How To Increase Your Self-Control

How To Increase Your Self-Control: Directed Passion

Life Recovery: The Three Major Factors – Part 2.

increase self-control

First, we must backtrack to part 1 – let’s set a context and rhythmic flow for the following narrative.

Whatever that means. It sounds right. Anywho.

Recall the first major factor in life change: willingness.

However, this is not a blind, knee-jerk type of willingness. It’s not merely the “drive” behind an action, It’s an emotional-charge with purpose, meaning, and contribution.

Indeed, directionally speaking, it is very narrow and specific; and in actuality, it too has three parts, they are as follows:

“First, willingness must meet the right attitude. Second, attitude must be positioned correctly, that is with “the other in mind.” And third, this position must become a permanent residence, a way of life as it were (Cited from Part 1 – Check Out The Whole Article Here).”

If Willingness Is The Vehicle, What’s The Fuel?

Willingness is tantamount to a vehicle, so it’s not so much the drive as it is the mode of travel. When we think “drive,” we think “force.” Thus, the drive-force is likened to the fuel which propels the machine, the lifeblood of humanity: Passion.

Passion: The Second Major Factor In Life Change.

Perhaps the distinction between willingness and passion is not so evident. Undoubtedly, the two go hand in hand, they are practically inseparable. Yet, I cannot help but yield to a third.

Think of water, which is two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule; as water is composed of three parts so is a life narrative – an important concept in taming the passions.

What I’m attempting to articulate is a composition of passion, willingness, and attitude-direction (the third element) as that which determines the script and final production of one’s perceived existence (their life narrative); a composition which needs to be refined to promote emotional sobriety.

self-control


What Is Passion?

In philosophical circles “the passions” are usually referred to as feelings, desires, or emotions, as contrasted with reason.

Thus, we are discussing something more primitive, more instinctive in nature. Bill Wilson delineates in a very succinct manner what he believes the passions to be. He calls them the basic instincts of life. I prefer the term “emotional drives.”

He writes,

natural instincts

Sandy B’s Steam Train

Analogously, Sandy B. rightly concludes that these “natural assets,” these emotional drives, are similar to a steam locomotive.

Let me explain…

The train is fueled by burning combustible material – usually coal, wood, or oil – which produces steam in a boiler. The steam is then funneled into a tank and leveraged for a dual purpose: power and speed.

In a word, the steam animates it; endowing the train with life.

But Don’t Underestimate The Importance Of The Pressure Gauge

However, there is a caveat. The steam pressure gauge needs constant attention…why? Well, the steam, that is the very thing that gives the train life will also be the very thing that destroys it if it’s left unregulated.

Our passions, our emotional drives, are just like that – they demand constant attention, diligence, and regulation to operate optimally. And, as with the locomotive, you’re regulation may need a crew (See Part 1 – Section on Attitude). But most importantly, as Bill W noted, proper regulation has to do with proper direction.


My Personal Take On The Passion-Force And What It Looks Like Properly Regulated

The passion-force is an inescapable human attribute. It cannot be suppressed, repressed, or oppressed. It finds itself in inevitable expression. Thus, passion only ceases once the heart does.

You might be wondering, how is it expressed? Well, the inherent creativity in passion cannot help but shape it – its influence is merely determined by its direction.

Let me allow Jesus to take it from here, but stick with me I promise it’s highly relevant!

matthew 6:25-34

This last statement that I emphasized is one of position, it is directional, which is exactly what I propose is vital to life change i.e. directed passion.

Jesus commented on two directions, within and without, respectively. The latter being the only regulatory route.

The Directions Passion Takes

Passion directed outward (the kingdom of God) finds endless forms of contribution. The outward expression molds purpose, meaning, and identity in reality. It has room to breathe as it were.

Yet, passion directed inward (the kingdom of Self) is congested. The creativity does not diminish – it must, however, weave a tale of exquisite fantasy (narrative). Purpose, meaning, and identity thus remain – but in a fictional somewhat shapeless sense.

Augustine, in his classic work The City of God, acknowledges these two kingdoms – two worlds molded by two different directions (passion on the move is simply called ‘love’ per the below quotation).

two kingdoms of self-control

The Kingdom Of God

In short, passion directed outward creatively “connects” with the surrounding space and shapes via contribution, a narrative which synthesizes with the narrative of natural law.

IT LOOKS AT WHAT IT CAN “GIVE” TO OTHERS. IT SEES ITSELF AS A RESOURCE.

The Kingdom Of Self

Passion directed inward creatively “disconnects” and limits itself to a congested space of fantasy via disconnecting from the external narrative of Natural Law to fuel the separate competitive laden internal narrative.

IT LOOKS AT WHAT IT CAN “TAKE” FROM OTHERS. IT IS IN COMPETITION FOR RESOURCES


Congested Passion Is A Form Of Psychosis: Do You Worship Yourself?

Consider the definition of psychosis: a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality.

Psychosis is ultimately the self, ensuring it’s survival – in the fullest sense, with purpose, meaning, and identity. Nonetheless, this requires a fatal disconnect from self, others, and reality. And, to disconnect is to be enslaved.

Freedom Is Found In Reality, Your Fantasy Is A Prison

When real life (external narrative of natural law) and the creative passion (personal internal narrative) merge, purpose and freedom are found.

Yet, if one cages the passion they cage themselves and ultimately wallow in the dissatisfaction that only purpose and freedom can placate.

