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Posts Tagged ‘need to be in control’

Since last summer, I have been feeling pulled toward letting go of the need to be in control. Recognizing that this is the direction I need to grow and actually doing it are two completely different things, though.

I have been having one epiphany after another over the last week or so about letting go of control. First, being in control is just an illusion. I can plan out my day as thoroughly as I want, but unexpected events are always going to arise, and I need to remain flexible enough to accommodate them. Flexibility has never really been in my vocabulary, but adaptability has. If I view my goal as becoming more adaptable, perhaps that will result in being more flexibile.

Second, I have always viewed being in control as synonymous with being responsible. However, I have friends who are very responsible parents to child with multiple special needs, and they manage to meet all of their children’s needs without any sort of schedule at all. I do not view them as irresponsible, but I also confess that I have no idea how they do it. I am still in the process of trying to wrap my head around the reality that I don’t have to be in control to be responsible.

Third, I believe the inability to be in control is at the root of my anxiety, which is causing my stress-related issues, such as reflux and period insomnia. If I let go of the need to feel in control, I suspect that my anxiety levels will drop dramatically, which, in turn, will cure (or at least ease) some of these other issues.

I completely understand why I have always felt the need to be in control. As an abused child, I had absolutely no control over my life, so I grew into a teenager who tried to take control through obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and an eating disorder. I grew into an adult who lived and died by a schedule. [For those of you who are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the first time I took it, I ranked 26 for Judging (needing to plan everything) and 0 for Perception (spontaneity).] I would actually “plan to be spontaneous.” There was no room in my life for anything that wasn’t written down in my Day Planner.

Then, life sent me a kid with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The child is as impulsive and spontaneous as they come. Adapting to living with someone who is so polar opposite to me has been interesting.

I don’t think it is coincidence that my son came into my life. I think he came, in part, to teach me how to let go of control. Believe me – there is no “controlling” this kid.

I haven’t mastered any of this yet, but I am trying to be mindful of all of this and am making an effort to take a deep breath and let go of any illusion of being in control. It’s not easy.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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This week, I have been exploring my strong need to be in control of the situations in my life and how to dismantle this need for control. I received lots of great advice yesterday – please keep it coming!

I don’t want to have to feel responsible for so much in my life, and I certainly don’t want the responsibility that comes with being in control of so many things. So, I put some thought into why I do this since control is not something that I want in and of itself. The answer came to me during yoga and meditation – I try to take control to help me feel protected and safe.

When abusers were in control of my life as a child, I was neither protected nor safe. I thought that, if I was in control, then I would be both protected and safe. Now, taking control has become my go-to reaction whenever I feel unsafe. OK – That’s progress. At least I understand the trigger that leads me to take control.

So, rather than telling myself “don’t judge anything” and “don’t take control,” which isn’t working very well, I am changing tactics (and will probably continue to change tactics as I consider all of the wonderful advice that all of you are providing!).

I started thinking about when and where I feel protected and safe in my life even though I am not in control. My first thought was my friend’s house. We have been friends for almost 10 years now, and she was my go-to friend during the therapy years. My son and I hang out with my friend and her daughter every Saturday at her house, and I am always very relaxed while we are there. I realized that this is because I feel protected and safe, even though I am not in control.

I also feel protected and safe at my church and when I am at the gym even though I am not in control. That tells me that it is possible for me to feel protected and safe without having to seize control of the circumstances. (I also used to feel protected and safe when I traveled, but that all blew up last week. I’ll write about that situation in another blog.) So, it is possible for me to feel relaxed while not in control, but just writing that is triggering me – clearly parts of me are not ready to do that.

I have been working again on mindfulness and staying in the moment. For example, because of what I just wrote, I feel triggered. In reaction, I am taking deep breaths, and I am analyzing the facts of my present situation. At this moment, I am completely safe. I am in my home office in front of my computer with a full stomach (just ate dinner). I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will be unsafe at a future moment. Right now, in this moment, I am completely safe. So far, this has been helping me bring myself back down.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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As I shared yesterday, I am in a difficult place of healing. I am feeling a strong pull to let go of the need to be in control all of the time and to stop making myself feel responsible for everything that goes on around me. For someone whose life has always felt out of control unless I took charge, that’s a very tall order.

I know exactly how and why I grew into a control freak. As a child, I could not trust those who were in charge because they were either abusive or, at best, negligent (such as my father and grandparents, who did not abuse me but also did not stop the abuse). When my father died (during my senior year of high school), having my mother/abuser in charge of my money (college tuition) was pure hell, and I swore to myself that I would never let anyone else control my pocketbook again. So, I completely understand how I got this way and am not beating myself up for the choices that I have made up until this point. However, I do feel the need not to live the rest of my life this way – in reaction to my childhood.

A friend had some interesting advice about letting go of control. I told her that I know what I need to do (let go of being in control) but now how to do it. Her observation was that having to be in control ties into judgment – judging different events as “good” or “bad.” For example, my luggage not arriving at my destination until 10-1/2 hours after I did was simply a fact. I am the one who made the judgment that not having my luggage arrive on my flight with me was a “bad” thing.

However, I don’t have the first clue about how to remove judgment from events that happen around me. Right now, I have no personal income despite the fact that I have two part-time jobs. (Don’t worry – hub provides amply for necessities. This is “my” money to spend however I want without hub getting a say in how I spend it.) Both jobs are adjunct education positions, and neither one has work for me until the end of August. This is simply a fact, but I judge it as “bad” because I want an income and really hate the thought of having none for a month.

My guess is that my friend would say that I could choose to view this hiatus as a “good” thing because it is a reduction in my responsibilities. It p@$$es me off, though, because I did not choose this hiatus – it happened out of my control. That makes it hard for me to view this as a “good” thing.

My understanding is that some faiths (Buddhist, maybe??) recommend removing judgment of anything being “good” or “bad.” By removing the emotional attachment to what happens, you find freedom from what happens. I am not quite sure how to do that, though. Any suggestions?

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My son and I just returned from our trip across the country. We were gone for over a week, and I did not access the blog at all while we were gone. So, please bear with me as I approve comments in the moderator queue, etc.

In a nutshell, here is what is going on with me…I had a full-fledged panic attack/meltdown at the beginning of the summer. I still do not know exactly what triggered it, and I also have not fully recovered from it. My therapist thinks I don’t nurture myself enough, which is true but not enough to explain the intensity of the breakdown.

I have felt a strong pull to let go of feeling so responsible for everything around me and try to let go of the need to be in control all of the time. The problem is that so many things keep going wrong when I do let go of the control. For example, our flight got delayed due to mechanical issues, causing us to miss our connection across the country. The airline put us in a hotel and said that arriving one hour before our replacement flight (a 6:00 a.m. flight – oh, joy!) would be plenty of time. It wasn’t. We barely made our flight, and my luggage missed it. Don’t even get me started on the inconvenience of being sleep-deprived with no luggage, sunscreen, etc. I even had to buy my kid a change of clothes.

My personal rule is to arrive at least two hours before a flight, but I chose not to “be in control” and trust the expertise of the airline personnel, which also equated to getting to sleep until 4:00 a.m. instead of having to get up at 3:00 a.m. (neither of which would have been necessary if the d@#$ed flight had not been delayed). If I had just followed my own instincts, I wouldn’t have been so panicked trying to check our baggage and get through security before the flight left, and my luggage would have arrived with me.

That’s just one example, but you get the point. So, this whole “letting go of control” thing isn’t working out very well so far, but I also feel a strong pull to do it. I simply don’t know how. More on that tomorrow…

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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