It’s all your fault. That’s right – you. Not your wife. Not your kid. Not your mate. Not your boss. You. How you feel and how you react to what others do or how others feel is entirely on you. Whether you fight, fly or flow – it really is, to a very large degree, up to you.
You’ve probably heard something like this before, some variation. Everything you do is your choice. Even the choice to remain staying indoors while there is a lock-down in your country. You’re probably saying, yeah, but if I go outside, I may die. Or there is a chance I may infect somebody else. Yada Yada Yada. Still your choice. You have a rationale. And you have a choice.
Your kid is shouting at you and whining over not getting some kind of instant gratification, but you have some job to do and can’t be bothered with that right now. Plus you’ve chosen today to give up cigarettes and the nicotine is not there to support your chemical balance. You get irritated. You shout back at the child. Lose control. Go have a smoke. Every single one of those choices was yours. The entire situation was your own doing. The judgments you bring to the reading of these words are your own. How you feel about these words, the lock-down, the loss of a job – it’s all on you. How you feel about the child’s whining. How you feel about the dropping of the habit. How you feel about the feelings themselves – and everything you tell yourself about all that – all the judgments, the denial, the acceptance, the excuses, the reasons – every one of these constructs are yours. And that’s not wrong! Or right. It just is. It is what it is – what you are making it.
But then you probably knew all that already, right? Common sense. Somewhere deep down you know that you have control over all your feelings. You have control over your thoughts. You have control over your actions. You know that you don’t have to smoke. You don’t have to do anything. But there are going to be consequences. There are results of action and/or inaction. And you are doing the best you can with what you have. Yeah. That’s what we do. We’re resourceful creatures for sure.
So where do you get off blaming anybody else for what you do or think or feel? How is it that you have given over your control to somebody else? Yeah, that’s right – you read it right. When you feel or think or act in accordance with somebody else’s agenda, then you have effectively relinquished your own right to do what you do and be as you are. And why would anyone want to do that? Well sure, you can choose to give up control, for the sake of familial harmony or to bring home a paycheck or for any number of reasons. But again, it gets back to your choice. And if you are making the choice, then really, wtf are you doing being dissatisfied with your choices? Ah – it’s not your choices per say, it’s the hand you were dealt in the first place, you say.
On the other hand, Dr. Lara Menzies and colleagues from the Brain Mapping Unit at the University of Cambridge carried out research that revealed people with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) actually had less grey matter in the brain area responsible for impulse control. There may be something to that. I’m not certain if this has become established as a fact yet, but perhaps you want to get yourself checked out? Do you really need to check on your lover to make sure they’re safe, or have you got some kind of stalker tendency going on? Or are you a bit obsessive?
How about your noradrenaline, serotonin and dopamine levels? Everything on the up and up? You don’t know? Hey, neurotransmitter testing is as common, easy and affordable as a blood test. If you have the slightest doubt that you are not in control of your own feelings, get yourself checked out and scratch this one off the list, because guess what? Most people are absolutely fine. Basically well within the balanced lines. And you know what else? If there is a bit of imbalance someplace, most of the time it can be corrected with lifestyle adjustments. Hey, I’m not saying disorders don’t exist, not at all! I’m saying check yourself out to confirm your health and then take responsibility for the way you do stress.
Take responsibility for what you call stressful. For how you react to your stressors. Play a little game with yourself every now and again to remind yourself of all the choices you make in a given day. Check yourself. Let yourself know what’s important. Reaffirm what you really want.
Okay. Okay, you say. But not everything is under my control. I can’t be responsible for the whole world. Damn straight everything’s not under your control! As a matter of fact most everything is not under your control. The only thing that definitively is under your control is YOU. Whether you shout, drink, smoke, punch, belabor, argue, eat, pout, go silent, meditate, walk, run, fight, deny, laugh, smile, cry, debate, whine, excuse, work, play, try, give up, philosophize, travel, follow, lead – what YOU do is up to you.
And still everybody’s not going to agree with you. And the world is not going to bend to accommodate you. And so the question now becomes what choices are you going to make while understanding the parameters of the game? How good at playing the game of life are you going to become? Or are you going to choose not to look at it like that at all, just float on cruise control, take what comes when it comes and worry about it at that time. Totally valid choice! And if you want to complain about it, that’s a choice, too. And if all this circular choice and consequence wears on your bones and makes you weary, well, isn’t that exactly what you’ve signed up for?
What they don’t tell you about stress is the one thing you really don’t want to hear. It’s all your fault. Own it. You chose the chains, the cage. You chose the job, the mate, the life. Maybe it’s not entirely obvious that I’m not talking about really stressful situations such as the stress of a child who was kidnapped and trafficked away into a life of prostitution, or the victim of domestic violence who has been battered so hard for so long that fear is the only thing keeping them upright at all. I’m not talking about extremes people. That’s a whole different kettle of fish. Granted, there are still choices to make, but it’s harder for sure. Until that child or that mate finds the power of being fed up and really takes things into their own hands to re-establish their personal freedom. We all know how that goes. It’s risky. It can go a couple of different ways.
But this article is for the common man, the average Joe or Jane working through a pandemic, perhaps on edge with a lot of time on the hands, an uncertain present and more uncertain future. The purpose was to plant a little seed of possibility, a little reminder of your potential to shape each and every moment. Much more than merely the keys to effective stress management, knowledge of your absolute freedom to choose to do what you do, and choose to be what you are, to choose whether you will anger or lust or act for greed, to be attached or to be altruistic – all of it, any of it. It’s a choice. A huge responsibility. A huge privilege. The responsibility and privilege of the free.
So what do YOU want to do? What do YOU want to be? How would YOU do life if the choice really was yours to make? Well then? Do you have the power to make the choice? Do you have the courage? Do you have what it takes to create the life you want to create – simply by owning the choices you make? Reduced stress and increased health, vitality and joy would only be the by-products of such a contract with yourself. It’s a wonder more people are not taking full advantage of their freedom. Then again, I wonder how many people actually read to the end of this article, much less felt the message resonate enough to agree with an up-vote.
…is a Saiva Tantrika, Gyana Yogi and founder of Uma Maheshwara Yoga & Ayurveda. David has an MA in Semiotics, lives in Japan with his family and works as a coach in L & D, devoting his time to developing science-based tools and programs that help people reach the fullest potential of the human condition.