Talk 5 — Discipline and Success
"Discipline and Success"
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005 - Discipline and Success
There's a great deal of interest today in the subject of success through right thinking. More recently, this has been revised somewhat in terms of an interest in success through mind control. But there's one thing that is rarely given the attention that I should have, and that is success through emotional control, and this we would like to think about today.
We all have people we look up to. We have our own personal heroes and heroines. Have you ever asked yourself why you look up to a certain person, whoever it is, someone in the theater, someone in politics, someone in business, perhaps some teacher? If you carefully analyze your thoughts, you will surprised I think to discover that it is not always because of what the person can do, or what the person can say, or what the person has created, but more than likely, the reason is very subtle. It is because you have responded positively to his poise, or his emotional control.
People who do not control their emotions rarely achieve any stature head and shoulder above the crowd in life, and the person who has a certain amount of emotional control is a person who will rise, regardless of other deficiencies. This is a person who when faced with matters requiring quick action or decisiveness, remains calm, and unhurried, and unruffled. It's a person who doesn't waste his energy in anger and in resentment. It's a person who doesn't indulge in futile quarrels with people who perhaps, in one way or another, do not agree with him, and because they keep from what we may call emotional tantrums, their mind is invariably free to think creatively and clearly.
It is probably true that some of the most brilliant people, some of the most talented people in any other ways, never achieve the kind of success that many people look up to, simply because they lack this emotional control. Quite often, it is asked of a person, "I wonder why he's never really made it in life? He seems so talented. He seems so effective. What is it? What's the reason for the seeming inability to achieve success," and almost invariably it is because there is a lack of emotional control.
Many of us do not achieve the success or the fulfillment that otherwise we may be perfectly capable of and certainly that we desire to know in life, because of what we might call emotional leaks in the boiler. We blow off steam in too many small ways to make for any great accomplishments in life. It's sad, but this is the way life normally is. It need not be this way, however.
It is also true that this secret of success is a key to maintaining health and wellness of mind and body. A heart specialist here in New York City, a few years ago made the statement that we're recognizing the fact that most people are sick not because of organic or pathological reasons, but he said a large amount of heart trouble is due to the inability of people to manage their emotions.
There's a great deal of interest in the field of mental health and in the problem of mental disease. Dr. Carl Menninger, a few years ago, defined mental disease in a way that may cause all of us to cringe just a little bit. He says, "Mental disease is the inability to maintain emotional control in the face of inner stress. To be overcome by fears, to be driven by frustration, and to be consumed by resentment," and the question we need to ask ourselves is how easily do I become upset over things?
We know today that emotional binges are not the harmless tantrums that we've always looked upon them as being, and that the majority of people who have physical problems, and mental problems, and even financial problems are experiencing that level in life, simply because they're not doing a good job managing their emotions.
I remember there was an old adage that we all uttered when we were young, "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Like so many of these adages, it's not true at all. As a matter of fact, most of us are hurt far more by the names of life in terms of the things people say about us and the way the world reacts to us, then by all the sticks and stones that we ever experience.
We need to ask ourselves again and again, as we see ourselves boiling over about this, or that, or the other thing, why am I disturbed? Not why did he disturb me, or why does life treat me like this, or why conditions are like they are, but why am I so upset about them, and until we are willing to ask that question and really probe for answers within ourselves, we're never really going to control our emotions. We will simply develop a further paranoia that the problem is there are so many things out here in the world that disturb you.
The great discovery without which we cannot go very far toward successful living, is that whenever we become disturbed in any way, for any reason, it is basically because we are disturbable, because we're upsettable, because we are irritable, because we're hurtable. In other words, the problem is not what happens out here, but the problem is the level of consciousness on which we are dealing with the things out there. The incident is external, but the reaction is always our own. The person out there may have done something very disturbing, something very unjust, something very annoying, and obviously, if you want to look at it analytically, it indicates that he's not controlling himself very well, but that has nothing to do with you.
