Over the last few years, I have read a lot about Neuro-linguistic Programming. I really love the subject. Some of the insights have changed the way I view life. Among other books, I have read Get the Life You Want by NLP co-creator Richard Bandler.
NLP has changed my view on the origins of my emotions. I used to think the external world determined my view of reality. For example, if I got sad, angry, or whatever unhelpful emotion I felt, I believed it was because stimulus A or B in the outside world caused me to feel that way. I also viewed my lack of opportunities the same way.
I blamed my lack of opportunities in life on the government, corporate America, etc. I also blamed the graduate school I attended for my failure to have direction in life. However, I forgot to look at one key factor: me. I should note I don’t trust the government, the Academy, or big business at all. However, I have moved beyond blaming them and expecting them to do something for me.
This is not to say the outside world doesn’t cause us physical and mental pain. Author Rick Hanson, in Buddha’s Brain, calls the inevitable pain “first darts.” While we have to endure this type of pain, many of us respond by throwing “second darts,” i.e. self-inflicted pain caused by reliving past pain or inventing pain (such as when something minor causes a person to “blow up”). This shows we don’t “have” to react a certain way to anything. We find ourselves saying “I have to react (angrily, with sadness, etc), because (x,y, or z) happened.” In reality, we don’t have to react any way at all.
This is why you can line up fifty people, and have a screaming kid walk up to them. Thirty will get angry, ten will remain calm, and ten will just laugh it off and maybe even try to entertain the kid. This is great news. It means that the big, bad world “out there” doesn’t control us.
Probably the best thing you can do right now to live a better life is to stop believing that the outside world controls you and your emotions. The sooner you realize your brain controls your reactions is the sooner you will begin living the life you want.