The idea that responsible parenthood and citizenship involves learning to control emotions is misguided. Emotions can’t be controlled. Emotions come and go in response to what we believe about our thoughts. What matters is how we choose to use emotions. For, injurious words and actions derive from thought and choice, not ever from emotions per se.
Responsible parenthood and citizenship requires beneficent, internal management of thought and beneficent choice of words and behaviors.
Beneficent management of thoughts begins with viewing them as an impartial witness, noticing the feelings evoked by the thoughts and then changing the thoughts that create negative emotions. This is internal work that can be done in a moment. When the work can’t be done right away, responsible parents and citizens refrain from acting until they have completed the internal work of beneficent self-management.
By witnessing first the emotion and then the associated thinking, the experiencer exists in a state of grace and harmonious equanimity that is a manifestation of unconditional love. This state is also an inner gateway to the power of free will choice.
All humans are born with the power of free will choice. We become responsible parents and citizens when we learn to use that power responsibly to uplift, to heal, to educate, to nourish, to delight, to inspire, to empower.
The thinking that believes emotions are the cause of harmful words and actions is harmful, because it leads to a dishonest justification of those behaviors. It is an excuse based upon a lie, because words and actions are caused by thinking and choice. And so, the next action after claiming that an emotion caused a behavior is often making up stories to try to justify the behavior.
One of the most common stories, i.e. lies, is that someone MADE you feel angry, sad, etc. It is a lie, because it is not possible. You are the only person responsible for what you choose to tell yourself about what others say or do, and thus you are also responsible for the emotion generated by your thoughts. The truth is that YOU make yourself feel.
To become a responsible parent and citizen, it is essential to become adept at self-operation. This means learning gratitude for the gift of emotion, for the way it shows us when and where we need to use witness consciousness, self-inquiry and careful choice to restore equanimity and clear thinking before speaking or taking action.
Love is the ultimate source of responsible parenthood and citizenship. Love never controls. And love is not an emotion. Love holds all things in balance, including emotions. Love is not a polar energy like the emotions. Like is the polar opposite of hate. Love embraces all, including the positive and negative emotions.
To be a responsible parent and citizen, love yourself and all beings. Monitor yourself gently, with love. Notice when your thoughts take you away from the state of equanimity that accompanies unconditional love.
Instead of wasting energy on trying to control uncontrollable emotions, seek within and find the inner state of equanimity and unconditional love. When established in this inner state, you are also seated at the inner ‘driver’s seat,’ from which you can operate yourself responsibly with clear, informed and beneficent intention.
Efforts made to control uncomfortable emotions block the natural, constant flow of emotion. The result is an increase in the intensity of the emotion. So controlling energy in motion, or e-motion, creates a result that is the opposite of what was intended. Controlled emotion becomes more and more extreme and volatile until it erupts in the form of harmful words and actions.
Forget about trying to control emotions. Establish yourself in equanimity and unconditional love, so that you can become a responsible self-operator by welcoming emotions and examining the thoughts that create them. Choose words and actions with loving care for self and for all. Practice this.
To care for yourself and others, practice taking good care of your inner environment of emotion and thought. Practice enough, and you will rarely and possibly never again choose to react with injurious words and actions. One day, you will look back at your past and wonder how long it has been since you hurt yourself or another. Practice. Practice. Practice. Become an expert at self-management. Become an Olympic athlete of self-management.
And remember, management is not controlling or shutting down. Management is establishing oneself in the inner state of unconditional love and equanimity, so that you can embrace and allow all that is within you, give it all due consideration, and then choose actions and words that are true, kind and serve to improve the situation at hand.
- Ambika Collins