3 Secrets To Self ControlFeb 16, 2020
Today we are talking about self control.
I like to think of self control as a superpower.
And if you're a Christian, if you have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ and now you have his Holy Spirit living within you, you already have the super power!
You just need to learn how to access it.
So today you will learn why we lose self-control and how to regain it.
But this is not about praying harder or trying harder. It's not even about getting more motivation.
Self control is the spiritual skill of being present, so that you can make choices on purpose. That's my definition. That's what we're talking about today.
Yes, it comes from the Holy spirit. It comes from God, not us. And also, it's a skill that we can develop and practice and it's all about being present, about showing up, about having your emotions so that they don't have you.
You either have your feelings or your feelings have you. When you can choose to experience your feelings and they're not controlling you, then you can make choices on purpose. This is going to save you so much time and energy. It's going to save you a lot of frustration, and it might even help you resist the urge to use pornography.
Scientifically speaking, how does self-control work and why do we sometimes lose it?
It all depends on something called "Window of Tolerance."
Each of us has a window: a range of sensations that we feel like we can tolerate that we can handle.
Life is dealing out stress and pressure and challenges and our ability to deal with those challenges and have self control in the middle of them depends on whether we are in our window of tolerance.
Your window can grow or shrink depending on the day.
Some days when I'm at my worst, my window is really small and something little can set me off and I'll lose self-control.
Other days, when I have what I need and I feel filled up, my window is bigger and I can handle things.
That's how self-control works.
When you lose self-control, you're outside your window of tolerance.
Now there are two ways to get kicked out of that window:
Hyperarousal and Hypoarousal.
Hyperarousal is what happens when in response to stress, we power up and this can look a few different ways.
Sometimes it can look like anger and feeling like, "This situation is so hard, I just want to fight it!" and then sometimes it can also look like anxiety, like, "Oh this situation is so hard, I don't know what I'm going to do."
Both are fear-based responses, fight and flight. When you're in fight or flight mode, you are hyper aroused. You are stressed out and your body tenses up. You get agitated. You get visibly shaken and you are feeling all the feelings. They're overwhelming, so you can't think straight.
The other response to stress that is also outside our window of tolerance is powering down, shutting down, going into freeze mode.
This is called Hypoarousal, and this is what would often cause me to watch porn.
It's when you get spaced out. You get zoned out and you go off in this little world in your head. You can think, but you're not feeling. You're not in your body and everything just kind of fades away. You want to escape to another world where things are okay.
If somebody taps you on the shoulder or talks to you, you might not even hear them. You might not even feel them because you're off in another world.
Hyperarousal and hypoarousal: those are the two ways we lose control. Neither of them keep us in the realm of self control because we're not fully present.
In Hyperarousal, you can feel, but you can't think.
In Hypoarousal, you can think, but you can't feel.
Now, the technical term for what happens when you get kicked outside of your window of tolerance is dysregulation.
We all get dysregulated. We all get thrown off by the stuff that's happening in our lives. The question is, can we come back into the window of tolerance?
How do you regain self control when you're hyperaroused and you're angry and you're anxious and maybe it's too much, so you just shut down and you go into hypoarousal and you escape and you numb and you freeze?
How do you get back into that place of being present–of being able to think and feel at the same time?
Here are three ways you can regain self-control when you're dysregulated:
- Oxygen: Breathe deeply.
When you lose self control, your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for moral decision making and impulse control, gets unplugged. How do you plug it back in? Oxygen. You have to flood it with oxygen. You have to breathe.
This is the first step. Before you take any other strategy for self control, make sure you're breathing.
When you're hyper aroused and you're super agitated, you're not breathing deeply. You're tense and your breaths are shallow. Maybe they're quick and forced.
When you're hypoaroused, you're also not breathing very deeply. Your brain is shutting down. So to get back into your body, to get back into your brain, to calm down if you're hyper aroused and to wake yourself up if you're hyper aroused, just focus on your breathing.
This is in line with self-control coming from the Holy Spirit. Spirit means "breath." By breathing, you can tune into the Holy Spirit, which allows you to think and feel at the same time and have self-control.
- Attention: Pay attention. Come back to your senses.
What do you see around you? What do you hear around you? What do you sense within yourself? Make simple observations! This is in line with the teaching of Jesus who said, "Don't worry. Don't be anxious. How? Look at the birds of the air. Look at the flowers of the field."
Simply observing the world around you can help you come back into your brain and come back into your body. Just a simple awareness without judgment, without criticism can bring you back into your window of tolerance so that you're able to deal with what's going on around you.
- Attachment: Find a safe person.
In our brains, we have something called mirror neurons, which means that we can actually change each other's brains. Now let me explain what this means.
If I'm dysregulated and I'm not in control, and I come into contact with somebody who is calm and focused, they can actually regulate me. They can down-regulate me when I'm hyper aroused, and they can up-regulate me when I'm hypoaroused.
And that attachment can be so huge for increasing self-control.
It is also the opposite case. If I'm in my window of tolerance, I'm in control, and I come into contact with somebody who is super anxious or super angry, then that is going to make my heart beat a little bit faster and I'm going to be affected by them because of my mirror neurons.
So what's the practical implication?
When you are not in control, find somebody who has a non-anxious presence, who you feel safe with, who you feel known by. Attach. Connect. Relate.
That can help you come back into your body, back into your brain so that you can get your super power of self control back online.
That is how you come back into the present moment:
Oxygen, Attention and Attachment.
So for those of you out there who've been feeling like, "I have no self control, I can't do it," remember that your window of tolerance can grow if you feed it with oxygen, with attention, and with attachment. You can practice this skill and with the Holy Spirit's help, you can use this superpower of self control to come back into the present moment.
We all get dysregulated. We all get hyperaroused and hypoaroused.
The question is: will we return to our right minds, and how quickly?
Using oxygen, attention and attachment, I'm sure you can do it.
If you want to practice exactly what I've been teaching you today, I made a worksheet for you. It's the Self Control Worksheet and you can download it here: