I’ve been thinking about autonomy a lot lately. This is something I would like to teach you.
Autonomy is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision. A person with autonomy gives themselves their own law. In simpler terms – you are responsible for yourself. You are your own boss.
As an adult I would like this lesson to be part of your core. I would like you to feel this power and responsibility and made decisions for yourself from this place. In this mindset your destiny will be your own.
Autonomy is a big concept to teach though and it could be literally dangerous at your current age. See, there is an element of this that includes considering the rules others make for you and deciding if you will follow them. The majority of the rules in your life are around your health and safety. Your set of life experiences does not leave you in a good place to access the worth of these on your own.
The place I would like to start from is the basic concept that you have control over yourself. This can be taught and recognized in smaller, self-contained scenarios that are safe for your age. For instance, you have control over your emotions.
At my ripe age of 30 I have just recently fully appreciated that our reactions to things that happen are our own. Two people could have the same “difficult” thing happen in their day and respond in completely different ways. It is not the THING that CAUSES the reaction. It’s the PERSON that HAS the reaction. How a person thinks about the world and sees their control in it determines their response. We hold in ourselves the power to literally pick the emotion we feel in any circumstance. We can choose to be happy. We can choose to see how each circumstance has a positive.
I have started to present this idea by talking about my own feelings and my control over them. Mixed in with all of the safety rules, social suggestions, and nutrition tips are comments about my own emotional state and how I control it. Yesterday morning we had this exchange:
Me: “I am so tired today. My brain wants to be cranky but I just keep telling it it’s more fun to be happy.” (Said with a big smile and long eye contact with you.)
You: “Your brain wants to be sad but you are making it happy?”
Me: “Yep. I am choosing to be happy because I want us all to have a good time! (Big relaxed breath and another big smile.) It’s easy to be happy. You just look for happy things and then you are smiling!”
You: (Smiled broadly back at me.)
At other times, when you are upset, I ask what happened and begin to talk about your emotions. I help you try to see something positive. For instance if I find you crying because a child took a ball from you we talk about how much fun the other child is having with the ball and how it makes us happy to see a friend of ours happy (every child is a friend at your age, I love that). We’re sure he will share again soon. Everyone can be happy playing with the ball.”
Taking control over your feelings is the first step in taking control of a situation. And feeling anger or sadness is usually a waste of energy. It will only slow down your thinking up an alternative solution that works better for everyone.
Control of yourself is really the only thing I can promise you can achieve. But it is powerful and it is all yours.