The point is, if you react to it emotionally and become very upset and disturbed, then you see, you have the responsibility and the accountability for what your uncontrolled emotions do to you, and unless we are willing to see experiences and see life in this way, then we're really not going to get very far in understanding ourselves spiritually or metaphysically.
Now, we want to make very clear that the need is not to destroy or to shackle the emotions. The emotions are not at fault. As a matter of fact, the emotions are a vital part of the nature of man. Life without emotions has no zest or no elan vital to use a good Bergsonian term. Life without control of the emotions, however, is forever harassed by undestructive fires, or what Elliot calls rampaging riots of undisciplined squads of emotion.
Now, we're all emotional creatures. We should not be less emotional creatures or more so. We're emotional creatures. It's a part of our nature, just as surely as we are mental creatures and physical creatures. Just as surely as in total we are spiritual beings. The emotions are a very vital part of our life. The emotions are the conduit through which the creative juices flow, through which even such a thing as spiritual ectasy is experienced and felt.
But it is important to realize that this emotional force of man is a tremendous fire that must be harnessed, and controlled, and rightly directed. We must come to know that in terms of the mastery of our own household, that we are poised and centered in that deep inner awareness of the Christ of our being, and that none of these things move me, and nothing can disturb the calm peace of our soul, because we're in control.
You see, the great freeing message of truth is that you are never the victim of circumstances. You are never a chance creature at the mercy of anything that happens around you or to you. You are never less than a spiritual being, a whole creature, and your life is always an inward out flow of the source that is in you and the source that expresses as you. This is the way it always is, or the way it should be. You are the master of your mind and your emotions. Here in the kingdom of your inner self, you have control, or you should have.
Now, it's true that out here in the world, the winds will blow, and they may not always blow the way we want them to go. You can't regulate the winds, and there's no use complaining about them, but as the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox puts it, "It's the set of the sails, and not the gales that determines the way we go."
It is said, "Into every life, some rain must fall." This is another of those cliches that we hear about so much, and normally the thought is expressed dolefully and with great pessimism, "Into every life, some rain must fall," but there's some more to this, you see. Of course, rain must fall, because after all, in a very real sense, the earth depends upon rain. We all do directly and indirectly. Even if it happens to be a day we want to go on a picnic or play golf, rain is important to us and to the world.
You can't regulate the weather. We try to. But you can always determine what you're going to do about it. Remember the oriental saying, "You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building nests in your hair." So, when you say, as we so often do, "He gets in my hair," you're pointing the finger at yourself. You have allowed this to happen, or if we go farther than that and say he gets under my skin, the only way anyone can get under our skin is not by what he does, but what we do about what he does.
Mark Twain has said to have first uttered the statement that has been paraphrased and attributed to many people, "Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." But, in his great wit, he trapped himself, because he was wrong, absolutely wrong. Everyone does something about the weather. We always have from the very beginning of time. We do it everyday of our lives. Each of us did it today. In some way, we did something about the weather.
We put on warm clothes, and we put on clothes that are suitable for warm weather. We doff our rain gear. We take an umbrella, or we leave it home. We put on swimming garb. We resist the weather, or we're nonresistant about it. We're irritated by it, or we're philosophical. In this sense, we do something about everything that ever happens around us and to us, every day of our lives and every moment. We ignore some insults, and we take offense at others. We laugh at some difficulties, and we surrender to others. We make stepping stones out of some obstacles, and stumbling blocks out of others, and we all do this, and we do it in big or little ways every day of our lives.
We may say, "He makes me so mad," but no one can make you angry, no one. You're angry, because that's the way you've chosen to deal with his ways, or his experiences, or his expressions. We may talk about certain problems and we may say, "Oh, I'm terribly worried about this," and we act as if the condition caused the worry, but we worry precisely because we've determined that's the way we're going to deal with the situation.
A great deal of our emotional reaction toward things in life is based on what the psychologists would call infantile narcissism. You may remember the story of Narcissus. He was a beautiful youth. He delighted in looking at himself in the quiet reflection of a pool. He admired himself with great self-interest and self-love, and he was terribly disturbed with anything or anyone that troubled the water or disturbed his nice, beautiful little world.
