Some people need to have everything together before they make a move, others jump constantly at every opportunity to be everything and anything. The thing with life is, once you are born, that is it, you are already part of a game you did not ask to be part of, and yet, here you are. So, what should you do? Survive, thrive, live? You arrived at a moving vehicle and now you must adapt. What are you to make of it?
Part of your journey will be handled by other people, and then as you start regaining control, there will be so much information that you will not know what to do with yourself. “What is this game?” “What the hell am I supposed to do?” Questions like these might start creeping around your mind, provoking all kinds of feelings and other times more serious consequences.
The good news, people have been studying this moving vehicle for a while now, guidelines have been created. We are not alone, others have played and they have their wisdom to pass alone, and then, there are people like me, who for whatever misfortune, decided to study the players and the vehicle -I’m not really in the mood to make good analogies, my sincere apologies- and in such spirit, I come to you, not with all rules for life, but with 3 elements of 1 concept, that I think you can play around to improve your development in the game you didn’t ask to play, yeah, yeah, I meant life, whatever.
Here we go:
1. Internal locus of control
Weather you decide that you have control over the outcome of your life, or you don’t, you are going to be right. I am not about to tell you what you should do or believe, however, there are some cool facts that you need to be aware of. The people who have an internal locus of control usually have better outcome, as opposed to those who have an external locus of control. They function better and ultimately, they improve their survival skills, which really is the goal upon which other ones lay on. There are so many things you have no control over, no question there, but since your life is your responsibility, you need to manage your resources in order to achieve whatever goal you have in life, some people think the ultimate one is to be happy, others to serve, you need to sort that out for yourself, but, to be able to do that, you need to be able to stay alive, and to do that, you need to claim control. I do think, however, that every human being needs to ponder about the concept of meaning, it keeps the other goals alive, you can read a little bit more about that in this essay I wrote here. Now, getting back to the point, the reason you would be advised to consider focusing on the things you can control is because it can help with a lot of things such as:
- Decreasing your anxiety,
- Decreasing risk behaviour,
- Increasing health protective habits
- Improving your way of living
Making the case that the control motive is basic to the human condition, Thompson (2002) cites research studies that have demonstrated its many benefits: better ability, less anxiety and depression, less traumatization by victimization, and more initiative and better physical health. (p. 22)
Several aspects of your mindset change when you grow up, but some remain the same. As a kid, as an adult and as a professional psychologist, my mindset about secular positivity remains practically the same. I’ve always hated people telling people to just be happy and focus on the positive and pretty things. I don’t care if you saw a million butterflies, how is that going to change the fact that you don’t feel happy? But here is the deal, both things can be true at the same time. Life is full of pain and it has lots of suffering coming from all directions, if you accept that from the beginning it gets easy then to take a look at your life and say, “thanks heavens, because man, I just learnt a new skill to put food on my table, I don’t know how the people without it get by” the funny thing is, that those people who you view with such empathy because of their scarcity, those same people might think the same way about other people, who on their view, have it worst. Without you even forcing it, you start noticing you are actually grateful for a lot of things. And it wasn’t forced on you, it was a natural process.
The cool thing about this, is that the more effort you put in, the more grateful you seem to get. It seems as if your focus becomes trained to always look for the things you can improve. Furthermore, you always look inside yourself for the resources you need to do exactly that.
To see beauty, you don’t have to deny the ugliness, in order to be responsible, you don’t have to deny having been a victim. Is in precisely recognizing that, where you find the key to taking back control. Bernard, B., (2004). “According to Higgins, recognizing prior victimization actually leads to heightening one’s internal locus of control. “Once you see what you could not possibly control as a child, you can also honor what you are able to control in adulthood”…(p. 23)”
So, there you go, set point for internal locus of control.
2. The integration of your past
Has anyone of you seen Dark? Man, if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do. It is one of those shows that explores religion, physics, philosophy in a way that you feel is reflecting your own quest, even if it has a wacky and cool background that has nothing to do with our boring reality. You should watch it. Now that the ad is over, let’s get back to business. I was asking if you’ve seen the show (spoiler alert), because sometimes in life, it seems we are doomed to repeating and living the same kind of life, much like the show talks about. It feels as if you are a slave to your past, and no matter how many times you try to change it, it all comes back to the same origin. Let’s use an analogy, have you ever seen one of your friends dating the same kind of girl? I don’t mean just physically, but psychologically. It seems like if he is having the same kind of relationship over and over again.
