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 Blooming Stars

Impulse Control

             Culture and civilization began with impulse control. Only humans have impulse control. Animals act according to their urges. Impulse control comes at a physical and emotional cost. Freud wisely observed that hemorrhoids started with civilization. Animals respond to the call of nature and release their bodily waste where they are. They do not control their sphincters. They do not suppress their physical urges and control their impulses. Children also do the same until they are toilet-trained. While we humans control our physical urges and deal with them appropriately, we are less likely to deal with our emotional urges or impulses. We say and do things without thinking.

            Often we are not aware of the consequences of our behaviors or words spoken. At one extreme we have situations like that of a very promising young man from Andhra Pradesh, India, with a good job in the state of Pennsylvania, USA, planning to kill a woman that he was for a long time in love with ended up recently (September 2012) killing her child and her mother-in-law who was visiting the US for ninety days. His raw emotions and primitive impulses took charge of him. We also emotionally kill others through careless gossips, false rumors, and malicious lies. We engage in character assassinations. We do not mind ruining others’ reputations.

            We hear not what is said for what the truth is but what we want to hear through our peculiar and biased mind-set. We give benign and favorable interpretations to what persons, whom we like, say. We attribute bad motives to persons whom we dislike. When we are talking about impulse control we are talking about mind over matter. We are talking about our every word and deed coming out of the destiny of humanity that is truth, awareness, and bliss (sacchidanandam). The purpose of conscious and ever-refining impulse control that does not do any violence to oneself or others is the state of an aware, gentle person.

            John Henry Cardinal Newman writing in The Idea of a University in 1852 paints the portrait of a gentleman: “It is almost a definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain… He is mainly occupied in merely removing the obstacles which hinder the free and unembarrassed action of those about him; … his great concern being to make everyone at their ease and at home… he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd; he can recollect to whom he is speaking; he guards against unreasonable allusions, or topics which may irritate; he is seldom prominent in conversation, and never wearisome.

            He makes light of favors while he does them, and seems to be receiving when he is conferring. He never speaks of himself except when compelled, never defends himself by a mere retort, he has no ears for slander or gossip, is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets everything for the best. He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out. From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.

            He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults, he is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice. He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles; he submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death, because it is his destiny. If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blunder.”

             A gentleman/woman, in my mind, is a balanced and self-confident person marked by a passion for truth, cultural refinement, and empathic relating; engages in civilized behavior in words and deeds; takes into account the discrete surroundings and circumstances, and does not consciously wish harm or inflict pain on others including enemies and persons disliked or hated.

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