“I’ve lost control of the situation.”
In my own case it’s taken me years to cultivate self-control to prevent my emotions from betraying themselves. Only a short time ago I was the conqueror of the world, commanding the largest and finest army of modern times. That’s all gone now! To think I kept all my composure, I might even say preserved my unvarying high spirits … You don’t think that my heart is less sensitive than those of other men. I’m a very kind man but since my earliest youth I have devoted myself to silencing that chord within me that never yields a sound now. If anyone told me when I was about to begin a battle that my mistress whom I loved to distraction was breathing her last, it would leave me cold. Yet my grief would be just as great as if I had the time. Without this self-control, do you think I could have done all I’ve done?
~ Napoleon (in a letter to Louis-Mathieu Mole)
…I’ve never seen anything as strong or as stubborn,” he says.
And I think,
how do you tame a wild tongue,
train it to be quiet,
how do you bridle it and saddle it?
How do you make it lie down?
~ Gloria Anzaldua, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue“, From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Pamela Druckerman interviews Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Columbia, in Learning How to Exert Self-Control:
…Self-control can be taught. Grown-ups can use it to tackle the burning issues of modern middle-class life: how to go to bed earlier, not check email obsessively, stop yelling at our children and spouses, and eat less bread. Poor kids need self-control skills if they’re going to catch up at school.
…Adults can use similar methods of distraction and distancing, he says. Don’t eye the basket of bread; just take it off the table. In moments of emotional distress, imagine that you’re viewing yourself from outside, or consider what someone else would do in your place. When a waiter offers chocolate mousse, imagine that a cockroach has just crawled across it. “If you change how you think about it, its impact on what you feel and do changes,” Mr. Mischel writes.
…He explains that there are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.
…Self-control alone doesn’t guarantee success. People also need a “burning goal” that gives them a reason to activate these skills
Read the rest of Druckerman’s column here: Learning How to Exert Self-Control
Find Mischel’s new book at Amazon here: The Marshmellow Test: Mastering Self-Control.
Image Source: Foodspotting
Something is off. Life passes and we do not recognize it. The past streams through us like molecules we can’t perceive…They are not so much remembered as resurrected in us, little stitches of ordinary time that suddenly —a prick in the existential skin, a little dot of Being’s blood— aren’t. Is it merely certain temperaments—inclined to solitude and absence, feasting on distances —that are at once susceptible to these little epiphanies and yet slow to recognize them for what they are? Or is it a symptom of the times— distracted, busy, forward-rushing— that we are in? Or a symptom of time itself as we have come to understand it:
We have constructed an environment in which we live a uniform, univocal secular time, which we try to measure and control in order to get things done. This “time frame” deserves, perhaps more than any other facet of modernity, Weber’s famous description of a “stahlhartes Gehäuse” (iron cage).
—Charles Taylor, A Secular Age
~ Christian Wiman, My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)
Ouch. Hitting close to the bone here…
Epictetus (AD 55–135) was a Greek sage and philosopher. He was born a slave in present day Turkey, and lived in Rome until his banishment, when he went to Nicopolis in northwestern Greece for the rest of his life. Philosophy, Epictetus taught, is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate, and are thus beyond our control; we should accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. However, individuals are responsible for their own actions, which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering occurs from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. As part of the universal city that is the universe, it is our duty to care for all our fellow men. Those who follow these precepts will achieve happiness and peace of mind. (Source: Wiki)