Much of what I write about boils down to one thing, self-control. One of the things I’m finally learning in my mid-40s is that maturity and self-control go hand-in-hand. I began to realize this while reading Passionate Marriage . Remaining calm in the face of conflict allows you to control your response instead of allowing your emotions to get away from you and thus allowing those emotions to control your response.
I have always been fascinated by those rocks that keep their heads in a crisis when everyone around them is losing their’s. One of the places that I’ve noticed seeing this is in military movies. The attack is on and people are screaming and rushing around and all of a sudden someone composes themselves and takes control by barking out orders and turns chaos into order. One second they may have been just like everyone else, allowing their emotions to control their response, but something happens within them. They quickly discern that allowing the emotion to overtake their reason is likely to end badly for all and in split seconds they change from scared and rattled to brave and determined. Now they’re probably still scared, who wouldn’t be? But they realize that allowing the fear to control them will not give them the results that are required for the situation so they control the fear. That’s bravery.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave.~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, 1894
One of the more disruptive episodes of emotions overtaking reason is when you hold two conflicting pieces of knowledge in your mind at the same time. This is known as Cognitive Dissonance. I’ve experienced this. It is what happens when something you “know” to be true is challenged. The link above tells us that cognitive dissonance causes an “uncomfortable tension” in us. Usually when we experience this uncomfortable tension because of cognitive dissonance we respond harshly defending what we “know” to be true. This type of response all too often shows a lack of real knowledge on our part and it shows an inflexible mind. Now, don’t misunderstand me, it is fine to defend your position but it is best to defend it with reason and controlled emotions, not just reactive emotions.
The uncomfortable tension associated with cognitive dissonance is too often blamed on the person that presented the information to which we experienced our cognitive dissonance. The problem here is that they did not cause us to “know” what we believe nor did they cause the uncomfortable tension within us. They just presented information, probably with little idea of how that information may affect us. So, why blame them for how we feel, or attack them or their ideas because they said something that is challenging to us? It may be an opportunity to grown and to learn but this is only possible if you do not allow your emotions to control you but control your emotions and respond reasonably instead.
No More Christian Nice Guy: When Being Nice-Instead of Good-Hurts Men, Women and ChildrenNow the title of this blog is A Grown Up Marriage, so, what does self-control and cognitive dissonance have to do with marriage? A lot. Let me tie it all together. You’ve got to learn self-control if you want to be that rock that others look to during a crisis to be composed and in control. Also, the person that is likely going to challenge what you believe you “know” the most is the person that knows you the best, your spouse. If we want to learn and grow we are going to have to learn to control ourselves and our reactions to the emotions that are produced within us by those with which we interact.
The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.~Albert Ellis
You control you. Attempts to control others is manipulation.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.~Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Manipulation isn’t a fruit of the Spirit. Self-control is. If you can learn to be that unflappable rock in your marriage, keeping your composure in the face of conflict your marriage will be better. So, let’s grow up and be the rock in our marriage by practicing and developing self-control.