Control is an illusion in that you never really have control over what happens in life. We can prep, plan and anticipate things that could potentially happen, and then steer things in a favorable direction. But the outcome is still out of our control. And for many of us, that is torturous.
Being a control-freak also comes with a great many benefits. It means you’re organized, an attentive host, you know how to throw good parties that are always well planned, and you’re able to take on stressful and chaotic situations with much grace. The downside is, you’re rarely as “present” as a person without a need to control things. Your mind is still in the anticipation of things to come, and immersed in the studying of what is happening vs. the full participation in it. What this really means is, you do not allow yourself to savor things and really relax because your muscles never stop working.
The most painful effects of being a control freak really come when things do not go according to our plan. It can feel devastating, because our expectations have been set on a goal and therefore exaggerated and heightened in the process. Our expectation is for things to work out, because we have done so much work to support that outcome and in that process, we invested. Enough so that we sometimes lose sight of the reality that things might not work out as we planned.
This need for control of the uncontrollable future usually comes from a time early in childhood: a role taken on, based on our family dynamics. When you grow up with these qualities/tendencies/skills/habits/beliefs, they are a part of who you are and that’s a good thing, not to be resented. It helps you to excel at a lot of things in life. But it must be kept in balance. Brains like this have a tendency to go into overdrive. They plan and think and solve and drive us mad. They also remove us from fully enjoying our friends and our experiences to the fullest. They keep us “occupied” and always slightly disappointed at the parts of the plan we missed.
So how to soothe these mental circles? Effort and practice. We must acknowledge to ourselves as often as possible, what is out of our control. It’s an illusion that we usually cannot see through until something shocks us into a harsh reality. But as scary as a lack of control feels, uncertainty is not dangerous. It does not hurt us. What hurts us, is our fear around uncertainty and our resistance to letting go. We fight acknowledging our powerlessness and in turn make ourselves feel scared and crazy.
Try to remind yourself constantly when you see your expectations begin to build around a specific scenario. When that story begins to write itself in your head before it has happened, stop and acknowledge what is out of your control. Let go of the outcome and accept that you are human, and what will be will be. You are not God. You are not psychic. You cannot control what people do or what happens in the future. It’s not so scary to not know what will happen. That feeling is coming from inside you, and it’s not based in reality. Work on calming down and reminding yourself of what is out of your control. When you can see what that is, decide to let go of your expectations surrounding that thing. Try to remain open to what may come, and be humble about the range of possible outcomes. Know that you will be okay no matter what happens. All you can ever do is try, and past that you have to let go.
Remember to forgive yourself readily when life doesn’t follow a perfect plan. Let go, move on, and know that you tried your hardest in the conditions you were placed in. With a little bit of work in this area we can enjoy our lives and our experiences and our selves a lot more.
Happy Sunday xox Sarah
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