Well. Here we are. Many of us in the US didn’t get much sleep on Tuesday night and are still in a high anxiety state. We don’t know who our next president will be. We are worried about the state of our democracy, exhausted by our cumbersome election process, and angry that the validity of our electoral process is being questioned while final votes are tallied. What to do? How to make sense of this moment and embrace the day? Moving forward in the midst of such confusion and angst can be a bit bewildering.
After waking up on Wed. morning, but before becoming embroiled in my feelings and thoughts, I experienced a moment of grace, in the form of Morita Principle #2, which was delivered right to my mental doorstep.
“We are responsible for our behavior, regardless of how we feel.”
The clarity of this principle burst through the room like a brilliant ray of light, illuminating the moment for me in a simple and refreshing way. Yes, I am responsible for taking care of myself and my life. Even while worried and confused. Being responsible for our behavior means that we can maintain our morning routines, which for me included a Wednesday morning run. Getting out for a brisk and sunny jog, in the midst of this political turmoil, was an uplifting thing to do, and helped me to navigate my day well.
Rather than stumbling into the sticky world of news reports and social media concerning our floundering and polarized country, we can set boundaries and continue to focus on our lives, resisting the urge to check the news repeatedly if there is work that requires our time and attention. The drama of this moment is certainly real, but we don’t need to lose our balance. In fact, it is particularly important that we keep our own lives as well anchored as possible, when the winds of the world start whipping up. To withstand hurricane winds you need a strong foundation.
Of course we don’t need to go to the other extreme either. We don’t need to completely disengage from the political process, in order to take care of our own personal lives. Our country needs a lot of good-hearted, strong-minded people to help us get to a better place. We can be responsible for following through with whatever purpose is important to us, regardless of our feelings at the moment. We can go beyond our aversions and our compulsions, in service of a meaningful purpose.
You might be wondering about Morita Principle #1. Here it is:
“Your feelings and thoughts are not directly controllable by your will.”
You can’t make yourself feel happy if your candidate loses, or peaceful when in the midst of an argument. Since your inner state is ever-changing and uncontrollable, it makes sense to accept the feelings that arise and control what you can — your behavior. Feelings do not have the power to force us into action or inaction.
Emotional maturity has to do with living well despite the presence of inner turmoil. It’s not always easy. But it’s a worthy ideal to hold in our heart and mind.
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 25 years.