Owning your own sh*t


When I was trying to figure out the cause and the solution for my anguish in life, I looked in the mirror and found the person responsible for both. – Timber Hawkeye

Once again, I find myself at an intersection of my Buddhist and polyamorist relationship philosophies. The catchphrase “own your own shit” popularized by Cunning Minx and the quote above from Timber Hawkeye both refer to the same thing: Taking responsibility for your own emotions.

This is a very powerful thing to do. It is self-empowerment. By taking responsibility for what is a purely internal thing, you give yourself the power to understand and therefore to direct your own emotions. Note that I don’t say “control”. Trying to control them doesn’t work. Control necessarily means that you treat them like some kind of external force. Something separate to you. This is not true. Emotions are intrinsic and inseparable from you. Like your body, they cannot simply be forced to do something by will alone. You cannot will yourself to be a better tennis player or to sing sweeter. Likewise, you cannot will yourself to be happier or calmer. You can, however, practice.

Much like physical practice, by becoming aware of how you are acting and making tweaks a little bit at a time, great changes can result. In fact, emotions and your physical body are also not separate entities. They are heavily intertwined. Just as emotions cause physical symptoms (psychosomatic), changing your physical state causes emotional symptoms (I haven’t found a word for this, so I’ll just call it somapsychic). Stand up straight and tall and you’ll feel more confident. Force a smile and you’ll feel more happy. This very effect is an important part of my daily meditation and gives me a good start to every day.

On the other hand, you can pass on responsibility for your own emotions and disempower yourself. Phrases like, “you made me feel…” gives away the power you have to someone else… someone who cannot change how you feel. It makes you utterly dependent upon them for how you feel and thus utterly dependent upon them for your happiness… a happiness that they cannot give you.
Oh! You might say, but when my partner took me out on a romantic weekend, he/she made me happy! Hmm… the subtle difference is that they created an atmosphere that encouraged happiness. The happiness itself still came from within you. Depression, a bad mood, financial worries or any number of other things internal to you could still turn that weekend in to an unhappy experience.

So there you go. Take responsibility for your own emotions and find the solution to your anguish.

Oh… and don’t forget to provide happiness-encouraging moments to others to help them on their way, or as a pair of philosophers put it, “be excellent to each other.”

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