We often react to situations on autopilot, but this can lead to conflict and rarely gets us what we really need. However, learning mindfulness may help us exercise more control over the direction of our lives.
Freedom aka Control
Freedom is about more than choosing which yoghurt brand to buy, where to go on holiday or not being afraid to express our thoughts. It’s about being true to ourselves in the way we live our lives. A lot of the time we act and react automatically without properly assessing a situation. This raises the question of whether we have as much control over our actions as we may think.
Take the following scenario as an example: your partner uses a particular word or turn of phrase and immediately your hackles are up. This trigger effect often happens automatically before you’ve had a chance to stop, think and analyse it. Your partner will also have similar reactions to things you do and say. So one word leads to another and finally there’s a row.
You can blame your autopilot for this, but the good news is that it is possible to deactivate it – if you really want to. Every day we can decide whether we are going to allow ourselves to get annoyed with our partner, a slow driver, our boss, the children, the cat, or are we going to accept that life isn’t a bed of roses and that things don’t always go the way we would like? Inner freedom isn’t about getting everything we want but it is about determining how we react to situations. German actor Klaus Kinski summed it up when he once said: “I decide who has insulted me.” And he had a point.
Freedom is a mental state in which there is no fear, no pressure and no urge for protection.Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986), Indian philosopher and theosophist
Mindfulness over matter
It is possible to free ourselves from entrenched patterns of behaviour. But to do this, we have to be aware of ourselves and our emotions. This is where mindfulness comes into play. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer of the mindfulness- based stress reduction programme, describes it as a deliberate, non-judgemental practice that is based on moment-to-moment awareness. It’s about recognising how you’re feeling right now, such as, “I’m angry.” Nothing else has to happen. It’s all about perception. And surprisingly enough, anger tends to dissipate once it‘s acknowledged.
Mindfulness can be practised on a daily basis in a thousand different situations: noticing your hand movements when making coffee, listening to the splash of water when you wash your hands and breathing in the perfume of the soap. It’s about being aware of what’s going on right now in this very moment and acknowledging it. It’s a way of staying grounded, rather than constantly ruminating on the past or worrying about the future.
Writing a diary also helps you to look at what happened each day and how you reacted. Most importantly, it helps you to consider how you feel about your reaction. Were you pleased with it, would you like to react in the same way again, or are you ashamed of it and would you do it differently next time? If so, how could you react so that you and your partner deal better with the situation? Next time, pause for a couple of seconds and consider whether it’s possible to react differently for once. Most of the time, this will improve things.
This new style of behaviour will create a sense of calm – and this can be liberating. You are no longer lashing out blindly but reacting in a deliberate, considered manner. This approach boosts your confidence as you gain some control over the situation, which is no longer running away with you.
Trusting your feelings
Once we’re feeling calmer, it’s easier to recognise what’s good for us and what we need. And with time, we also learn how to express these needs. This can include deciding to take a break, even if it isn’t convenient for others. This new approach may take some getting used to, but it brings more freedom with it than ever before. Generally the world doesn’t fall apart if every so often you prioritise what you need, as psychologist Stephan Schleim tells us. He also asks: “Whose life is it anyway? Why do we worry so much about the opinion or recognition of others. And what kind of a life is it, if it can be summarised in the sentence: I kept everyone happy?”.
Freedom is the right to say to others what they don’t want to hear.George Orwell (1903 – 1950), English novelist and journalist
Taking control of your life
So perhaps it’s actually better to live the life you really want. Freedom is being the person that you want to be and not the person that others want you to be. This doesn’t have to mean drastic action such as leaving your job, relationship or home – unless you want to. Usually it’s enough just to voice your own needs and to tell your partner: “I’d really like this to be different because I need it in order to feel or do such a thing.” Or to tell your boss: “I want to take on this project but I need a bigger budget/more staff/further training…”
If it doesn’t work and the situation remains as it was, it’s then possible to consciously prepare for change. Because one thing is clear: once a person has realised that they have the freedom to actively shape their life situation, there is nothing left but to do it.
Freedom of choice: The right hearing solution
What type of hearing solution should I pick and from which manufacturer? People with a hearing impairment have to ask themselves this question before opting for a hearing solution or finally receiving a hearing implant. It’s often possible to exercise some freedom of choice. As a result, it’s important to do your research in order to find the product that best meets your needs. Information on MED-EL’s implants can be found at medel.com and you can get further information and support from doctors, speech therapists, audiologists and self-help groups. You can also contact mentors, real hearing implant users, at hearpeers.com or chat with like-minded people on the HearPeers Forum: forum.hearpeers.com.