Self Control Theory

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“Personal health is related to self-control and to the worship of life in all its natural beauty – self-control bringing with it happiness, renewed youth, and long life.”– Maria Montessori

We have all been part of classes and gatherings where we were asked to learn self-control. We have often left such gatherings with a confused look on our face, thinking how can someone heal simply by controlling his/her thoughts? Some of us who are generally interested in knowing about crimes (thanks to the number of crime dramas on TV these days), there’s something called self control theory in the area of criminology. But before we plunge into it, let’s understand the concept of self-control.

What Exactly Is SelfControl?

Self-control, as commonly understood by people, is one’s ability to regulate or change one’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior when faced with impulses and temptations. Self-control is what gives us a distinct position compared to our ancestors and the remaining segment of the animal kingdom. It is a cognitive process that regulates one’s behavior and keeps him/her in line with specific goals.

But in psychology, self-control is seen as an emotional self-regulation, which was proven to be limited. It’s like a muscle; too much self-control can deplete someone in the short term but can strengthen him/her in the long term.

Psychologists believe that the large prefrontal cortex area of the brain is responsible for self-control abilities. Self-control suppresses impulses that could later cause us to regret. Instead of acting out impulsively, self-control allows us to evaluate alternatives and make controlled decisions. Willpower is the ability that allows one to exercise self-control. It is perhaps one of the strongest abilities a human being can have because it keeps us closer to “good” things and away from “bad” things.

What Is the SelfControl Theory?

Self-control theory of crime or general theory of crime theorizes that a lack of self-control in an individual leads him/her to perform criminal acts. The theory suggests that individuals who have received unhealthy parenting until the age of ten are more likely to lack self-control than those who got better parenting. Age in both cases was kept constant.

Self-control theory of crime was developed by two well-known criminologists, Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi. The theory isn’t a small achievement, given a large number of criminological paradigms existing today. Their research concluded that a lack of self-control is more or less correlated with impulsive and criminal conduct. A clear understanding of this theory can help people understand the reasons behind their impulsiveness and leave behind their past forever.

The Link Between SelfControl and Healing?

As seen from the self-control theory of crime, a lack of self-control originates somewhat in our childhood, owing to certain traumatic events we have been exposed to. It can even lead us to acts of crime, abuse, and violence. Traumatic childhood experiences can scar us permanently, rendering us incapable of facing problems or fostering healthy relationships. But don’t worry. You can come out of it.

Healing, whether physical or emotional, is a time-taking process. We cannot expect to sleep through it and wake up with no memory of it. The secret to healing is willpower, which makes us self-disciplined beings. Many spiritual gurus and psychologists believe that we can face any conundrum that comes our way if we have a strong willpower. This actually holds true in the case of both physical and emotional healing.

Now that we know what self-control is, let’s take a look at how the self-control theory can help us heal:

Manages Stress and Controls Responses

A lack of self-control can make stressful situations more stressful. Stress can blur thinking and lead to wrong decisions. The prefrontal cortex of the brain fails to handle stress and makes us fall weak. This is when self-control comes to play. Developing self-control would help us think clearly when faced with a stressful situation and prevents us from making wrong decisions.

Breaking Habits

Owing to a number of factors, we may fall prey to bad habits such as smoking or substance abuse. This is often the result of an underlying psychological schema. In addition, willpower is believed to be a “depleting” resource, thus preventing people from breaking such bad habits. But, self-control can, perhaps, make one aware of such psychological patterns and make it easier to break them.

Lifts the Mood

Traumatic events may leave behind a wake that continues distressing the person subjected to it. Depression and anxiety are common side-effects of traumatic events and reduces one’s ability to feel happy. But developing self-control can help one overcome these issues. It makes one more aware of oneself and the capabilities they possess. Self-control can thus lift one’s mood and show them living in a new light.

Heal Physical Ailments

A lack of self-control can make us do things that impede our physical health. One of these acts is excessive drinking. Although not a criminal offense, drinking excessive alcohol can hamper major body functions, thus giving rise to physical ailments. But, self-control can help people get over their physical ailments by inculcating healthy habits. A strong willpower can bring about a significant change in our lifestyle, and make us care more ourselves.

Gives a Feeling of Connectedness to Ourselves

While our fast-paced lives can take us away from ourselves, a little self-control can bring us back to the present. Self-control can make one realize the importance of the present moment. It is the only time we have because the past is gone and the future is yet to come. The self-control theory suggests that unhealthy parenting is a primary cause of the lack of self-control. But once we master the art of self-control, we will be able to parent ourselves and fill the haunting emotional voids.

It can, therefore, be said that the self-control theory is a profound theory that gives a clear understanding of humans’ impulsive behavior. Although a lack of self-control cannot be attributed completely to unhealthy parenting, it is certainly a result of an underlying psychological pattern. The self-control theory throws light on this important aspect of response inhibition and paves a clear path for people to walk towards healing and recovery.

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