Recognizing that you hold your own strings in life will put you face-to-face with your own pain, hurt, and other emotions, both positive and negative.
You may think, â€œWell, if I canâ€™t control other people, then maybe I can control the negative energy and thoughts that arise in my mind and body when I hurt and feel angry.â€
This sensible-sounding solution is unfortunately another dead end.
Control over your emotional reactions is just as misleading as your desire to control other people.
The results that come out when people act to get rid of emotional and psychological pain:
- Numerous studies have shown that when people act to get rid of emotional and psychological pain, they end up instead with more emotional and psychological pain.
- You canâ€™t keep your unpleasant thoughts and emotions from burning you in the same way you can pull your hand away from a hot stove.
- Trying to control unpleasant emotions, internal bodily sensations, and even disturbing thoughts will mostly backfire.
- Youâ€™ll get more of the very thing you donâ€™t want to think and feel. This happens because your body is a system with a built-in system of feedback loops-your brain and nervous system.
- When you act against parts of this system-suppressing, avoiding, stuffing painful feelings-it sends out reverberations to all other parts of the system. This mind-body connection is like a sensitive spider web in this respect. Everything is connected.
- Suppression and control take enormous effort. Suppressing unpleasant experiences-be they thoughts, memories, anger, anxiety, hurt, or bodily sensations-actually make matters worse. Why?
- The more you try not to think about a particular thought, the more of this thought youâ€™ll actually have. The same is true of unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and some internal bodily sensations.
Such struggles with yourself are fueled largely by an unwillingness to make space for every aspect of your experience and identity. Your mind would like you to believe that to be happy and to live life fully, you must get rid of your painful and unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or memories.
To have the â€œgood lifeâ€ means that you must be pain free. So you struggle to manage stuff, bury, deny, or medicate the hurt and pain.
All this time spent controlling tends to get in the way of what most people wish to spend their time doing-the experiences and relationships that youâ€™d probably much rather be having.
In what areas control works:
- Control works against you when applied to unwanted and painful aspects of your private world, just as it works against you when you try to impose it on other people.
- In both cases, you are sending out a message that diminishes your own and othersâ€™ humanity and dignity.
To get out of this cycle, youâ€™ll need to first come to terms with the fact that deliberate control is not a solution. It is the problem. Your thoughts and feelings-the good, the bad, and the ugly-always go with you wherever you go.
These experiences define what is uniquely human about you. You cannot escape or avoid them so long as youâ€™re alive. They are part of you. To act against them is to act against your very being. To act against them means that you will remain stuck in hurt and anger.
Exercise: Pain Avoidance – A Self-Assessment
All efforts to suppress and control anger are essentially about avoiding pain. The goal is to make the hurt go away. However, this goal is unreachable; in fact, it is a dead end. Covering up hurt with anger does not make the hurt go away.
Instead it bottles the energy for release at a later time. The release later on might take the form of unfettered anger. Or it may show up as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, or physical symptoms such as headaches, ulcers, backaches, and fatigue.
Letâ€™s take a look at how you may be suppressing your emotional pain and hurt. Here is a partial list of behaviors that suggest you are in the habit of suppressing your anger. Read each statement carefully, and think about them as they apply to your life.
- I tend to hide my painful feelings for fear that nothing good can come from showing my emotions.
- I act to push out of my mind upsetting thoughts or memories.
- I avoid feeling unpleasant emotions and act to reduce them quickly.
- I habitually stuff my feelings or use distraction, alcohol, or other drugs and strategies to feel better.
- I resort to anger to hide other unpleasant emotions and thoughts.
- I see my emotional hurt and pain as real barriers to living the life I want and becoming the person I want to be.
- I tend to withdraw from problems, even if that means they are left unresolved.
- I refuse to air personal problems, needs, or concerns.
- I focus on maintaining the appearance of having it all together.
- I avoid controversial or troublesome topics.
- I second-guess my own choices.
- I play the role of people pleaser by putting myself second.
- I let my hurt and frustration pass without discussing it.
- I pretend that I donâ€™t have resentment, or that all is rosy in my life.