Controlling the System
For most people life is just one reaction after another. In fact we are so controlled by our circumstances that our happiness hinges on what happens in the world around us. This is the root of stress, since stress is 100% about perception. Think of yourself as a computer in standby mode, with the cursor flashing on screen, awaiting input. Something happens in our environment (input), and voila we are feeling a certain way, and then behaving accordingly (output). Where does free will come in to this equation? The biggest joke of all is that we think we really do have free will. Watching people behave and think as though they believe they have a say in their output is a hoot. You always choose according to how you feel; if it feels right you will do it, if it feels wrong you won’t. If you know you shouldn’t, yet feel you should, you will; if you know you should but really feel you shouldn’t then you won’t. Even those carefully considered choices where you exercise as much free will as you can muster will eventually go the way of what feels right to you. So who decides how you feel? You do of course, according to your filters and programming, it’s pretty much automatic though.
How would you like to learn to take more control over that process and choose how you want to feel? When you understand what I am about to tell you, NOTHING will have the power to drag you down again. You see, there is a huge difference between reality and the truth. I know reality may seem pretty substantial to you, but it really isn’t. Reality as you see it is merely perception, and you very rarely (if ever) see the whole picture. Your reality is not the truth, but rather your opinion of the facts as you perceive them. On the one hand you have the facts, and on the other you have your opinion of the facts.
Facts never have an effect on us; our opinion of the facts is where the power lies. Have you ever stopped to consider how much of your “reality” is made up of what you think is there and what you think about what is there? We attach our own meaning to things, and it is that meaning that causes the good or bad feelings. You feel what you feel because of the fantasy (good or bad) you live in. We are shadow boxing all the time. The control comes in to play when you start choosing what meaning to add to the event. An event is never good or bad until you attach meaning to it.
So you get cut off in traffic, now you know why you get angry (it’s the meaning you attach to the event), how about choosing a different, and more positive meaning. You will never know why the person cut you off, but if you can attach meaning that will leave you better off, then why not? Learning to separate fact from opinion can help you in this regard. Fact: the person cut you off; opinion: everything you think about that event. Fact: your husband/wife forgot the anniversary; opinion: everything else you think about it. You see where this is going? If everything you think about a fact is opinion, why not choose the thoughts that feel good rather than the ones that feel bad?
I find that taking a deep breath and then talking to myself about it, “What is fact? What is opinion? What other opinion could I have that serves me rather than brings me down?” helps a lot. It takes practice though, and initially you may find yourself jumping back to the un-serving opinion, after all, you are used to doing that. Eventually you will start looking for the best possible opinion automatically.
The place to start is to separate facts from fiction, and to remind you: The facts are what happens, and the sequence of events. The fiction is all the thoughts and judgements and feelings and opinions you pile on top.