? To realize that only you can control your reactions to external events. Your internal world is in your control. Your happiness is in your own hands.
With it in your own hands, the 2nd half of the equation is where this gets interesting.
I’ve always been fascinated by the Placebo effect and how, quite literally, we can get ourselves to believe ANYTHING.
If placebo can make you stronger, faster, have better endurance and more…than what does that say about the way that our thoughts can influence our performance?
Our thoughts are like placebo pills of belief that we take every day. If you believe the thoughts going through your head as truth, than it will manifest itself!
Let’s use an example to illustrate.
Let’s say that someone insults you to your face. You have full reason and justification to be angry at this person. They just insulted you right?!
So if you’re angry afterwards, that’s totally fine. You have every reason in the world to be pissed off and complain all you want to all of your friends and family.
But is this the catch? How often do we become angry/sad/etc simply because we have a REASON to be? Situation x happened in life so my reaction SHOULD BE to be angry/sad…right?
Are you actually angry? Or do you merely have a reason to be angry so you convinced yourself of it? Are you merely repeating a false narrative in your head over and over, circling around a point until you are certain?
I believe that people use external events and stories of events like these as a justification to create their own misery. They are simply angry/sad because they have a reason to be. It’s a story that they have told themselves (and others) many times.
“How can I be happy when I deal with assholes all day who piss me off and create nothing but headaches for me?!”
When this happens these people are simply buying into the placebo pill of anger.
Something can only make you angry if you believe it! You’re merely BELIEVING the story you tell yourself to justify why you are angry.
If this is the case, why not use the placebo effect to our advantage?
Why not believe a different story? Why not believe a story of compassion, of empathy, and of understanding? Why not believe a story of forgiveness and giving people the benefit of the doubt?
The point is, don’t take the bait. Don’t be angry just because you have a reason to be. Don’t be sad just because something happened that gives you reason to be. Rise above and tell yourself a different story.
YES – if these feelings arise naturally that’s fine! Sit with them and allow them to pass without getting overly wrapped up in them. But pay attention to the STORY you tell yourself.
The story you tell yourself becomes the placebo pills you take on a daily basis. If you have a story crafted where you are the victim, you will carry around this feeling with you. If you have a story crafted where you overcame your struggle with determination and understanding, this is the feeling you will carry around with you.
If you are in a rut, only you can pull yourself out of it. If you’re in a dark place, only you can pull yourself out of it.
Others can be there to help, to encourage, motivate, and inspire – but and the end of the day you need to put in the work yourself.
Your story is up to you. Your reactions are up to you. Your happiness is up to you. It’s your responsibility, it’s your duty, your mission in life.
Now go get at it with a smile on your face and cultivate the life you desire.
Also published on Medium.