I suspect most people have made a similar statement to someone they feel has given offense at some point. It’s a case of assigning the cause of our emotional reaction to another person. We may also assign the cause of joy to someone who has said or done something positive or uplifting. The same principle can be applied to our points of view regarding elements of life.

That we so readily think others can cause our own personal emotions is a mystery to me, though I am just as guilty as the next person. If you study the phenomenon without preconceived notions, you may discover a great lie there. In order for someone to “make you mad”, you actually must create the anger within yourself first, then assign the cause to another. The same holds true of any emotion. Any joy you feel genuinely comes from within you, not an external cause. You are fully responsible for every one of your own emotions.

If you take an honest look and find what I say has merit, you suddenly understand that you are solely responsible for all your anger, sadness, boredom, interest, happiness, and any other emotion, including apathy.

Accepting responsibility for creating our own joy and happiness within ourselves, instead of assigning this to others, could be an easy pill to swallow. Taking the blame for our anger, rage, sadness, and jealousy might “make” us want to hold others accountable. The problem is, we can’t have it both ways, can we? Actually, we can. The power of decision in a human being is absolute. We have just gotten so used to assigning that power to other causes throughout life, that we have forgotten we ever had it.

My mother has told a story about me many times in her long life. When I was about four years old, I came running into the house saying a “bear was after me”. Other than in the zoo, there were no bears on the plains of Western Oklahoma. What impressed my mother was how real it seemed to me. The point is that I so “created” that bear in my mind that it became completely real to me. So, it goes with assigning the cause of our emotions to others.

Beyond emotions, we create and hold firm our realities. A neo-Nazi creates hate for people of color and certain religions. He adopts emotion and ideas from a reality created by others he decides to agree with. Our social and political environment can influence the emotions we adopt.

Who controls us? I consider this without stress. I use what I term the “stand alone” process. I strip away the influences of others, leaving my own actual observations, like the peeling away of layers of ideas or emotion, as if it were an onion. It takes time and thought, not blindly to follow the dictates or ideas of others. For me, it is a continual process throughout my life.

We ultimately hold power over our thoughts, decisions, and emotions. We all must decide what we are willing to accept or agree with, whether something jumps up unbidden from the depths of our mind or another person. The road to self-delusion is paved by granting other causes our personal power, emotions, and decision making until we become only the effect rather than the cause. Accepting control of our own power, and becoming comfortable exercising it, leads to wisdom and a fruitful, productive life.

Should we not all be the captain of our own ship?

Jerry Philosophical Life Lessons

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