No, You Can’t “Just Let Go” Of Control
“Just let go”
How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times have you been able to “just let go”? It’s just….not that easy, is it? Especially when it comes to control. We’re not supposed to want to control the people and events in our life….but we do. We want it all the time! I want my kid to put her shoes on, right now, not in five minutes. I want my partner to wash the dishes…and do it the way I would do it. I want the guy driving in front of me to go faster, move over, pay attention, use his blinker! I want my day to unfold the way I had planned, no surprises!
If I want control, and it feels good to have it, how could this possibly be a bad thing??
Sounds like a win win right?? Well, maybe for you, in the short term. But not for the others in your life, and certainly not for you in the long term. In all my previous scenarios, how do things unfold when I come from a place of control? My kid, of course, doesn’t get her shoes on fast enough, so I get cranky. My crankiness frequently leads us into a vicious cycle of crankiness and tense interactions that typically make the day much harder for everyone. My partner goes to do the dishes and I keep lobbing my oh-so-helpful “suggestions” their way, resulting in crankiness, tense interactions, and if done frequently enough, a partner who is not only not interested in doing dishes but is dish-avoidant now. The man in the car ahead of me? I zoom around him and then carry my huffy anger with me for long after he is gone from my life. And my day? Surprise surprise, it doesn’t go the way I had wanted – resulting in….more crankiness. Do you see the pattern here? Control may be what we want, and it may feel good in the fleeting moments when we have it, but in focusing on control ultimately, we all lose. Here’s why:
“When control enters, connection leaves.”
This is a seriously valuable concept I learned from my teachers Tim and Bettina Jobe of NaturalLifemanship. We want to control as a response to basic anxieties and fears we carry with us every day. Fear and worry about other’s expectations of us, of the unknown, of trust and patience. All of these bring up tense feelings whether we are conscious of them or not. They cause little shifts in our nervous system that say “danger!” And so we respond with control. But, when I am controlling my daughter and husband and day, I’m not fully present to them – I am not connected to my love, trust, patience, and empathy I have for them and I’m unable to enjoy what is unfolding in front of me. (Focusing on outcomes/the future makes being aware of the present moment very difficult). Our bodies respond to fear with tightening (like someone’s grasp on something they don’t want to lose), and they respond to love with softening (like someone’s warm caress). We can practice each, and whichever one we practice the most is the one that becomes the default. It becomes habit.
So, no, we can’t ‘just’ let it go. But we can practice letting go by practicing the opposite of control: connection.
See if when your toddler refuses to put on her shoes, you can pause and connect. Notice her face, her body, her words, and remember she is a completely dependent tiny human trying desperately to develop her independence. Notice what happens in your body when you see her this way, rather than as a difficult obstacle in your quest to control time and others. And when your partner offers to do dishes and you want to tell them exactly how – see if you can pause, look at them, and remember that different doesn’t mean worse, and being instructed in simple tasks doesn’t feel very good. The guy in front of you going too slow? See if you can pause and connect with the other diver, maybe he’s elderly, maybe he’s lost or has his own worries on his mind, whatever it is, he won’t be in front of you forever.
Breathe and try to enjoy the pace, it’s a moment of stillness and peace you get to have in your day.
As you may have noticed, I AM in fact talking about having control…but I’m talking about self-control. Can you feel tension in your body and pause before reacting – take a breath and remember that life doesn’t have to be lived in reaction to the negative, but with a pause, you can embrace the good. While control may give you a momentary sense that fear is kept at bay….connection truly relaxes our senses. And what we practice becomes habit.