When my eldest son was in elementary school, he believed he should be able to control what his little brother did and said. “Stop looking at me!” “Stop singing!” “Don’t laugh when I’m mad!” While these are pretty common things that many little kids go through, my son was particularly loud about trying to force his brother to do what he wanted him to do. We recognized that he was struggling with understanding what was within his sphere of control, and what was not. We tried to boil it down for his young mind to focus on what he could control—what he did, and what he said. Nothing more, and nothing less.
As I watch what is unfolding on social media as a measure of how a broad spectrum of people are responding to the uncertainty we are living with right now, I’m reminded of these conversations from 10+ years ago with my son. There are a whole mess of people trying to control what other people are doing, saying and thinking on a scale I’ve never seen before.
Let’s face it. Whatever your background or beliefs, whatever our differences, there is one thing I think everyone broadly agrees on. As an American society, we are as divided and polarized as we’ve ever publicly been in recent memory. Sure, there’s always been hatred and vitriol and garbage spewed publicly by some. But I’ve never personally witnessed it on such a mass scale before. From all sides.
And it has caused me to become more like my young son than I care to admit. I want to scream at the messages I see coming across in the public space. I want to make people stop—stop being so mean. Stop attacking one another. Listen to each other. Remember what we all share in common. Look for that common ground.
But none of that is in my control.
I recently read a quote from Derren Brown’s book, “Happy”. He has two columns labeled “Under Our Control” and “Not Under Our Control”. In the first column, he basically has my advice to my young son about what we control, though he words it even better than I did—“Our thoughts, our actions”. On the other list are all the things I WANT to control right now—what people are saying and doing to each other, or to me. But like we’ve been saying here, none of that is in MY control. So I have to stop trying to control it.
I’ve decided to challenge myself this week, and I’m inviting you to join me. Here’s what I’m going to do.
- Make a list of things that make me feel the most upset right now.
- Evaluate what I can control about each thing.
- Exercise that control in order to better be able to choose my mentality.
- Repeat as necessary.
Allow me to give you an example.
- One thing making me upset right now is all the fighting taking place on the Book of Faces.
- I can control a few of things there—
- How much time I spend on that platform
- Who I follow
- What I post
- Who I engage with.
- I’m going to spend some time adjusting my settings so I have more control over whose posts I’m seeing and who sees my posts. I don’t have to choose to allow people who I know will say hateful things to see what I have to say. That’s my choice. I don’t have to engage with everyone. (Can you tell that I’m engaging in some self-talk here?)
- I’ll continue to reevaluate these choices as needed.
Let me know if you decide to join me in this challenge, and what you come up with. Regardless of what we may believe, we really are all in this together. No way around it. Be safe out there.