So narcissism means that you resent anything that frustrates you, and the best example of narcissism is the little child who when he bumps his head on a table, turns and slaps the table and says, "Bad, bad, bad." The table disturbed his nice, little world. You see, that's infantile narcissism.
Take a look at yourself in that kind of a mirror, and many times, we find ourselves banging away at the situations in life that are simply as they are. They may be disturbing to us. Perhaps we need the kind of philosophy that Jimmy Durante had when he says, "Dem is the situation that prevails."
The point is do we have to be upset about it? Do we have to be disturbed? Do these things have to actually become disruptive to our inner world, unless we decide to make them so. In other words, we want things to be right. We want our life to be orderly. We want to have a happy experience in life. But if things are not always in that way, or if they do not always come to the expression and the experience of our lives in the way that seems conducive to happiness and peace, then do we have to blow up and have an emotional tantrum? And, yet, this is so often what we tend to do.
The point is man is not only divine and potentially human in expression, and we say it not negatively, but realistically, people are human, and the world is filled with human people, or as they poet says, "The world is filled with griefs and graves." Why should we try to play God? Why should we try to make people or situations what at this moment they're not, or what they're not capable of becoming. In other words, don't try to set the world right. Determine only that you're going to see it rightly, that you're going to keep on the level of consciousness by which you can accept things for the good that is in them, and let the rest go.
This is what Jesus has in mind when he says, "In the world, you have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." This doesn't mean to hide your head in the sand, not to face it, nor does it mean to blow up or to try forcibly to change it. It means to rise above it, to rise to another level of consciousness. Don't think about the problem, think about God, Emmet Fox would say.
To manage our emotions, we must achieve a new level of consciousness, and this is what Jesus means when he says, "Ye must be born anew." A whole new awakening to where we realize that life is lived from inside out, and that what happens around us and to us is irrelevant as far as our inner peace is concerned. It's not that it isn't there. It's not that we can hide our head to it. Sure, it's there. That's the way the world is. But what do we want to be, unthinking reactors to the world, or do we want to think our own thoughts, and let the divine process express freely through us?
You see, there are two basic ways in which most of the problems out here in the world are met. Just see yourself in this. The first way is the most basic way. This is the sort of human reaction that is so normal, to outwardly rebel, to fight back, tit for tat, eye for eye, to give the person a piece of your mind, and at the same time, give him the peace of your mind. This person seldom has any emotional problems, because he just lets his emotions flow, but his creative potential is forever being weakened through the leaks in the boiler. He blows off steam all during the day, so obviously he's never really upset. He rarely ever has stomach ulcers, but he rarely ever fulfills his creative potential.
The second way is to rebel inwardly, but to do nothing outwardly. This is the person who holds his peace. He may think terrible thoughts, but he keeps them all bottled up within himself. He keeps his emotions in check. He doesn't allow anybody to see him disturbed ever, and he just eats his heart out and his stomach out. Has tremendous emotional problems. This is the person who usually spends most of his time and his money in doctors and hospitals.
But there's a third way in which we can meet life's experiences. This is the way Jesus suggests when he says very simply, "Turn the other cheek." Now, he doesn't mean just laying down and let the person walk over you. He's talking about turning to the deeper part of your nature, to the Christ indwelling. It's the way that we might call constructive compromise, the Christ way of love and nonresistance. It means to think what you want to think, rather than letting the other person decide what you think and how you act. It means dealing creatively with life, rather than simply reactively. It is, as someone might suggest, thinking God's thoughts after him.
Emerson talks about this when he says, "It's easy in the world to live after the world's opinion. It's easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great person is he who in the midst of the crowd, keeps, with perfect sweetness, the independence of his own thought." That's emotional control.
