A few years ago, Wayne Dyer chose to start differently his personal growth conference in Canada. With an orange in his hand, he asked the audience:
– If I squeeze this orange, what would come out of it?
A young man sitting in the front row looked at him amused and answered:
– Orange juice, of course!
– Do you think apple juice could come out of it?
– No! – answered the young man smiling.
– And grapefruit juice?
– What would you get out of it?
– Orange juice.
– Why? Why does orange juice come out when we spit an orange?
The young man was visibly confused, probably thinking that Dyer was teasing them, but answered:
– Well, it’s an orange and that’s what’s inside it.
Dyer nodded and continued:
– Quite right. But suppose this orange is not an orange, but it’s you and someone forces you, pushes you, tells you something you do not like or offends you and you respond with anger, hate, bitterness and fear. Why do these come out? The answer, as this young man has just said, is: what we have inside comes out. We can’t control how others behave, but what we decide what we have inside.
With this simple metaphor, Dyer offers us a great lesson: whenever we respond with anger or fear when someone puts us on the ropes, no matter who the person is, it is because, in a sense, we are externalizing what we have inside.
Dyer did not mean that we have to passively suffer when the others press or manipulate us, he meant that we should be much more aware of our reactions and really understand where they come from.
He meant that we often attribute our anger, rage, resentment, anxiety, boredom or frustration to the others when sometimes those feelings were already within us and the person only amplified them. Sometimes the attitudes, words and behaviors of the others are just a diapason with which we have a resonance.
In fact, it is quite common that when we are nervous, any behavior of our partner or children eventually irritates us, when in other situations those behaviors simply go unnoticed. Sometimes when someone presses us, what comes out is what we have nurtured all day or perhaps for years.
Locus of control external vs. Locus of control internal
The locus of control is one of the lesser known but more important concepts of psychology in the field of personal growth. The locus of control is the system of beliefs of a person related to the causes of his experiences and the factors to which he attributes his success or failure.
This concept is divided into two categories: internal and external. If a person has a locus of control internal, he will attribute both success and failure to his efforts and abilities. A person with a locus of control external will attribute his success or failure to fortune or destiny, so that he will be less motivated to struggle thinking that, after all, the results do not depend on him. It has also been seen that these people are more prone to suffer from anxiety and depression because they believe they have no control on their lives.
On the contrary, people with a locus of control internal tend to be more proactive, more successful and less vulnerable to mental disorders. Of course, these people are aware of the fact that there are factors that are beyond their control, but they choose to focus on those they can control, on the things that really depend on their effort.
Likewise, when someone “press” us our first reaction may be anger, frustration or disappointment, but if we have a locus of control internal, rather than give free rein to those emotions, feed them and become puppets of the circumstances, we will reflect and decide how to act. This is the big difference between reacting and acting. In this regard, Dyer said, “We can’t always control what happens outside of us, but we can always control what goes on inside.”
Externalize negative emotions can make us feel worse
A popular belief says: “Better outside than inside”, referring to the fact that it is better to externalize all the negative emotions we have inside. However, this belief is only partially true. The way we externalize the emotions matters. In fact, a group of psychologists from the University of Arkansas decided to review the results of studies conducted in recent decades on the expression of anger and discovered that externalizing this emotion can make us feel better right away, but it is not the best thing to do in the long term .
This is also confirmed by a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Buffalo, who claim that externalize the anger after suffering a trauma is not as good as is believed. These researchers followed 2,138 people for two years who had somehow been involved in the events of September 11 to analyze how they coped with the trauma. Some decided to express their anger and frustration at what happened, others did not. Interestingly, those who vented their anger were more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress.
These and other studies suggest that, contrary to popular belief, giving free rein to negative feelings can be counterproductive, plunging us into a circle of negativity that does not allow us to overcome the situation. This does not mean that we should suffer passively, but find a way to respond more assertively.
We must understand that, fundamentally, emotional assertiveness benefits above all ourselves. Anger, disillusionment, impotence, resentment and guilt, among others, are understandable and valid emotions and feelings, but feeding them will end up doing us more harm than good. Instead, we should strive to cultivate a state of inner peace and mental balance. We must remember that what we have inside matters a lot.