Building Self Control

Self-control is an attribute that is not in-built into human nature and has to be introduced and inculcated over a period of time. Man is born with a mind, body, and soul, and depending on how he chooses to nourish it or not will determine his development. A part of this internal growth involves facets of self-control as well.

Just as a baby cannot become an adult overnight, similarly self-control is developed over time. There may be stray instances when a person has to use a particular form of self-control in an instant, but largely self-control is gradually developed. The mind learns to think logically and convey these thoughts to the body which then acts with certain restraint (self-control) thereby ensuring a modicum of sensibility in one’s actions and behaviour.

Presence of a will

An important ingredient in building self-control is the presence of a will to do so. This will is an internal force that propels a person to think or act in a particular way even when he does not wish to do so. The strength of this will determines the strength or efficacy of self-control. The stronger the will, the easier it will be to restrain and discipline oneself. For example, a person stuck in the midst of a jungle, exhausted due to lack of food and water willed himself to reach the nearest village. This person could have given up but by sheer self-control on his feelings of tiredness and remorse, he went ahead. There must be complete determination within oneself to stop ourselves from behaving in a particular manner and opting for an alternate (and better) route. This will also needs to be strengthened and built-up over time.

Internal Aspect

Self-control is a human characteristic than is internal to every individual as it is his mind and body at work. To build self-control thereby becomes an internal activity that must be done by the person himself. It cannot be superimposed by any other person as it then ceases to be self control. Building self-control must be done slowly and steadily through a person’s growing years because as he attains greater levels of maturity, so do the controls on himself improve.

External Influence

As mentioned above, building self-control is done internally, but can have external influences as well. However, it must be noted that these externalities are not forced upon but are only influencers. They work as a catalyst that can help people to change for the better. For example, a person may go for personality development classes, which will help him increase his self-esteem in various ways with one of them being the application and correct utilization of self-control. However, the application of these techniques can help the person only if he wills himself (and is receptive) to use them. External influence does not work in the absence of a strong will.

Individual vs. Group

Different people use self-control in different spheres of their life. This is dependent upon their individual characteristics and the areas where they need to apply self–control. For example, Mr. Smith has an aggressive nature and therefore he needs to apply self-control on this aspect of this personality while Mrs. Johnson is obese and she needs to demonstrate self-control towards her eating habits. Hence, as both people need to restrain themselves in different ways, they need to build self-control on an individual basis. Nevertheless, there are instances when group activity can also help build self-control:

  1. Amongst adolescents, especially boys, there is a tendency towards aggression. This can be bettered through group sessions of counselling. These sessions help build self control in this area by demonstrating to the children ways and means of self-control towards overcoming this behaviour.
  2. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a group activity, which aims to help alcoholics use self-control towards their detrimental drinking habits.

Thus, the important features of building self-control are:

  • Depending on the nature of the restraint to be applied, it could be an individual or a group attempt
  • It takes time to build self-control within oneself and is not attained in a jiffy
  • It pertains to the self and therefore the individual must steadily work on himself to increase his level of self-control.