Lesson 1: The Power of Perception
No one can make you mad without your permission
It really is true that no one can make you angry without your permission. We all like to believe that someone outside of ourselves is responsible for the way we respond in any given situation, but the reality is, it is a choice that we make. It is so much easier not to take responsibility for our actions, but as we mature we understand that we must be responsible for what we do. We must set the example for our children so that we model for them the way they should be.
William Shakespeare said, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." It isn't what they said or did that made you mad. It's what you thought about what they said that made you mad. Circumstances and others' comments collide with our attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, and values. People don't upset us. Circumstances can't make us unhappy. It is our interpretation of those circumstances or the words and actions of others that upset us causing anger, sadness, or self-pity. A continued focus on anger, sadness, and self-pity evolve into hate, rage, revenge depression, and resentment toward self, other people, life, or God.
Most people don’t understand that emotions can be controlled. Remember, what we focus on we get more of, so shift your focus. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Life has given each of us our own unique vision of the world. All of the events of our lives have shaped and molded the lenses in which we view everything. My lens is different than your lens and your lens is different from everyone else’s. There is no way that we can truly understand what it is to look through another’s lens. Even if we try, we will never see what they see.
Therefore, the best that we can do is try to understand. It is important to clarify the intention of the person who has ‘offended’ you. Communication is a very difficult concept. Even at best, the words that we use will have many different meanings. Based on your ‘lens,’ you see and hear words differently than someone else. Ask the person to re-state what it is they said, or you attempt to re-state what you heard them say. Then they have the opportunity to say again what they intended. Sometimes this takes a long time to truly be understood.
It is important to be aware of your own thoughts and feelings. When you do this, you put yourself in control of your behavior. When you just react without thinking or acknowledging yourself, you put others in control of you. We each have around 60,000 thoughts in our heads each day. Tomorrow will be almost entirely the same 60,000 thoughts we had today. This ‘loop’ is continually playing in our brains. It never stops. Do you know what you’re thinking right now? I would venture to say that you don’t. Richard Carlson suggests in his book Easier Than You Think that you watch the screen of your mind like you watch the movie screen. Just watch your thoughts go by for a short period of time. Don’t judge what you see, just watch. You’ll be amazed. You’ll become aware.
You cannot teach children the power of self-control if you haven’t mastered it yourself and self-control begins with your perceptions. You would not purposely hand control over to your children, but when you allow them to control what you do or don’t do, that is exactly what you are doing. When you say, “You make me so mad,” or “Don’t make me…” you are putting that other person in control of you. You’re saying that for this moment in time, I’ll let you be in charge of me and my actions.
Stop what you’re thinking right now and change it. Don’t give anyone permission to upset you. Take back control of your life. Self-control is an act of love and a moment-by-moment choice. Seize the moment, now.
“I've suffered a great many catastrophes in my life. Most of them never happened.”