If you really want control, stop trying to control.
Seems simple right? Nope. I have to continue to practice this daily. You feel me? “If they could just do what I say,” “if only that didn’t happen,” “this isn’t fair, why me?” These are the questions we all ask ourselves when we are in the midst of suffering because we want to control things - people, situations, life. Unfortunately, this is not a gift we are given. This is also one of the most common issues dealt with in treatment. People come in and they spend a lot of time talking about how they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for “them”. Or they wouldn’t feel this way if “that” didn’t happen. Or a lot of analyzing about “why this happened” or is happening? All of the questions are valid and deserve an answer but there is not always an answer. Many times, in life you will never get the answer to ‘why’. Things will happen that we don’t want to happen. People will disappoint and hurt us. So, how do we go through this experience of life knowing that it isn’t fair, that we can’t control a lot, and there will be tough times ahead? Firstly, let’s make one thing very clear, we cannot control anyone else – only our thoughts and reactions to others. I have seen people build their whole lives around trying to “control” situations and people to avoid any fears, pains and hurts. For example, I once had a client that grew up in an abusive home. His father was violent and his mother used the son to meet all of her wants and needs. He was in his fifties when he came into treatment. He regularly experienced extreme anxiety and panic. He had such self-hatred that he would not sit in his own living room with both of his sons and wife because he did not feel that he was good enough and he didn’t want to bring them ‘down’. In fact, I was originally seeing his son and the son begged me to see his father instead. He said that if his father could get help that was all he needed to deal with his own anxiety and depression. It took me some time to agree, but his son was right! As we began to explore the father’s feelings and where they were coming from, he was able to identify that he was trained to deny all his own wants and needs. He learned growing up that he needed to not be “too big for your britches”. Anytime, he had a moment of feeling good about himself or accomplished something, his mother would react to it by telling him he is being selfish and overly confident. So early on he learned that he needed to be invisible and everyone else mattered more. He literally became someone afraid of taking care of his own wants and needs. He had the disease of getting self-approval from others to the extreme! He would shake when we explored strengths of his and ideas that he could take care of himself. His relationship dynamics mimicked his mothers. He felt he existed to help others and if he didn’t succeed, he hated himself. He had the weight of everyone’s world on his shoulders and it showed! He was trying to control everyone’s lives to be perfect so that he deserved to be on this earth. When I asked him if he would want his son to believe these things about himself, he started to understand. He started questioning his beliefs about himself. We talked about how he needed to take care of himself so that he could take care of others. He no longer spends his day trying to get acceptance and approval from others. He looks completely different. He literally looks 10 years younger - almost like a different person. The fact is that we cannot control anyone or thing but we can control how we think about it. Know if you are believing lies about yourself. Know if you are telling hateful things. Know if you need to give yourself what you need and want. Know that you are the only person that will ever be you and that the world needs you! This you can control and choose. What we can’t control we must face as they come and not worry about a disaster that might not happen. And we can’t control what happened in the past but we can control how we perceive it. What we can control is being in the moment today and choosing a great day!
I'm curious? What are you trying to control or let go? Sometimes I still get the perfection disease when i'm confronted with the unknown. I want to hear from you!