One who understands others has knowledge; One who understands himself has wisdom. Mastering others requires force; Mastering the self requires strength. ~ Tao Te Ching
I believe that most of us have far more control over our lives than we realize, because we will always have control over our reaction to any given situation. There is great power in that realization.
We need to keep our focus on understanding ourselves as opposed to trying to control and understand the actions of others. Using force to try to change the behavior of another is never the best way. So what are we to do when another person acts in a way that distresses us? The answer is always the same: be the master of yourself.
A Personal Lesson in Self Mastery
In our daily lives, there are relatively insignificant ways that others actions can affects us negatively. In most of these circumstances, we’re so much better off when we can waste as little energy on the situation as possible – and just move on with our lives. Unfortunately, even when we know better, we don’t always follow this course of action.
I used to be a daily reader of these advice columns in the Newspapers. Most of the contributors seemed like pretty decent people, even though their life situations could sometimes defy imagination. One fine day however, I was quite taken aback to read this question: “Why do people write messages such as “Happy Birthday” to dead people in newspapers? To wish someone who has died a happy birthday or anniversary seems ludicrous to me. Will you point this out to your readers and comment?”
As usual, the columnist who answers these queries, took the high road in responding to this person, explaining that those who submit such information to newspapers are often quite saddened by the anniversary or the birthday of a deceased loved one. It’s simply their way of commemorating a beloved friend or family member who has passed away. I, on the other hand, did NOT take the high road in response to this person’s letter.
My mind was in full on rant mode. I was thinking this: “Ugh! Can you believe that person?” I complained throughout the morning. “I certainly hope I raise a sensitive child, who never asks such insensitive questions.” (Not that I was feeling superior or judgmental, you understand…it was just a rant)
As I was working up a head of steam to begin ranting again, my positive self said “Zee.” calmly. “Why are you so upset? Remember, this person might be living in a very cold, dark place.” (I knew that!) “Let it go, Zee! Maybe they’ve never lost anyone. They might really NOT understand what it’s like to grieve.”
It was a rather humbling experience at that moment to realize that my inner heart centred self was always sensible – who was at the moment being far more understanding than my haughty logical ranting mind. I took a deep breath and decided it was time to stop berating the supposed ‘heartless’ newspaper column question contributor.
Then I had a talk with myself, asking myself why I had allowed a stranger’s opinion to have such a major effect on my emotions in the first place. There was no reason I had to hold on to the anger that letter had prompted, yet I had chosen to do so. Upon making that realization, I decided to take the high road like the columnist had, and to become the master of the situation. First I forgave myself for overreacting. I even ended up saying a silent prayer to wish the column’s question contributor well.
And, ofcourse, now over the years, I have completely stopped reading those advice columns and comments on any social media posts. They just have too much negative energy clouding them. Only upbeat, educational or informative videos/posts might have intellectually stimulating thoughts. I consciously choose not to indulge my time or energy in negativity.
Daily Opportunities For Self Mastery
Dealing with a store clerk with a less than helpful attitude, or that rude driver that refuses to let you into his or her lane can cause similar reactions. I have an enlightened friend who actually gives the peace sign to any rude driver she encounters while driving down the highway, as opposed to the hand gesture many of us might be tempted to share. If you’re unable to share any thoughts of peace for that person, just allow the situation to pass. Remind yourself that your life is too important to be wallowing in negative emotion. Let it go.
The examples above, although very real to us, pale in comparison to the suffering some human beings have been forced to endure throughout history. How do we remain masters of ourselves in the midst of real human suffering? Certain tragedies, even if they only affect us second-hand, are sufficiently heart-breaking that they have a ripple effect that extends throughout humanity.
Spiritual Self Mastery
What was your reaction when you first realized the atrocities of man against his fellow man in Rwanda, Iraq, or Darfur? How are we to react to such tragic events – when the actions of others are so heinous that they deliberately lead to human suffering and death? How do we remain peaceful masters of ourselves even in the midst of such horrific acts?
Here we may wish to study a man who endured first-hand one of the darkest periods in modern history. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist. In 1942 he was literally herded off to die within the system of Nazi concentration camps. Frankl endured the horrors of man’s inhumanity to man, yet even in the midst of the Holocaust, he managed to find hope and meaning in his existence. He excelled in helping his fellow captives encourage one another to find joy in the very simplest things in life—a beam of sunlight or the memory of a loved one—in an environment where death and misery were all around. Frankl even practiced sending out peaceful energy to his captors, realizing that any hatred he manifested would only serve to harm everyone in the vicinity, including himself and his fellow prisoners. His book documenting his Holocaust experiences, Man’s Search for Meaning is a true spiritual classic.
I believe if Viktor Frankl were alive today, this amazing man (who lived until 1997), would advise us to grieve for a time when we hear tragic news, but then to get on with the business of living; to find joy in our day-to-day lives and to share that joy with fellow human beings. Certainly, if we can do something to alleviate tragedy, then by all means, we should do so. But we do no one any good if we allow ourselves to wallow in thoughts of tragic events for long. If we practice this teaching, we—like Viktor Frankl—can remain masters of ourselves.
Living Out Our Self Mastery
Our daily existences often pale in comparison to the atrocities some human beings have been forced to suffer. Yet, life still presents us with challenges. Have you ever been in a situation in your work or in your personal life that continually dragged you down, despite your best efforts to rise above the negativity? It’s true that when we choose to become masters of our own reactions, as opposed to attempting to force or change the behaviour of another, relationships or work situations can change for the better.
