The Gift of Control

Jim:    Greetings, friend.  And, welcome to our continuing series of podcasts on mindfulness.  My name is Jim Ellermeyer.  I’m a Behavioral Health Therapist.  And, on our site – Fishing Without Bait, we offer people ways to live a life without definitive expectations.  Where we set ourselves up for failure, we set ourselves up for frustration.  And, as always, I’m joined by my friend and co-host, Mr. Mike.

Mike:    Hi, Jim.  How are you doing today?

Jim:    Good.  Good.  Mike, what do you generally associate Christmas with?

Mike:    Christmas?  Joy.  Family.

Jim:    And, what do children look for under the tree?

Mike:    Presents!

Jim:    Gifts.  Is that correct?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    So, what we’re trying to do is help people give themselves their own gift – their own gift of mindfulness.  So, sometimes what we ask what is the purpose of this mindfulness and choice things that you talk about?  What we’re asking for is for people to participate in this and bring choices back into their life which will give people an increased sense of control.  Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, Mike, are we always in control of the situation we’re in?

Mike:    Absolutely not.

Jim:    No, no.  We are not.  Are you in control of an automobile accident?  Are you in control of a bee sting?

Mike:    It’s an accident.  It’s nature.

Jim:    It happens.

Mike:    It’s the stuff that happens around you.

Jim:    It just happens.  However, Mike, are we in control of how we react?

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    And, that is a choice, is it not?

Mike:    As much as it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, you really are.

Jim:    Absolutely.  And, that is a choice.  Do we have control over how we react?  I can’t stop Mr. So-And-So from driving through a red light and hitting my car.  However, I can control how I react.  Once again, I want to get back to the idea of a gift.  And, it truly is a gift.  It’s something that you can use in your everyday life.  When you receive a gift generally, are you happy?

Mike:    Yeah.

Jim:    Yeah!  Absolutely!  Did you ever see a child on Christmas morning?

Mike:    There’s some great videos of the N-64 kid that gets that console and he goes, “AAAAAGHHH!”  He just loses his mind on YouTube.

Jim:    Absolutely!  So, giving yourself the gift of choice – how joyous could that possibly be?  So, what we want to look at Mike, is to be certain that you – and you alone, are in control of your choices.  How often do we allow other people, places, things, circumstances, and events to be in control of our choices?

Mike:    Far too often.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, quite often we’ll – again, we’ll refer back to You made me so angry, or If you wouldn’t have done that I wouldn’t be so upset.  However, does anyone truly have that power over you, Mike?

Mike:    No.  

Jim:    So, in effect, what you’ve done is given your choices to someone else – some person, place, thing, or situation.

Mike:    You’re allowing others to do that to you.  

Jim:    You’re giving your choices away.  This is where the mindfulness comes in, Mike.  This is where paying attention on purpose comes in.  This is taking a non-judgmental stance and understanding this is what you did – and not beating yourself up about it.  What we want to do, Mike, we also want to be mindful of consequences.  For every choice there is a consequence, is there not?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, do you have to have a driver’s license, Mike?

Mike:    Nope.

Jim:    No.  You do not.  However, sometimes the police have a very dim sense of humor about you not having that driver’s license.  So, should you be prepared to accept the consequences?  Do you have to take a driver’s license with you?  Do you have to have one?  Should you be prepared for the consequences?

Mike:    Yeah.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, one thing in making choices, we need to be – we want to be mindful of the consequences, to follow that step through, to play that film out.  Be mindful of those.  We want to ask ourselves is our mindful mind – is our wise mind making these choices?  Or is it our emotional mind?  How could you tell, Mike?  How could you tell whether you’re making an emotional mind decision?

Mike:    You can kind of feel it in your gut if you’re making that decision.  If it’s a very emotional response.  If you’re yelling, that could be a clear indicator.

Jim:    Am I letting anger drive this decision?  Am I letting greed drive this decision?  Am I letting sadness drive this decision?  Am I letting sympathy?  I am I letting grief, remorse, sorrow – what is driving this?  So, when we make a choice, Mike, we want to be mindful about what is driving that choice.  How often have you given into someone and done something that you did not want to do?

Mike:    Far too often.

Jim:    Far too often.  Absolutely.  And, do you ever check in with your own personal values when you make choices, Mike?

Mike:    I try to.  Especially in business decision, saying ahhh, I don’t know if I want to do things that way.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, as we’ve discussed before, I consider everyone on this planet to be in recovery – recovery from something, not necessarily drugs or alcohol.

Mike:    Recovery from birth.

Jim:    Yes.

Mike:    What is happening?

Jim:    Absolutely.  From an accident of birth.

Mike:    Right.  It’s a traumatic experience to begin with.  And, then I think we all are just continually coping from there and everything that happens since.  I am not a professional.  That would be you.

Jim:    Absolutely.  When we talk about people being in recovery, they can be in recovery from greed.  They can be in recovery from depression, from anxiety.  They can be in recovery from grief.  They can be in recovery from being a shoplifter – all different types of things in their life.  Or they could be in recovery from being a people-pleaser.  

Mike:    I think everybody – not everybody, but I think a lot of people have this idea of well, what’s wrong with me?  Well, you’re just like everybody else now.  I think people have this idea of oh, I’m a person that does this and shouldn’t have these kinds of problems.  And, that’s not the truth.  I don’t know.  There’s a strange narrative going on out there that isn’t saying “It’s okay to not be alright.”  Is that fair to say, you think?

