Self-control – How to exercise it?

Many of us have developed at least one way of acting that can hurt ourselves, annoy others or damage relationships. Something is lacking self-control. Examples include over-eating, self-controluntidiness, nagging, and telling lies. If we keep doing these things they become ingrained in our behaviour and may seem impossible to change.

The Basics of Self-Control

Yet we weren’t born with these actions and what is learned can be unlearned. Gaining better self-control over our behaviour can be done but requires a conscious effort and persistence.

To stand any chance of gaining self-control we need to be completely clear about why we want to change. Often our family and friends are more aware of our problem behaviour than we ourselves. We may not always realise when, and to what extent, we are at fault.

It might help to find out from somebody else at what times and in what situations where we are going wrong. What harm am I doing? What is embarrassing, upsetting or irritating for me or for others?

Our Free Choice

It’s never too late to stop a bad habit. When we have dug ourselves into a hole, the best policy is to stop digging! After all no-one is compelled to be untidy, to nag, be argumentative, tell a lie or get drunk. It just seems that way at the time.

We need to be especially on guard at the times when we are most at risk of relapsing into our old ways. We have reached a choice between yielding to, or exercising self-control over undesirable impulses. Having a sense of freedom in choosing between alternative actions is a familiar experience. It confirms out ability to make real choices.

Many self-indulgent desires are represented in images we remember seeing in the mass media. Because we merely have some connection with them, we need not allow ourselves to become enslaved by them but are free to ignore them. Because these impulses are not entirely part of us we can disown them.


For many moral issues call us to a deeper conflict. The tension is not just between indulging self and exercising self-control. Neither is it just about doing what is thought by others to be right or wrong. It is also about choosing to follow our inner conscience or not. When we try to have self-control over what is bad in our lives because it goes against our inner conscience, then temptation combat becomes inevitable.

Religion says to gain self-control we need the spiritual help of a higher power. Many alcoholics feel they have failed, despite doing all they can, to overcome the ‘demon drink’ and so many members of Alcoholics Anonymous surrender themselves to a higher power, many call God, believing that only with the strength of this force for good can they stay sober.

Having a belief that we are not fighting alone means a huge sense of confidence that the battle can be won. The problem drinker also has a part to play – it would be no good believing in a higher power without acting on that belief for example by resisting the temptation to buy alcohol at a shop or visit a drinking establishment.

The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg makes an important distinction between on the one hand the notion of resisting bad impulses by our own efforts alone and on the other hand resisting them in God’s strength ‘as of ourselves’. In other words we need both God’s strength and our own effort to turn away from what is wrong about our living and instead embrace what would be right.

In line with this teaching he criticised the orthodox Christian doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’ that gives the only emphasis on belief in God at the expense of our additional responsibility to gain control over our own behaviour.

Importance of Our Own Efforts

The bad news is that if we make no effort to resist our own demons, no attempt to stop pandering to our baser instincts at the expense of our higher impulses, then we have taken a backward step towards gaining any control over our faults. What is bad in us will have acquired power over what is good in us. On the other hand if we do try hard to take control over the selfish and greedy desires, in God’s strength, then the divine spirit can then give us a new direction. This means self-restraint as well as enlightenment and inner happiness to replace the illusion that we are enslaved to self-indulgence.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Job satisfaction – How to find it?

job satisfaction
Job satisfaction

To many people, work seems to be a monotonous time that goes on and on involving much the same thing day after day. It is all very well to become lost in your work if it is an interesting profession, like teaching, the arts, or law etc. but where do get job satisfaction from more humdrum types of work?

It is true that being a small cog in a big factory or organisation, it may be hard to see that we are contributing any real service to the community but people can assume that other jobs like house-keeping, gardening or labouring are necessarily uninteresting.

Job Satisfaction and Motivation

The attitude we bring to a job can have a big effect on whether or not we find it boring. Do we have negative or positive reasons for what we are doing at work?

An occupation can exercise a positive pull on some workers as when it brings its own rewards for them. One example is the opportunity to learn on the job. Gardeners get some job satisfaction from learning about the growing process, car mechanics about the workings of petrol engines, and book-keepers can become interested in the way accounts are balanced. Another example of a positive reason is wanting to work hard because we value getting a job done well and on time.

On the other hand some people seem to be able only to find negative incentives — like going to work only for the sake of the wage or only for the training received that could help towards a needed qualification. And of course some only make the effort because of the stigma of unemployment. Some are more likely to feel dissatisfied when the job doesn’t deliver on that wage rise, or provide adequate levels of ventilation or warmth on the factory floor or in the office. If motivation is mostly negative, no wonder job satisfaction is hard to experience.

Job Satisfaction and Orientation to Others

I would like to suggest that the negatively motivated individual tends to relate to others, from the point of view of self i.e. from what they can provide for him or her. Signs of self-preoccupation include a sense of grievance, frustration, or self-pity. If people do not meet what he or she feels  is needed, and self-orientation were to dominate, then what others suggest or want might tend to be overlooked and others are likely to be easily perceived as an irritant or a threat.

Children get off to an unfortunate start in life if their parents pampered and spoiled them. Then they will have to unlearn the idea that happiness can only come from having one’s own needs met first.

On the other hand, when we are growth motivated we do not relate to others as `sources of supply’ to meet some shortage or deficit or perceived unmet need in ourselves. Consequently, we are able to view others as complex, unique, whole beings in their own right and get more job satisfaction working alongside them. We become more aware of their problems, talents and interests and thus give ourselves a better chance of having something meaningful to talk about together.

Job Satisfaction and Usefulness

Having a positive reason for doing something is looking for what is useful in the situation. Being useful keeps us physically fit as when we engage in housework, gardening, or `do it yourself’. Getting on with something can keep us mentally fit too, e.g. study, report writing, or problem solving at work. A useful life trains individual maturity as we learn to take the rough with the smooth.

The more we put in to the situation then the more we will get out of it — and that probably will include job satisfaction. By sincerely, fairly and reliably performing whatever useful tasks for which we are responsible – whether that be as parent, housekeeper, farm labourer, shop assistant, or businessman, etc – believe it or not, we can experience a deeper sense of delight that goes beyond and lasts longer than any physical or bodily pleasure.

In other words, the attitude we bring to our duties affects the quality of the way we relate to others. Every person we meet can walk away from us feeling just a little happier. This can be because of the way we deal with them, the effort we put in, and the interest we have shown. Other people will have learned to rely on us to do what is needed without being prompted. They will have come to expect us to put proper feeling and thought into what we do. Their appreciation can give us huge job satisfaction.

Having a caring involvement with one’s family and friends or carrying out paid employment or voluntary work for the community – all these activities can be a challenge to the heart and mind that makes every day alive with opportunity and interest. By not being idle and being effective in what we do, we have no time to get bored. Not that being busy should become an end in itself. We all need time out for rest and recuperation.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems