The Only Thing We Control Is Our Reaction
Nothing else is our domain
External events do not harm us — only our responses to them can
It may sound counterintuitive — “of course external events can harm us!” we might protest, “I can get hit by a bus, or my partner might leave me!”
But the reality is that the story doesn’t actually end with the external occurrence, even though so many people think it does. We perceive and talk about these events as though they are the defining moment, and sort of gloss over everything available to us afterwards.
These events only have the power that we choose to give them. They only destroy us because we think they are destructive, and allow them to run our lives.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously said,
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
And the same is true with anything external — not just other people.
If our judgement about any event is that it is horrible, then we allow ourselves to dwell in the belief that we are far worse off if they happen. But if we strip external events of their power, and reclaim our internal power to decide, gage, and assign value, we maintain control of our lives — and happiness.
Because our internal judgements are independent of external events, the occurrence of a bad event does not necessarily have to result in sadness.
If we lose something dear to us and get down ourselves, the problem is not the loss, but our outlook on it.
Life results in loss. Loss will happen. It’s part of being alive. And while loss looks different from person to person and we may experience different things, to go through life allowing any loss to bully us or push us around emotionally in any direction that it chooses is to surrender our control — and wellbeing.
We assign to much power to internal emotions as well
And not nearly enough to reason and balance; to reclaiming control rather than allowing ourselves to be rocked by what we feel.
Roman politician and lawyer Cicero said,
“When misfortunes appear on the horizon, we exaggerate then once more, because of the pain they are causing us. These feelings compel us to put blame on the circumstances when what we ought to be blaming is a deficiency in our own character.”
Obviously, most of us are not immune to external events. Most of us are going to feel negative emotions — anger, sadness, heartbreak, etc. — over negative things happening.
But recognizing that there is an inner core that is free no matter the circumstances, and recognizing that our mindset is not at the mercy of external events — or our immediate emotional response to it — but rather something that is under our own control can go a long way in fostering a healthier, happier outlook.
And it can help us maintain emotional wellbeing when things do go wrong — which they will.
All of us will experience setbacks and loss. But it is only our assessment of the loss and how much power we choose to give it, especially through emotion — that makes us sad. And our wellbeing, conversely, is also entirely in our own control — should we only choose.