Freud was not wrong when he put such emphasis in sorting out our past.
Have you ever promised yourself never to repeat your parent’s mistakes only to live exactly like them?
Have you ever promised yourself to have a fulfilled life, doing meaningful things just to hate everything about who you are and what you do?
You don’t have to keep living the same thing over and over again, but you can’t reject your past either. And not just your past as an individual, but also your past as the collective. Much like your past mistakes and the ignorance you once displayed, we as a human race, have undergone through major changes. Things we now find disgusting, were once legal and even morally accepted. Sure, it is easy to criticize, now that you are a son of current times you can see the mistakes of what we once embraced as moral. However, never forget that you get to do that because you can stand on the shoulders of decades, centuries and millenniums that came before you and that offered you the perspective you now hold. And I am not talking about the crimes that were considered crimes in ancient time, I’m talking about the ancient customs and behaviours that were accepted then, and that we now consider a crime.
The past must always be explored so that we can make peace with it, so that we can be free. It must be explored, so that we can be proud of the good things we take from it, and cautious of the evil and wrong ones that we once accepted. You can’t pretend you are better than your ancestors, without sounding incredibly arrogant and naïve at the same time. Beware of the evil things that can be borned from your human soul, for that is what you are, a human, not a god, and certainly not the God. You can be evil, accept that and work to make goodness grow, instead of pretending is going to develop on its own.
What kind of ancestor do you want to be? Reflect
What kind of past is your present going to be? Act
The things that happened to you, the way you were raised, they all influenced how you live now and what you would get in the future. They become an invisible electric fence that paralyze and prevent you from taking a step into the unknown reality. Take small steps to integrate your past, all of it, as an individual and as part of the collective. You can do that on your own by writing about who you are and how you came to be that, or you can use free resources like this one, or take it a step further, with Dr. Peterson’s course, here. (Not sponsored by the way, I just like his work).
3. Your sense of self
To be completely honest, I wrote the outline of this article long ago, and now I can’t remember what the third and last element was supposed to be. Sorry, these things happen. However, now that I’m here, there is something I can say about it. I want to talk to you about the importance of giving yourself some structure so that you can see who you are, and people can see that too.
You don’t always have to know everything about yourself, in fact, you won’t be able to do it, but that’s not the point, the point is to give yourself some guidelines, so that you can see the individual beneath the story.
You need to call things by their name, but how are people going to call you when there is no shape and form to who you are?
The scientific method requires things to be defined as precise as we can so that when we go and study an element, we can be sure that what we are measuring is exactly what we are measuring and not mixing data of other elements, making our research invalid. An element can’t be all and everything at the same time. Ask anybody who measures the financial success of a business if they think anything is success. The concept needs to have boundaries, so that we can distinguish it from what it is not.
You need to be able to do that for yourself. Sure, you are not an element that can easily be define, but even though setting boundaries as to who you are is a complex task, you need to do it anyway. Little by little you will start building the foundations that let you know your characteristics, your dreams, and desires. Otherwise you will walk around as an empty cocoon.
Is that who you are? Can you see you, or are you stumbling around life moving solely because nature is making you do so?
Pain and misery can only follow your ghost like identity. Either by choice or unconsciously you will flow, like water, like a boundaryless creature, with no edges, nothing that separate you from the world. You will not know who you are, it is easy to forget how many times you’ve been mistreated that way, and even more so, how many times you’ve looked to be mistreated in your pursuit of nothingness. Just like a leaf looking to be held high by the wind that kisses it and makes it fly, or trashed down by the dirty water that runs wild in the streets and pushes the leaf towards the gutters, you are not calling the shots, you are looking for something to happened, and by doing so, you are becoming an immature accident. But I can not know that for yourself, you need to discover it on your own. Build your own narrative. Separate yourself from the circumstances. Give yourself a name, integrate the many names you’ve had. Define yourself first.
Only by doing this you can grow. Only by taking charge, by deciding to be conscious, by stepping up to the plate and claiming your place as the one to direct your life, is how you can become responsible for both, the good and the bad. I promise you, that it’s a better place to be than, at the mercy of everyone’s evilness and your unconscious subjugation.
Bernard, B., (2004). What we have learned. California, United States of America: WestEd.