Truth students often shy away from showing emotion, thus unconsciously taking the second path, and an awful lot of, quote, good students of truth, unquote, have a lot of emotional problems. This is the person who says, "Now it's negative to get angry. I will not get angry. I'm not going to worry about this thing. I have no fear, have no problems." This is fine, and it's a beautiful realization, you see, if it comes out of the depth of him, but usually he's saying, "I will not let myself worry, even though in myself I'm being torn apart with worry. I will just not think about it." But you're going to think about it in some way, and therefore, you must determine that you're going to find a higher level of consciousness, not just bottle it up inside, that you are going to look out the right window.
I recall the story of Thomas Carlyle. He wrote the massive history of the French Revolution, one of the most monumental tasks in all literature. When he'd finished the first volume, which it was a work that required a full year of time, he went to his friend, the historian [Frood 00:22:59] and asked for comment and criticism. Now, mind you, this was a work of over a year's time, and it was done on simple manuscript form, and he had no copy.
Well, it seemed that the historian [Frood 00:23:15] had a maid, who to be kindly, I suppose we could say she was not entirely mentally coordinated. So one day on a cold morning, she needed some paper to start the fire, and there on the reading desk close to the fire was the manuscript, and she burned up the French Revolution.
So, of course, [Frood 00:23:44] was absolutely flabbergasted, terribly upset. He went to Carlyle in consternation, but Carlyle said, "Don't feel badly about this, and don't say anything to that poor woman. Actually I don't think the work was too good anyway. It's just as well that I have to do it over," and so he set to work to rewrite that whole volume, a full year's work. That's emotional control. He could have used this as an excuse, as perhaps many of us might have, to say, "Well, that's life for you, and that will be the end of it," and there would never be any Carlyle's History of the French Revolution.
Whether or not the succeeding manuscript was better than the first one, we don't know. It probably was. But one thing that is sure is the manuscript was a concentration of emotional fire that was not dissipated through the leaks in the boiler. Now, this is an example that perhaps is above most of us, but it's a very important thing to keep in mind.
We often talk about people as being moody. Actually we're all moody. Everyone of us, we're in some kind of a mood every moment of our lives, and the mood that we're in is setting the tone of our existence. A mood of discouragement, or depression, or self-pity, as we well know, can wreak havoc in our lives. But so often we talk about the mood as if it was like a storm that just suddenly blew over and we can't do anything about it. People so often say, "Look out. I'm in a bad mood today." So you're in a bad mood. Why not get in a good mood? Moods are a matter of permitted emotions. Write that down, and put it as a slogan over your mirror in the morning, moods are permitted emotions, permitted emotions.
Quite often as a result of simply bad mental habits, undiscipline. Habits are things we can cultivate. Habits can be changed. That's what this spiritual work is all about, changing habits of thought and emotion. Make a mood habitual, and it will influence your entire life.
This was the lesson of St. Francis. He chose joy as the mood that he would live in. He developed joy as a habit. It may seem unrealistic. It may be almost impossible to identify with. Yet, it's a beautiful thing to see. He might be without food. He might be wracked with pain. He might be cast off by people who ought to have been his friends, and supporters, and helpers, but he kept his joy inwardly, and he gave expression to it outwardly. Some people will call this Pollyanna.
Actually it is emotional maturity. The determination to push the buttons that you want. You never help anybody by sitting in the darkness. Someone once said, "It's better to bring a light than to curse the darkness." Healthy mindedness then means turn on more lights, and choose the light you turn on. Choose ye this day whom you will serve. Healthy mindedness is knowing that the kingdom of God is within, that you are always in control of your world, or you can be, that you do not need to permit other people to determine how you're going to act, or how you're going to think, or what kind of emotions you're going to experience, that though you can't change people and you can't change the world, you can most surely decide how you're going to see them, what you're going to think about them, and what level of your consciousness you're going to deal with them on.
And when you choose to keep the mood of joy, the mood of love, the mood of peace, the mood of creativity, then you have control of your emotions. In the same sense, you find yourself filled and filled to overflowing with the power for success, for achievement, and for health of mind and body. You can control your emotions.
Copyright 1981 Unity®
Unity Village, MO 64065