Whatever happened to self-control?


By David Joel Miller.

Is self-control a lost art?

Controler

Self-Control.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Self-control is not something you’re automatically born with.  The ability to control yourself is something that develops over time.  As often as we hear about a lack of Self-control you would think that the growing and development of Self-control was a lost art.

Newborn infants are remarkable for their lack of self-control.  Babies cry whenever they want something, and they are totally irresponsible when it comes to eliminating their waste products.  What does it take for these infants to grow into people who have some amount of Self-control?

Parents are the best teachers of self-control.

In the early stages of life, parents have to provide the control that children are lacking within themselves.  Parents who do not make an effort to control their children teach that child they cannot be controlled. If the child cannot be controlled by the parents, then how could they possibly control themselves?

Increasingly we see young people, and even those into middle life, who have somehow concluded that Self-control was something you were either born with or will never have.  They have convinced themselves that they cannot control themselves.

How is that related to addiction whose hallmark is loss of control?

Can you see how all people who lack self-control in the small, day-to-day items would be at an extra risk of developing an addiction?  People who find it difficult to resist the urge for more food, to spend more money or to behave in responsible ways, are likely to find drugs and alcohol impossible to control.

Those who are low in Self-control give the job of Self-control up to someone or something that can readily control them.  Addictions like to control their victims.  People with poor impulse control frequently get convicted of a crime.  If you can’t control yourself often the state is willing to appoint a probation officer or parole agent who will take over the job of controlling you.

Which is in control – the mind or the body?

Some people struggle to determine where their lack of control resides.  Should their mind and their thoughts control them?  Or is it the body that is in control?  This false dichotomy, that there are two parts to us, the mind, and the body, makes it difficult to learn Self-control.

Our mind, those things we are thinking about, has a huge impact on how our body feels those things.  Our body, those physical sensations of hunger, thirst and being tired, strongly influence how our mind thinks.

Willpower is a skill that you can grow and exercise.

Willpower is not some separate thing that you have or do not have.  If you feel you’re short on willpower don’t blame your genes and at this point, it’s too late to blame your parents.  Begin the process of growing your own willpower.

Willpower comes from our feelings and our thinking.

For more on this topic, willpower, and it’s closely related cousin won’t-power, check out the other posts on willpower at counselorssoapbox.com

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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