There is one thing that almost all of us share in common, that is, we are often our own worst enemies. We become swept up in the force of ourselves so much that we often forget to be the kind of people that we are each trying to be. We sabotage our own happiness in moments of petty frustration, discomfort and/or irritability. This is part of the burden of being human. But just because it is natural doesn’t mean we should give in to it or give up on ourselves. Free will awaits all those who wish to face their weaknesses and address them.
Since most of our outbursts are products of internal thoughts or processes, our inner dialogue makes the best cut-off point for inappropriate behaviors and reactions. When we observe our inner selves experiencing signs of tension, we can then ask ourselves what struck us the wrong way and why. And for every answer we receive from ourselves, we can then ask a further question. If you follow this process you will almost inevitably find that what is bothering you is not the thing you are reacting to, but something about yourself you cannot reconcile. And even when the disturbance can be pinpointed externally, we can still question the nature of our own volatile reactions or responses.
For example, the other day while I was working the cash register at the book store, I was becoming increasingly nervous to the point of overwhelming anxiety. At some point I recognized that it was because the doorway that was located near me was very busy. The open/close/open/close/open/close was irritating for reasons that didn’t make any sense to me. So I explored my inner thoughts and investigated. I finally asked a helpful question, “What does a door symbolize?” After mulling about a bit around my mental playground I came to the conclusion that doors represent our fears, desires and frailties. A door keeps bad things out, protects the good things inside and provides access to objects of desire. From there I concluded that I had issues with my own unfulfilled desires and the door represented other peoples fulfillment. My anxiety was borne of petty jealousy. And once I realized that, the heavy door traffic stopped bothering me altogether almost instantly.
At the same time, I was exposed to an area of my own psychology that needed tending to, my frustration with my inability to fulfill my own desires to travel and write instead of live in one place and work a regular job. That is not an easy obstacle to overcome, but if I remember that it is an internal trigger, I can prevent myself from creating new obstacles out of the unrecognized frustration. Recognizing the connective patterns of our own inner workings does not necessarily solve all of our problems, but it does give us tools to deal with them in more healthy and productive ways.
There is one internal dialogue which I use regularly to great effect. I call it the ‘STFU Joshua’ voice. The first step to curbing outbursts and negative reactions is to cut ourselves off so that we have time to seek reason and calm through introspection. So as often as I possibly can, whenever I feel myself about to become unnecessarily confrontational or react in ways that will provide lingering consequences or hard feelings in myself and others, I use my inner voice to tell myself to shut the fuck up. I literally speak those words aloud in my own head. I have never disobeyed that order. The trick lies in learning when to give it.
The ultimate goal is to be able to give it whenever negativity will cost more than it can benefit. I am not for compulsive positivity, and I think a human who reduced themselves to that would be a boring, stagnant being. Great things are born of passion, and passion bears the fruit of struggle and confrontation in its growth. Yet an excess of negativity becomes a burden and consumes its bearer from within. If your own passions do not result in productive ends or fulfillment, it is time to question it and address them. This is something each of us must discover for ourselves.
I have always lived by the advice I give others, ‘QUESTION EVERYTHING!’ There is no better or effective place to apply that axiom than to your own self. Only through self reflection and introspection can we root out the flaws we are able to address and push ourselves along the path of our own evolution. The key to knowing anything at all reliably begins with self-awareness and knowing your own self.