Jim:    Mm-hmm.  Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Mike:    We’ve talked about in the past, kind of what media does to our thoughts.  How it influences us.  And then, on the other side of the coin we have this big mental health misinformation that’s out there as well – how we deal with people; how we’re talking about things after horrible things that have happened in this country lately, and everything like that.  And, then people don’t get the help they need and they’re just, oh, he’s just an angry person.  And, because the person doesn’t feel like, oh, I’m just mad, not oh, I have a problem and I need to deal with this.  I don’t think that’s to say that everybody needs to go into therapy necessarily, but they need to learn to deal with things.  There’s just an education of the mind that doesn’t happen.

Jim:    Remember in our last podcast we talked about the Buddha saying the mind was like a wild horse, a bucking bronco.  How do we do that?  And, when it’s a bucking bronco, a bucking bronco makes its choice based on emotion.  Let’s just use alcohol for an example.  If you have an issue with alcohol, for everything that you do, you could say how is this going to affect my recovery.  And, if there’s the slightest possibility that it will, that stands time for some real mindfulness to stand back, become the observer and take some serious mindful action on that particular subject.  Or, Mike, will it keep you from a goal?  Will making a decision keep you from a goal?

Mike:    Right.

Jim:    You have many deadlines.

Mike:    Yes.

Jim:    Many.  So, quite often, a friend might call up and say, “Hey.  I just got this new online game, this new video game.  It’s really fantastic and I know you.  And, I know you’d love it.  I’m going to come over.  Let’s play it for a couple hours.  Let’s just see how it goes.  Let’s get the hang of it.”  So, what would your first inclination be?  I know that you enjoy those things?

Mike:    I’d be like, “Yeah.  I kind of want to.”

Jim:    Remember, what is driving that choice?  Would it affect your goal of getting your deadlines done?

Mike:    Right.  And, that happens a lot with me, especially since a lot of my work actually – I find myself on Saturday night working basically.  Again, fun stuff – but still, there’s a lot of, “Sorry.  I can’t go hang out with you guys.”  I can’t do this thing that’s happening.  There are a lot of tough choices that have to be made for me to say, “I want to do this and progress this path in my life.”  

Jim:    However, when we look back, and we look at the choice that you made, will it affect my recovery?  And, I know that you want to do work.  And, we have a tendency toward pleasure.  We have a tendency toward instant gratification, which that choice – when we’re mindful about it, will realize that it is keeping us from a goal.  And, is it a wise-mind choice?  And, also, Mike, remember – our choices are actually modeling behavior for others.  There’s a quote from James Baldwin.  He says that children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.  

Mike:    Sounds like another spin of history repeats itself.

Jim:    Absolutely.  Often, maybe you’ve heard about when a child misbehaves at school, or maybe they’ve hit another child.  And, when they come home, their parents spank them to impress upon them that they shouldn’t be hitting other people.

Mike:    When my dog pees on the floor, I don’t pee on my dog.  That’s one way to look at that.

Jim:    Absolutely.  So, remember, our choices are modeling behavior.  And, what are you judged by, Mike?  For other people, when they interact with you?

Mike:    That outward behavior.

Jim:    Absolutely.  They look at the choices that you make.  So, when you tell me about all these things that happen on the news – all these things that you hear about, if those people would step back and be mindful about making those choices and understanding where those choices come from – where they’re mainly emotion driven, were they mainly emotional-mind driven.  And, remember, modeling behavior – if we could just stop and say what type of behavior am I modeling for those around me.  What type of behavior and choices am I modeling for people in my sphere – people that I care about?  Remember, Mike, and everyone – happiness is a choice.  Or do we place conditions on our happiness, Mike?  This is where the mindfulness comes in.  Am I placing conditions on this choice?  Am I placing conditions on my happiness?

Mike:    And, you’re saying the ideas of I’ll be happy if…, I’ll be happy when…  This thing happens. I accomplish this goal.  And, I’m not allowing myself to be happy before that goal happens.

Jim:    Absolutely.  One of the biggest things that we talk about is how to increase the choices.  So, how do we do it?  Spend more time being grateful.  Make a mindful choice to decrease negativity – to decrease people, places, things, circumstances, events that surround you.  We want to avoid places of emotional vulnerability.  And remember, as we always – we talk about the 12-step world, is do we have the lenses in our glasses reversed where we’re concentrating on a problem and not the solution.  One thing that I’d like to end with tonight, and resume in our next podcast is the choice of forgiveness.  We always want to keep in mind that forgiveness does not mean acceptance of what happened, or that it was okay.  When you forgive someone, Mike, for wronging you – that doesn’t say that what they did was acceptable or that it was okay, or that you had some type of act in it.  What it does is – the forgiveness in choosing that is choosing that that emotion – that anger, that bitterness, and that resentment have lost their control over you.  That truly is what forgiveness is about.  It’s about understanding and choosing that that emotion – anger, bitterness, or resentment, has lost their control over you.  What a wonderful choice that would be.  How many people do you know, Mike, lead their lives full of bitterness and resentment?

Mike:    I know plenty.

Jim:    And it lasts for a whole day, or a whole week, or a whole month, or a whole lifetime. Absolutely.  So, we hope that you’ve enjoyed a little bit about choices today.  In our next podcast, we’ll be resuming and we’ll be talking about the choice of forgiveness – not only forgiving others, but truly making a choice in forgiving yourself and realizing that these emotions can no longer have control over you.  We can take our choices back from them.  So, until then, Mike, I’ve enjoyed talking to you this evening.  And, for everyone out there, for a truly mindful experience we ask that you go through your life and fish without bait.  

Please check out our website at where you can listen to the show, comment on our discussions and find out where you can subscribe to our podcast.  Fishing Without Bait is a production of Namaste Holistic Counseling, P.C.