Chloe lashed out whenever she had any stress and even when she did not. Her father was like that, and she thought that she could never change. Moreover, it did give her space and respect, she thought, or was it that people were drawing back from her and were afraid to socialize with her? Her mind was a constant maelstrom of wild thoughts that came from nowhere and went everywhere. She did stay focused at work, and sometimes in her personal life. She reached a point where she yearned for something better, a serious relationship, and stability. But would her personality style let her because she had her father's genes, she wondered?

Peter seethed on the inside and would explode for the slightest thing after keeping control cool most of the time. He perceived everything as stressful or as aggressive, even when there was no reason to see things that way. He had a hard life, growing up in a dysfunctional family. He witnessed parental alcohol abuse and fighting. He and his sister would hide so that they would not get hit, too. As he got older, there were teenage gangs around, and he learned that the way to avoid them was to study in the school library. Now he worried if he could complete his education, because his anger was increasing.  He would daydream acting violent, and wanted to change. But were his experiences in the past too powerful a weight to overcome, he wondered?

You are not like either of these representative cases, but you have elements that make them seem real enough to you. All of us want to learn how to keep personal control of our behavior, emotions, and thoughts, especially when the situation demands it. However, the task of keeping self-control is difficult when there might be serious genetic or environmental vulnerabilities or difficulties that weaken your resolve. In addition, you might not have developed enough assertiveness or a core self that has learned when and how to speak up without anger and still succeed in dealing with frustrations.

The beauty of human psychology is that we are all capable of learning because we are flexible. The hard part for us is that learning is never easy, and we have to apply ourselves, especially in the hardest courses of all, those teaching concerning self-control.


Life is a chaotic stream of stimuli, experiences, and self-generated ideas and feelings. You react to not only what is in the outside environment but also to what your mind is thinking and feeling. Even in the worst circumstances, how do you keep your psychology focused on reaching your positive goals?

Each of has an able side that is filled with motivations, strengths, and solutions. Your able side might have been put aside for the longest of time, but it is time to have it deal with your problems. Bringing out your able side is within your ability. Moreover, seeing yourself as quite able is within your potential.

Ability is half self and half other. To bring out the able side of yourself, you could work on it and also get others to help build it. People who care for you could help, even if it is simply by listening. Others do not have to find your solutions, but solutions that come out of conversations usually reflect the input of all parties. Communication starts with one idea and usually finishes with a better one.

When family or friends are not available, you can turn to magazines, books, and other media sources for self-help. If necessary, professionals can help.

Ability can grow as far as you let it, and this includes the ability to meet the greatest challenges of life. You have that capacity to define yourself increasingly by your task-oriented and social skills. We all hear of stories of how an average person accomplished the greatest of achievements. Each of us has the potential to do better than we think or to head in the right direction.

To tower in your abilities, the tower has to be constructed one skill at time. Capacities grow through good planning, effort, energy, and application, as well as verifying how they are unfolding. Any types of distraction, interference, or intrusion are held in check.

Feeling that you are able partly stems from keeping control in the chaos around you and partly stems from altering the chaos around you so that it is better controlled. Chaos feeds on itself, and you can take measures to stop the vicious circles that grow in chaos.


Chaos can be harnessed and reoriented to what is best for you and those around you. You never know where an action, thought, or feeling could lead. Even the smallest one might lead to a chain with the greatest of consequences.

Often, bringing out ability means taking the first step. New paths open up before you as you walk those first steps out of chaos. Fogs are reminders to find free breaths. They are clear days waiting to happen.

Some chaos is good for you; it keeps you alert and leads you to improve your abilities. Too much chaos might be too difficult for you, but you need to know that it is unavoidable. For example, the worst calamities happen to most everyone at least once in their lives.

You need to prepare for the worst chaos because it will happen. However, this does not mean that you will regress because of chaos. Chaos breeds opportunity and progress as much as leading to feelings of being overwhelmed and helpless.

Being able is one side of you that can keep growing. You have the capacity to grow in many ways. For example, you work on your recreational skills, study skills, and work skills. You can also work on your sense of feeling able in undertaking these skills. Give yourself a pat on the back when you see that you are more than the chaos around you and that you can keep harnessing your sense of feeling able.

About the Author

Gerald Young, Ph.D.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.

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