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Freedom and Self Control

Freedom and Self Control

When we consider self control it often brings up ideas of self deprivation or forced willpower. Although these are forms of controlling yourself, there isn’t really any freedom in them, right? Here, Veronika Tugaleva and Urban Spiritual share a real form of self control that offers freedom as well as results:

One morning I woke up and was plunged into psychological shock. I had forgotten I was free.
― Jack Henry Abbott

There was a time, not too long ago, when the idea of self-control conjured within me images of uptight businessmen, lifeless machine-like drones, and judgmental purists.

All my life I yearned for freedom. Self-control, I thought, was most certainly not freedom. How could I be free if I couldn’t do what I wanted?

For many of us, self-control entails fist-clenching, breath-holding, red-faced willpower – eye-to-eye with temptation. And eventually, if that works enough times, a submissive, head-down, tail-between-the-legs, menial existence drowned in the pain of unfulfilled desires.

Self-control through complete denial and repression isn’t really self-control. It’s more like torture.

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A few months before I experienced an intense spiritual transformation, I had decided to quit smoking. At the time, I did not realize that every thought I had, and every action I took was connected; that there was a reason I smoked. There’s always a reason, no matter how buried.

I thought that by quitting, I’d solve many of my issues, but I was only addressing a symptom of some deeper problem, and thus continued to be self-destructive, and feel shameful and inauthentic.

It was like pulling a single strand out of a tangled ball of thread. When I tried to pull one, all the others came with it in stubborn, tight knots. The harder I pulled, the more tangled it all became.

And I relapsed…and relapsed…and relapsed again.

All the while, I would rationalize to myself, Maybe I’m just too broken to quit. Maybe I’ve got an addictive personality. Maybe I have to smoke to be creative.

I’d look at the process of quitting as a process of “self-control” – the torture version. It was miserable. I hated it. I wanted, desperately, to smoke. I believed I needed it. I believed that I was the kind of person who couldn’t really be good or normal. And thus, every moment without a cigarette was excruciating.

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Each time I relapsed, I felt free; free to do as I pleased. I’d tell myself that life without cigarettes was a life of slavery. I could only be free if I was doing what I wanted. Like this, I allowed myself to remain in a cycle of pain and self-destruction.

As the pain of attempted self-control followed by relapse built more and more, I finally had a major breakdown, and I realized how truly enslaved I was, how little freedom I actually had.

From that realization sprung a great epiphany weaved with a hundred tiny strands of thread that I had patiently and painfully unwound from my body, mind, and soul. I realized the truth: self-control means soul-in-control. It means allowing the most authentic, pure part inside all of us to lead. Self-control is simple. It is the only freedom. And the fuel is faith.

In that space, quite suddenly, smoking became unnecessary. As did judgement; as did shame; as did resentment, and self-destruction.

Suddenly, life was simple.

We all deeply crave to live life doing what we want, when we want. I think the reason that self-control seems to be the opposite of that is that many people are not in touch with their deepest desires. So we turn to what seems obvious, and relatively easy – cars, money, clothes, etc. But in the end those things have the potential to take us far from our inner lives.

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We think we want the riches of the material world, but it is fool’s gold. Those things fade and leave us disappointed, yet after we’ve worked so hard to get them, we must reassure ourselves again, and again that it’s what we wanted.

It isn’t until we get to the bottom of the barrel, finding ourselves accidentally in a prison we’ve built for ourselves brick-by-brick, having gone years without actually feeling happy, that we realize: self-control is not the opposite of freedom. Self control is freedom.

It is only when our truest self is in control that we can finally be happy.

In the ocean of life – this exhilarating, mysteriously deep, and sometimes turbulent ocean of existence – the only way to sail freely is to have a well-trained, capable, wise captain who can shelter you from the storms. Hint, hint – the captain is you!

Those who cannot control themselves are slaves. They are slaves to their own pain, to which they are so unconsciously attached. And subsequently, they are slaves to a system that gladly exploits the time and money of those who are willing to trade their lives away for a measure of security. The system works this way only because we allow it to. It’s no one’s fault, but it’s everyone’s responsibility.

It is time for us to awaken, to realize once and for all that the ultimate safety and the most precious security is that of the boundless, eternal self.

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We are already free. Free to choose to be guided by who we really are. We already have freedom of thought, freedom of love, freedom of spirit.

We are free to graciously and compassionately control ourselves in the effort for greater self-realization.

Vironika Tugaleva is an author, speaker, reformed cynic, people lover, and a very different kind of spiritual teacher. Inspiring and wise beyond her years, Vironika Tugaleva helps people heal their minds and discover their inner strength. You’re invited to read more about Vironika by clicking the link below, and get your copy of her complimentary ebook: How to Find Love: A Brief (But Essential) Guide (www.vironika.org/findlove).

The Freedom Of Self Control | Urban Spiritual

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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