  • Are you free?
  • Where’s your passion lie?

REDIRECT THE PASSION-FORCE

To Redirect Your Passion Use The Petri Dish Of Self-Examination

We need to pinpoint the various personality-commodities which are giving us zero return; actually, they are costing us, robbing us, and depleting our potential. These traits are indicative of a congested passion.

It’s not as if they are difficult to locate either…think of them like a bacterial virus, they just need to be cultured and matched with the proper antibiotic – that which will deliver huge profit margins and maximize potential.

Let me illustrate…

My infant daughter kept getting different strains of UTI’s..each time they had to collect a sample of the specific strain and match it with the proper antibiotic. They did this by putting it in a culture and examining which antibiotic defeated the virus under a microscope. I think our self-investigations are very much like this.

Once we start an “assisted” self-examination (assisted meaning leveraging a standard via an external narrative) we are in the culture, we can fairly quickly find our “spiritual” virus (misdirected instinct) and the “spiritual” antibiotic to treat it (properly directed instinct), which of course is whatever form grace takes externally.

The Culture Will Display Stage Characters

When an authentic external narrative (specifically a piece of literature which engenders and epitomizes Natural Law thus capable of acting as a moral standard) performs a recalibration on the internal narrative (one’s internal moral reasoning to make it consistent with the standard), it channels the passions externally which fosters a “stage character” of sorts, one focused on contribution (the proper attitude/direction e.g. “with the other mind,” See PART 1) rather than perverted and warped by selfish intent.


A Quick Discussion About Natural Law

Philosophically, natural law is an argument against conventional moral laws, or arbitrary moral laws contingent upon a specific culture (moral relativism) – and an argument for a natural law derived from human nature (moral absolutism).

Moreover, these laws are deduced by reason alone, not merely revelation…a clean break from a morality dependent upon religion. Which is very important for this argument.

Aristotle, commenting that though particular laws do exist – isolated respectively to certain societies – he acknowledges a common law operates according to nature,

Universal law is the law of Nature. For there really is, as every one to some extent divines, a natural justice and injustice that is binding on all men, even on those who have no association or covenant with each other. It is this that Sophocles’ Antigone clearly means when she says that the burial of Polyneices was a just act in spite of the prohibition: she means that it was just by nature:

“Not of to-day or yesterday it is,
But lives eternal: none can date its birth.”
And so Empedocles, when he bids us kill no living creature, he is saying that to do this is not just for some people, while unjust for others:

“Nay, but, an all-embracing law, through the realms of the sky
Unbroken it stretcheth, and over the earth’s immensity.”

(Rhetoric, Book 1)

This natural law, if it indeed a reality, must be the basis of our internal law – the standard by which we live, the last-stop in measuring our conduct. Thus, every attempt must be made to align our beliefs, values, and principles with it.

The Stoics – an ancient Greek philosophy that flourished in Rome – similarly recognized a natural law, they took it a bit further however and asserted the existence of a rational universe, the “logos.” Subsequently, being rational implied an order. Naturally, this led to the demand that rational beings live in accordance with this order, which could be deduced as rational beings living in a rational universe. The outcome of this deduction? Virtue.

stephen covey quotes

So, Why All The Talk Of Narratives If Natural Law Is The Key?

For one, because the ‘passions’ are inseparable from the story in which they express themselves. Moreover, what can exist outside of a narrative? Even our metaphysical and epistemological claims, for instance, our only understood in a “meta-narrative.” It’s all a big story.

Let’s dig a bit deeper…

Character defects and character assets are understood only in a literary form. Language – which all thought is dependent on – is only understood in terms of subject and predicate, or more accurately, topic and comment – the necessary functions of a narrative.

Consequently, if our understanding of self is obtained through language, then we can only understand ourselves as players (stage characters) in the tales we weave.

In my worldview, the stage character doesn’t cease to exist, it rather becomes possessed. It’s utilized as a tool for functionality in the narrative of life.

The Power Of The External Narrative

It’s when passion is directed inward by a suppressed internal narrative (no outside standard, self-dialogue uninhibited and running rampant) then naturally the stage character is unrefined, manic, destructive, and nihilistic.

The external narrative (the name I give to natural law existing within a story, myth, fable, or any narrative) is that which enables the passion to be released externally…it gives one a standard upon which to correlate their internal narrative – it grants consistency and continuity.

I simply argue that narratives are the optimal way to achieve this “recalibration” or “alignment” of the inner law with the natural-outer moral law.

For example, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous can be used as an external narrative. When used as a gauge to measure the continuity of the internal narrative it can be quite revealing. It’s far easier to identify the deviation of my internal dialogue with an objective external one.

Why?

Because the external narrative (the Big Book for this instance) is unaffected by whatever emotions agitate the internal narrative.

Thus, an accurate rendering of one’s internal state can be identified even in its volatility because of the concrete nature of the external narrative. It’s the only real therapeutic relationship in this sense.

Furthermore, it gives one room to grow, thus expanding the scope of their personal narrative – bringing one to the next chapter of their life as it were.

A Final Disclaimer

The external narrative must be founded upon timeless and universal principles to achieve this ideal i.e. natural law. Which, in turn, will permit one full executive function of the passions, which is another way to simply say “freedom.”

This leads to the third factor for life change: Understanding Freedom. 

Timmy G (2020)
TimmyG@e-RecoveryReview.com