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Impulsivity vs. Self-Control: Which One Am I?

Do you know how many years it took me to really hone in on self-control and impulse control?  I would give you an honest answer of about 22 years, and sometimes still counting.  It’s hard not to be or act on impulse.  It’s equally hard to have self control.  Some impulses are good.  They are the driving force that lead us to our future or at least help us make that first step.  Sometimes, however, when we give in to temptation too often, to give into impulses too often it leads us down a path of destruction, hurting ourselves and those around us.  To have enough awareness to know which to use appropriately is a blessing.

I have read a few other people’s blogs, I have read plenty of collegiate journal’s and pieces, I have read plenty of professional articles and studies that have all told me essentially the same thing:  impulsivity is an exceptionally good thing to have by way of creativity.  But how does it affect our relationships?  Well, this is only my opinion so take it or leave it.  I haven’t lived long enough to even be considered an expert by any means.  But I will say, in my own perception, that by digging into my past in recent months (because I’ve been changing and growing and it’s been a bit messy to say the least) it can certainly lead to more negative affects rather than positive ones.

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My mother always taught me to think before I speak or act when things rub me the wrong way, don’t align with my values, hurt me, anger me, etc.  Words are sharp like knives and can have a greater negative impact than the temporary feelings we are experiencing.  When it has come to my childhood experiences, well, I’m pretty sure you can probably predict that much of the things I said or did were impulsive and you would be right.  When we are young we are learning this balance.  It’s part of our essential development.  When we are young we are equally naΓ―ve enough to be able to take more impulsive risks than we would as adults because as adults we, sometimes, can predict or realize certain consequences of acting on impulse, and generally, we aren’t the only ones it will affect if we do.

I really had to work hard on the impulse control when I was young.  If you read my blog, It Happened Before I Could Even Recollect, then you will know the extent to which I had to learn this and master it at a young age.  If you haven’t read it, you don’t have to but I would encourage it for better understanding at the least.  Yet even into high school a lot of things I did was when acting on impulse or even just my emotions.  All that hormonal progression can really get to you, can’t it?  Darn puberty!!  I would say that my ex husband was an impulsive decision but it’s really not the case.  I was never one to have “rebound” relationships.  I don’t believe in that sort of thing.  I believe in depth and compassion and empathy and I truly believe in love.  So, when dating a few people and having him present himself as “being the only one to date,” I took that seriously and did not act on impulse.  I took into careful consideration my feelings for him, my schooling and whether or not he’d support the fact that that was more my number one priority, if he had enough qualities in him that would be compatible with myself, if I could accept some of his flaws; like, I was careful with that decision making.  I was not careful, but rather impulsive when it came to accepting his marriage proposal and pretty much everything after that.

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It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, had a baby of my own, and a single mom taboot did I realize and really wake up to why it’s important to have self-control and be less impulsive.  I was, after all, going to be raising a little human who would need the same guidance I did as a child.  That was when I grew up.  It was a shock to my family at getting married to my current husband.  He definitely looked like an impulsive decision and to some degree I would agree with them.  But when he wasn’t initially in my daily life, all I had was time to consider and use considerable amounts of self-control and most especially, considering my daughter and taking her life into account through all of it.  I really looked into the consequences it could potentially have on her.  Truth be told, the pros outweighed the cons so the impulsiveness to accept his marriage proposal was a good one and I’ve never doubted that one bit.

As I grew even older, into my late twenties, after I experienced a number of failed friendships because I couldn’t control my emotions, couldn’t restraint some of the impulsive words I had on my tongue in times of hardship, I realized I had failed those friendships and ended them before they could even begin.  I would let things roll off my tongue at the worst times.  And believe me, I know those words hurt because I saw the aftermath (hard not to see it in a small town) and experienced some of the back lash with that as well, the harsh criticisms towards myself.  So, when one special friend came along, I knew I had to exert my best self-control.  I’m not going to lie, it was hard, very hard at times not to just lash out when she’d speak before she’d think.  I saw myself in her so I in turn saw what I needed to do which was opposite of her.  So to all of those failed friendships before her, thank you for teaching me this restraint, to not end things based on temporary feelings.  I will equally say that I eventually gave in to temptation and let her have it after a while.  And did that go well for either of us?  No, it did not.  It was my biggest lesson in learning self-control.

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Relationships and people change.  This is why it was so essential for me to learn this at that point in time.  She went through some pretty heavy shit after that, and no, not because I gave into temptation/impulsivity.  Just trust me when I say it was heavy shit.  I’m not about to reveal her stuff here, not my story to tell folks.  Just know that she came so far out the other side that she is an incredible human being, she is my inspiration for humility and strength, and she is someone I look up to for going through really hard things with grace and class.  She makes me want to be better and do better all of the time.  We support each other in that way.  She is the one person to whom if I had a falling out with I would genuinely only wish her more happiness and more strength.  I doubt it would be a falling out.  It would more or less be a moving away from each other, like, I guess I really don’t know how to explain it to be honest.  However it would be it would be of mutual respect.

Moving on, with a lot of my other relationships that may not hold the stature that my best friend and I have, I still try to maintain the same level of self-control.  Sometimes I’ve realized that’s really hard on me, though.  Sometimes I’ve realized I’ve put up with too much abuse that I should have impulsively ended it a long time ago.  So you see, I’m still learning this balance.  But even through those times, I didn’t really try to force things.  If we needed to have an argument I let it happen and sometimes inadvertently took on too much blame for some things I shouldn’t have.  Not being impulsive at times left me to be a person who would stifle the things that should have come out because they were too important and should have been times where “live feedback” was necessary.  You live to learn, right?

But what about those touchy subjects, those things you know will hurt no matter how you state them, no matter how gentle you are, no matter how much you own your own shit for it?  What about those times you give awareness of what is to come, like a heads up sort of thing, and all signs lead to right now, or someone uses guilt to push you out of the terms to which you set so that coming from you would be a mature, structured, and careful piece of information?  What if that is not respected?  Well, to be honest, don’t let the guilt, the shame, the anxiousness, or the angst get to you.  If what it takes is a little bit more time to construct a piece that provides careful thought for a relationship you care dearly for, that is constructive rather than destructive, so that correct verbiage and tenses are used to prove intent, then please don’t allow those things to fester.  Be true to what you know will be more beneficial in the long run.  If it’s a long term relationship you’re after, no matter the type, take that time to be careful with your words and how you present them.  If care and self-control are not heeded then it ends in a mess because you aren’t at your best.

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I am and have always been a much better writer than I am a confrontational person.  My perception of confrontation has never been good and I’ve never been good with impulsive use of words or impulsive reactions.  I get too defensive and too angry, my emotions get the best of me and it is not careful enough for some of the tougher things to talk about.  OR, I own too much, stifle my feelings, and appease to someone else’s wishes, disregarding anything about myself.  And I’m in a state of change where I realize that has to change because it’s toxic, to me and everyone else.  I’m in the very beginning stages of learning how to give live feedback during those difficult times.  Which means, I’m relearning how to be impulsive, but it has to be careful and it has to have limits.  At least, still, with my writing I am more careful with my words, I am more careful with my thoughts, but I don’t see anything wrong with doing what I do now with writing.  I will always find it to be a better route especially for those touchy subjects that really do require careful thought.

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