What Is Your Dominant Attitude: Spontaneous, Controlling, or Guiding?
What Attitude Is Running Our Show?
In our everyday dealing with life situations we are generally displaying one of three distinct attitudes. They are seldom seen in their extreme forms like presented here for an easier recognition, but rather with some overlapping between them.
One is dominated by emotions, another by control, and yet another by sensible guidance. It could be fun recognizing descriptions of their different types in some folks that we know---or could it even be ourselves? Of course, it's always a challenge to our honesty with ourselves to be willing to find out what dominating attitude is in charge in our hierarchy of mental forces.
Spontaneous and Relaxed---Not the Same
Much has been written about the benefits of becoming more spontaneous, which means giving up control and just surrendering to the freedom of expression. Sounds right, doesn't it? It's also associated with relaxation, letting go of any strife--- all in different contexts, some religious, others having to do with stress management, meditation, or as a predisposition for self-hypnotic induction.
Now, in all this attempting to make spontaneity attractive to us, a mistake is made by seeing it somehow synonymous to relaxation. As we are about to see, these two concepts have nothing to do with each other. In a sense they may even be viewed as opposite.
Relaxation is a state of mind and body characterized by a freedom from stress, whereas spontaneity is an attitude of immaturity, marked by impulsive, oftentimes irresponsible behavior that causes a lot of friction with others, so not really a predisposition for relaxation.
Switched to Automatic
"Mind is an obedient servant, but a cruel master" - is a good saying that gives a proper introduction to my arguments against spontaneity. Namely, too often spontaneous has been associated with "sincere", "natural", "free", even "innocent".
However, it merely means an insistence on staying switched to the mind's "automatic pilot" where every demon not exorcised by maturity has a chance to play its drama on the stage of our life. When we are spontaneous, we act at a spur of the moment, refraining from that most cultivated and updated in us which defines our character and our values.
All that is in favor of those past stages of development which are given a permanent green light for a free expression. I may like the memory of my teenage years, but I won't ask the counsel of that teenage-me, whose craziness was only justified by his age and those hormones that were giving it a motoric.
Hippy Go Happy
Every so often you may be unfortunate to run across such a "spontaneous" person who instantly impresses you with their exaggerated emotionalism. They may be very prone to swearing, to lively hand gesticulation, loud talk and laughter, and shifting moods.
In the darkest scenario they may be prone to arguments and possibly violence. With, or without all of the above characteristics, they are usually perfect candidates for some form of drug abuse and over-consumption of junk food.
It's their spontaneous instinct to please themselves at all costs, including bad health, if not also imprisonment. Their room is messy, and so is their relationship with their mate; however, they usually get lucky to tie themselves to another of their kind, in which case there is no one around to notice any mess.
Is there Really a "Healthy Anger"?
I have seen some books actually condoning a free expression of anger. Out of curiosity I read one. It was entirely based upon a permissive concern over "putting a lid on an angry volcano"---to say it a little poetically.
Nowhere did it address the very sense of being angry in the first place, let alone allowing it to escalate into a rage. With maturing process our emotional reactions don't get "inhibited"---they get refined. An impulsive toddler may scream his lungs out if you refused to add those cookies to your shopping cart; but later on in life, that same toddler, now a grownup man may deliberately omit cookies from his shopping list if he is motivated to lose a pound or two for that pool party next month.
However, with a spontaneous type of person it's all different, as he never really outgrows that stage of catering to his whims, and if you deprive him of his "cookies" ---whatever they may be---he is bound to get majorly pissed off, if not downright outraged. Thus we can't really talk about a "healthy anger", since there is no such a thing as a "healthy dysfunction."
Judges with No Robe
Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between emotionally driven spontaneity and a sensible guidance---but still within the range of undesirable---are those folks who feel compelled to "control".
Whether they are full blown control freaks or just insist on having an upper hand in all interactions out of inner insecurity, they are all quite normative types, most likely to tell you what you "should", or you "shouldn't" believe in, watch on TV, wear, eat, and so on. I like calling them "self-appointed judges".
They are bound to remind you of some kind of judges without a robe, with all those principles, slogans, strategies, and criticism, always making life look like one big battlefield.