Consider the following words from Wayne Dyer, from his book Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao:
As you realize that you are responsible for your reactions in any given moment, others will cease to have power or control over you. Rather than worrying, ‘Why is that person behaving that way & making me feel so upset,’ you can see the situation as an opportunity to view yourself from a new attitude of self-mastery.
“But what if I live with an abusive partner, or I’m involved in an office situation that is continually degrading, despite my efforts to protect myself?” I’ve heard people ask. “Do you think that by telling us to be masters of our reactions it is expected that we should tolerate people who are routinely offensive or even dangerous?”
In short, I believe the answer is No. I don’t think that is what all this means at all. Sometimes the best way to be masters of ourselves is to realize that we don’t wish to be part of a perpetually negative environment any longer. Even though it may be a frightening prospect for us, this may mean finding a way to cut ties with a long-term life partner or a job situation that is not serving our best interests.
This, it seems, is the heart of self-mastery. Consider your choices, and then realize that your reaction to any given situation is truly up to you and ONLY you.
What are your thoughts on mastering yourself? What techniques on self mastery have worked for you? Share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to learn from you ❤
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12 thoughts on “How to Be the Master of Yourself”
I enjoyed reading your post. I definitely resonated. I completely understand the points of view you are addressing. It is good food for thought especially when this world is still so much in change. One of my ways I’ve leaned more into over the years, is to just walk away from negativity. Sometimes our words or our presence helps. Other times our thoughts and prayers are more powerful. I have moved away from as much negative as I could on social media, as well as made changes in my life. Sometimes those changes aren’t easy, but necessary. Many times not just for ourselves, but for others. Keeping my thoughts and vibrations high always helps any situation or change. That is self mastery.
Insightful post, Zeenat. I resonated with it on many levels. Trusting (or knowing in my heart) everything will work out for the best helps to keep me centered and navigate my day gracefully. I am responsible for my reactions, and I honor the emotions I feel in any given moment. Life is an amazing adventure.
Hi Zeenat – this is such a great truth. The one thing we always have freedom over is freedom of reactions. As you ask why do we allow others to be in control of the emotions we feel. I’m not suggesting for a minute I don’t have this happen to me, lol, but these days I have better management of my moods and feelings, knowing as I do they are part of creating my life experience tomorrow!
This is really beautiful, dear Zee, and it’s so good to be reading/feeling you again, dear friend. This is also very timely for me with something that happened in my own life. Your writing is beautiful and meaningful. I loved it all and really resonated with these two parts….a LOT.
“We need to keep our focus on understanding ourselves as opposed to trying to control and understand the actions of others.” — This is so good because it is a simple focused action that anyone can take. We might even ask ourselves “What is it that *I* need right now?” OR “What would be helpful or soothing for *me* right now?” Then do THAT instead of engaging any further with the negativity.
“In most of these circumstances, we’re so much better off when we can waste as little energy on the situation as possible – and just move on with our lives.” —- I LOVE how you worded this, that we *waste* as little energy on it as possible. Yes, and again we might ask, “What can *I* focus on right now that would give *me* energy right not?”
And, as you say, sometimes, if we have tried everything, and we are still being dragged down, we might have to remove ourselves from the situation or remove the person or situation from our lives.
Thank you so much, dearest Zee.
I’m sending you SO much love,
Thanks for sharing your wisdom. Yu know my situation already in personal relationship :))) But I am suffering at work also with an extremely negative person and my boss do not want to fire him!!! The man is very toxic many times I gnore but I boil inside and sometimes I have to hit back on him…
Awesome post. My take away definitely not dwelling on negative emotions. I recently subscribe to the ventout app on https://www.ventout.net to help me cushion the negatives.
I read your post with great interest, Zeenat, and agree the person who is still wishing a deceased person a happy birthday might be in a dark lonely place or has not come out of grief which is very worrying.
Acknowledging an event that has caused us pain is important and giving ourselves time to process this event is equally important for good mental health.
As you might know, I’m going through the grief process right now and am giving myself space to understand what has happened and a way to honor the loved one while I continue to make the most of each day. It’s a journey in self-discovery and one that I am in the process of mastering.
Thank you for the insightful post.
Very insightful article. I am always greatful for posts like this. My take away is definately not to wallow in negative emotions. I subscribe to apps including https://www.ventout.net to help me cushion a negative mindset.
There is so much wisdom in this post. I am deeply touched by your words. I believe our spiritual purpose is to master ourselves, but so many people are unaware that this is even important or possible. Our habitual reactions run so deep, it’s easy to respond negatively without a thought. But with practice and inspiration like this, we can really change these habitual emotional reactions. We’ll be far happier and contribute to a happier world too!
Great Post. Loved Reading This. Your Words Touched My Heart. Thank You For Sharing This.
I agree with the message of this post and the Wayne Dyer quote so much. We can’t control much in this life, but the one thing we can control is our responses and behavior – not our thoughts and reactions. Those are instinctual. But with awareness, we can overrule our programmed instincts. Doing this has changed my life for the better!
This article is so true, Zeenat. We can be true to ourselves and what we are feeling and believe, and not get taken in by the pressure from others to conform to their expectations. The more self-aware we are, the less stressful life becomes. Happiness comes from being true to yourself.
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