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Issue #17: Choosing Emotional Ownership

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I could feel the intensity of the frustration.

 

Anger wasn’t far off.

 

I pulled myself up – I had 3 options:

 

1. Stuff the emotions away – i.e. ‘Control them’

2. Express them ineffectively, most likely vomit them AT someone else (ahem, Nardia) – i.e. ‘Let them control me’

3. Put my man-pants on and take ownership of experiencing and processing them.

 

It could only be #3. So, I put my shoes on, grabbed my rugby ball and headed for the park.

 

Over the next 30 minutes, I proceeded to kick the utter SHIT out of that ball as I ran around – literally – taking my frustration out on the ball.

 

I stayed present to what was going on for me, anything that came up, and then when I was exhausted I stopped and sat.

 

I didn’t judge myself or blame other people (aka Nardia), I simply reflected and processed what I was experiencing.

 

In other words, I had a strong physical emotion and I chose to manage it with maturity instead of spewing it into my relationship at my wife.

After the release, I was able to then think about it.

 

Trying to control emotions like frustration, anger and rage (or anything), and out-think them, won’t work.

 

Yet “Control Your Emotions” is almost part of the syllabus for so many boys growing up. And still anchored in the psyche of so many men.

 

Next to “Don’t show emotion” – different delivery, same end result.

 

Uggh – what a headfuck that’s been for us men. Am I right?

 

It stops us from communicating effectively – messing with our relationships, careers, and sex lives.

 

And how we feel moment to moment, day to day in our lives.

 

Control

 

What this story also does is bring into focus the broader challenge many men can have with ‘control’.

 

It can go a little something like this…

The more I try to control (what is out of my control), the less in control I feel.”

 

Does this sound familiar?

 

Or said differently:

 

‘The more you try and control things the more out of control you will feel. The more you let go of control the more in control I feel’

 

Because, let’s be clear, you cannot control everything – especially things out of your control. I hope that becomes obvious.

 

So by its very nature, attempting to control all of the things out of your control, you will NEVER feel in control.

 

There is always more you can’t grasp and bring under your control.

 

Conversely, let go of all of that and focus on what is within your control: thoughts (to some extent), words and actions; feel FAR more in control.

 

 

What you can control:

  • How you choose to interpret something
  • The meaning you give something (even people’s potential judgements of you)
  • The way you look at something
  • What you choose to give weight to
  • What you choose to focus your energy on
  • What you say to yourself and others
  • What you do
  • Who and how you BE

A solid chunk of men who enter my coaching programs struggle with control in this way – trying to control every situation, especially eternal ones.

 

It leads us to feel uncertain, lost and, ultimately, LESS in control. I have experienced this when trying to control my emotions…

 

I see this All. The. Time; men thinking that they need to ‘Keep Control’ or the world will end.

 

Like if you cried or had big emotions or let go of needing to control things your penis would invert.

 

Fearing what will happen if you ‘lose control’ or ‘let go of control’ is showing a massive lack of trust in yourself and, often, a huge preoccupation with the judgement of others.

 

Self-trust says “I can let go here, I can be okay in the uncertainty in front of me, in the uncomfortable unknown and know that I am okay, will be okay and can handle what comes in the unknown.”

 

Until we can learn to trust ourselves stepping into and sitting in uncertainty, we will try and control everything thing and every outcome.

 

Said differently: Until we can learn to regulate our own nervous system in discomfort, until we can believe that “who I am and my belonging isn’t under threat if I’m not in control”, we will cling onto a semblance of control externally.

 

Here are a few words from a coaching student, Ben on his experience with coaching and exploring control and what shifted for him with us inside ELA…

“I started coaching with Mike scared of what I might find within myself and not know how to deal with what comes up. I struggled a lot with control, aggression, lacking confidence in myself. 

 

I was lost and didn’t have any clarity on the direction I was heading in life, becoming a chameleon in social scenarios to make myself fit into what I thought were the groups that I wanted to be in.

 

During the coaching  journey I had some huge breakthroughs on my awareness, my control, and learning to ask for things that I otherwise wouldn’t have.

 

The one big thing that I learnt throughout the amazing journey was to be able to deal with my emotions, rather than try and control the situation. I have always shut off my emotions as I always thought that I had to be the strong one in my relationship and by showing emotions I was being weak. This is one thing that I grew up with and was always told to toughen up and as you will learn you are not the only that has been through this.

Being part of the community made things much easier to share and left me feeling amazing as there was no judgement from the boys.

 

For me to say that this has been an experience I will never forget is an understatement. The growth within myself has been astounding.

 

This journey is one that will push you, it will make you question your values, question who and what is important in your life, find the inner strength that you are searching for and the tools to deal with whatever life throws at you. 

 

It will make you question what it is to be a man in society today, how to become yourself and to show up as you and just be.”

 

– Ben, ELA Grad

 

The attempt to control things outside of you is a chase for certainty, which generally cannot happen.

You’ll be okay if you cry, or go express some anger in a healthy and safe way, or experience some sadness.

 

If people judge you – fuck them.

 

You get to feel. And you get to be mature in what you do with those feelings.

 

Hiding them away, stuffing them into the darkest corners of your psyche – is not maturity, it’s ignorance.

 

Don’t you think it’s time we out-grew this, fellas?

 

If you start choosing #3 (from my options above) more frequently, you’ll slowly get better at it and “managing your emotions” will be the new thing.

 

CONVERSELY – If you have issues with expressing emotions like anger, if you’ve historically taken it out on others, then you have some work to do – AND YOU GET TO DO IT.

 

But the most basic fact must be accepted first; whatever you learnt about emotions and dealing with them isn’t working. You will need help and support and solutions to change this.

 

That I can help you with – ask me.

 

To embracing the discomfort of letting go of control.