Home Party Mistaken for a Political Convention
Well, it goes without saying, they are not the kind of guests you would want at your home party. But if you ever invite one by a mistake, please rush to invite at least another one, so they keep each other company and don't disturb those others who came there to have fun.
They are likely to reserve a corner for themselves where they can "resolve all global issues"---stop all wars, hunger, injustice, crime, and even elect a new president for you. With all that "expertise" in economy, politics, and law, they won't even need the whole night for it, so they will still have enough time to discuss prices, house repairs, and "irresponsible, disrespectful younger generation".
Of course, any of those themes could be a part of anyone's conversation, but these controllers are almost physically disabled to also talk about music, food, restaurants, fashion, cars, tell jokes, or what has happened in their lives since their last getting together. The closest to that would be criticizing their bosses, neighbors, mechanics, or doctors. A strange breed, I am telling you.
Even Their Face Is Telling on Them
Every so often, especially during long winter months, my fife and I go to a shopping mall for some window shopping and stretching our legs, which is our version of a workout. There she usually ends up in a store, checking out what's new in fashion and home décor, while I am walking back and forth listening to my MP3 with recorded positive affirmations and casually glancing people passing by.
A special treat---of course, except those young and good looking folks (here, you made me say that)--- are those "authority types". Male, female, and an occasional in-between. Their "peppery" character is written all over their faces, stiff lipped and stern, somewhat like a passport photo.
They always give me an impression as if their face would all crack and fall apart like a puzzle if they made an effort to stretch it into a smile. So, the next time you find yourself at a shopping mall, alone or with your wife, make sure to spot a person of this description---you'll know I was not exaggerating a bit.
Sensible Inner Guidance, Not Control
Well, I am not trying here to invent a new typology based on people's facial features. Those mentioned so far are merely examples of the folks who are spontaneously over-expressive in their emotionality, and those who are tight as an umbrella, with a normative mission to fulfill in their life.
With one last type left to be covered. Here I mean a personality who is well balanced between their playful inner child and rules to live by, displaying something like a sensible inner guidance.
Not a self-control by a strong will, because that would have to involve an inner resistance. A guided child is a happy child, whereas a controlled child is forced into an adulthood of the sort where "children are to be seen, but not heard".
Doesn't "Guided" Mean "Phony"?
This could be one of the main arguments coming from a person who likes calling themselves "spontaneous". Well, in my book, "phony" would mean "hypocritical" - someone badmouthing another person while pretending to be friendly when facing them.
Inner guidance is simply effective and healthy. On those days when we may feel under the weather, we may choose to share it with our spouse. But, if she also happens to feel lousy, then we may opt for guiding ourselves into acting funny to cheer her up a bit, instead of "spontaneously" dumping our dark disposition on top of hers.
Even if that technically means "hiding our true emotions" - the purpose justifies the means. Interaction with others, especially those close to us, involves a tactful approach with support and compassion nurturing that relationship. Spontaneity, on the other hand basically means only a "relating to oneself" and catering to one's own emotional whims, which is much closer to being "phony", since it's mocking every virtue in a good relationship.
Hey, Sensible---Yes, but Not Perfect
Living guided by our inner sensible intent, above all gives us a sense of our having a power over our lives. Especially when those close to us have not acquired that ability, somewhat being pushed around by their pronounced emotionalism.
To them we can give our non-intrusive support and guidance similar to the one we are giving to ourselves. But then again, let's back off just a bit with all this talk about spontaneity as something bad.
Namely, from time to time, it's quite O.K. to make an excursion into that carefree and silly mood, either starting or resulting with a drink or two more than our usual limit, or over-spending on that absolutely irresistible dress, or having a full bowl of that favorite ice cream topped up with an unforgivably sinful mountain of whip cream.
Just for the hell of it, while reminding ourselves how lonely would be the life of a perfect human. And yet, the whole point is in ability to "come back" from that spontaneous mood.
After all, sex is unthinkable without it, and so is artistic expression, dancing, and playfulness.
But at this point it's worth repeating what was said before: A happy child is a guided one, not a controlled one---and that distinction alone makes the whole difference when it comes to cultivating our capacity for happiness.