Self control

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I believe most people have more self-control than they know or make use of, especially over their actions and reactions. I try to keep control over myself as much as possible; always double-checking my instincts. This is controversial, but I can say that doing this has saved me from a lot of sticky situations, especially when my instincts are telling me to snap at people when I feel hurt. It is in vast contrast with the idea of ‘going with your gut’, however my gut is usually more concerned with my own benefit than helping others. That’s why I always try to think of other solutions before following my instinct. I am of the belief that there are always multiple paths of response – you always have choice.

I don’t control the thoughts that come into my head, nor could I if I wanted to. Far from this in fact, I get intrusive thoughts regularly; the important thing is what I do with these thoughts. I always try to make cognitive, conscious decisions on whether to pay attention to those thoughts – to ignore them or act on them. This is how I have been taught to behave from a relatively early age. I’ve always been taught to think before I act. Perhaps as a result of this, I am guilty of getting frustrated with others when they can’t or don’t control their responses in the same way I do. I have been told I have a high emotional intelligence and maturity for my age. I don’t totally agree. My theory is that by being told I have this high degree of social intelligence, I have been prompted and perhaps even felt obligated to use this so-called “skill” more carefully. It is my reckoning that everyone has this capacity – to learn how people (including themselves) function; why they behave certain ways when presented with difficult scenarios and how they handle confrontation. I even analyse why I make subconscious or immediate choices that are insignificant in the grand scheme.

Some may say this is characteristic of a control freak or even obsessive compulsive disorder. But I don’t think it is, because my constant analysis is a conscious decision in itself. When presented with a decision, I choose to either put extra thought into my decision, or just go through the instinctual motions assuming I will subconsciously make the right decision. In essence, whenever I have an instinct my immediate reaction is to say ‘yes’ or ‘wait’. Should I follow my instinct without a second thought or do I go deeper into this compulsion and figure out why my natural instinct was to go with that particular reaction? Sometimes I’ll follow my instinct without question, specifically when I’m in danger, find that the decision isn’t life-changing/important or simply need to take fast action. I’ll usually let my instinct tell me when to laugh, run away, what to eat for breakfast… some of these things I haven’t gained control over. Probably for the best that when something is hurtling towards my face I get out of the way before I question why I want to get out of the way, if it will actually hurt on impact, why it’s flying towards me in the first place etc. I tackle those after I’m out of ‘danger’.

Sometimes I get stuck inside my head trying to think my way out of situations when I really should just pick something and get started. This happens pretty frequently and is the reason for most of my procrastination. I want to find the best method to tackle a problem before I even start – this can lead me to putting off starting on assignments until I know exactly what I want to write. Of course I won’t know exactly what I want to write until I start doing background research, experimenting with ideas and brainstorming. So there are some faults in my system, but it works for me well enough to be a placeholder until I find or develop something better.

As I was writing this, an idea came to me – a possible reason that I analyse everything to this extent other than learned behaviour (because let’s face it, learned behaviour isn’t impossible to deviate from – we’ve all done things despite having learnt that it’s wrong. A simple matter of risk vs reward; a concept I won’t go into today). I am determined not to make mistakes. But why? Why am I afraid of making mistakes? I know that making mistakes is a good way to learn. My theory is this: it means I failed to prevent them. I didn’t predict them, so perhaps I wasn’t smart enough in planning out my actions. Mistakes are much more frequent when you act on impulse or without planning.

I’ve experienced what it is like to act impulsively as well as being on the receiving end of such a person. I didn’t like it very much. You get bombarded with irrational emotions for small inconveniences and you can go about dealing with problems in long and difficult ways when with a little more thought a much simpler method could have been found. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve acted impulsively and ended up kicking myself for saying something insensitive, offensive or just plain incorrect. I don’t want people to be afraid of how I’ll react to bad news, which is why I employ such tight regulations on my reactions. I have self-control because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. I encourage you to ask questions of yourself when you feel an impulse to react to a bad situation: Why am I feeling this way? Am I placing blame in the right place? Is this situation really making me feel this way or is something else bothering me?

I have been told I have more self-control than most people my age. I don’t agree, I just think I choose to employ that self-control more often. Young people are smart and the voice of the future, we could do so much good if we set our minds to it! I’ve been brought up to find the best solution to a problem, and most of the time the best solution isn’t the first one I think of. It takes self-control to allow myself time to think before just launching myself with the first option I come up with. I still have impulsive or irrational thoughts. I just choose to put them on hold while I consider other options. Sometimes I don’t let myself think long enough and I still make silly choices – that’s just something I can develop. I am of the belief that anyone can develop more self-control over their reactions, and they may gain a better reputation as a fair and rational person for it. All it takes is some practise and exercise of social and emotional intelligence.

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