This is one of my favorite quotes, not because it is brilliant, which it is, not because it is simple and true, which it also is, but because it is something I teach daily to my clients and something that I personally struggle with.
A large majority of my clients are suffering from various issues because of interpersonal problems, many which could be eliminated or at least greatly reduced if they just stopped allowing other people to control their thoughts, feelings and emotions.
Matter of fact, learning to control your thoughts, feelings and emotions is the hallmark of cognitive behavioral therapy which is the main theoretical orientation I work from.
When I listen to my clients vent in anger, cry in sadness or hyperventilate through anxiety, what I hear a lot of is that they are giving other people too much power over them, many of them who don’t have their best interest at heart and who wouldn’t be sitting across from me in emotional and psychological pain if the tables were turned.
These people my clients let control them, for the most part, couldn’t care less about the agony they were causing them.
Most of my clients allow boyfriends, so-called friends, family members and even mere acquaintances dictate how they feel about themselves, how their day is going, what they think about their life and even their future.
It goes much deeper than that, but the point is that they have given other people power over them and I have to teach them how to start taking it back and keeping it for themselves.
I also try to teach them that nothing matters until they make it matter, something I got out of the book I AM: Discovering Who You Really Are by Howard Franco. It basically means that you decide what effects you, how it effects you and what doesn’t.
Most people’s emotional thermostat is set on automatic, they automatically respond to certain situations the same, usually either with anger, fear or self-pity.
Learning that nothing matters until you interpret why it matters, how much it matters and how to respond to it, allows you to keep your power and decide rationally how and if you should respond to a situation. It takes the automatic response out of it, and allows you to slow down and make a much more fair decision.
Often our emotions and actions are out of line with the actual situation which causes a lot of emotional turmoil, but I don’t want to stray too far from the main topic. The bottom line is, we have to stop the cycle of allowing other people to control us, especially those who invest so little into us in a positive way.
I used to have an ex-girlfriend who I let control my thoughts, feelings and emotions to the point that I was probably a bit neurotic. How I felt about myself depended on how she felt about me that day. If she was happy with me and showing me love, I felt great about myself. If she was in a bad mood and treating me poorly, I hated myself. My life was full of anxiety trying to figure out how to keep her happy with me, something that was totally out of my control.
It took too many anxious days and crying at night for me to realize that she had too much control over me and I needed to take that control back. It took some self-help books, talking with friends who actually cared about me, and even some meditation before I finally found the strength to take back control and leave that person.
Sometimes however you can’t just leave that person because that person is in your family, or your husband or someone you don’t want to lose contact with, but you want to stop allowing them to control you. In that case, the person who has to do the work is you and only you.
It is not easy, but it is one of the most liberating personal experiences you may ever have.
I’ll end this with a line from chapter three in the book I AM: Discovering Who You Really Are, which is titled “You Decide What Matters”:
“What you experience can only have an effect on you in a tangible way if you make it matter. If you don’t make it matter, it will have no effect on you.” – Howard Falco
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