Is Our Need to Control Healthy And Can We Change?

by - November 28, 2017

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How many times in the last month have you felt the tingling need to control aspects of your life and your environment? The traffic to work? The unpredictably busy customer service in a new restaurant? Your boss's feedback on that report you spent hours working on? Often our carefully laid attempts to plan everything, from those of an average day to the big events in our life, can leave the boundaries of planning and run wild into a compulsive need for control. We've all been there. I know I have, more times than I can remember.

The battle with my need to control everything in my life has gone on for years. And no, I didn't wake up one day to suddenly realize its futility. I was aware of it more than once, but it took me several steps finally decide that I don't want it in my life anymore - that I have the power and self-confidence to lead a life that doesn't come with a remote control.

The need to control takes away from our ability to fully live and accept life as it is - unpredictable and uncertain. Often it stems from fear, the idea of uncertainty makes us dread losing control. Yet uncertainty is an inescapable reality that we must recognise. The fear of failure and strive for perfectionism further fuels our control issues. Together they are quite the duo, the desire and efforts of being perfect in everything feeds from our perceived danger of failing as we often see failure as an irrevocable hurricane. Then quietly steps in the role of self-esteem. The more we believe in ourselves to handle life situations that we haven't prepared for, the less we'd need to control. Yet I know that this little nugget of psychology might not be convincing enough and there might be some of you who would ask what makes control so bad. Isn't it what society tell us to do - take control of our life? I invite you to see the difference for yourself. Let's do a quick exercise.

Think of the last time you had a situation or an event ahead of you - it can be something relatively small like a job interview or something bigger like planning a wedding. Either way, you'd do anything you can to prepare (e.g. rehearse interview questions, iron your outfit, cover the logistics or book the venue, invite the guests, choose the decorations, the dress, etc.), then in the middle of your preparations and even after you've done everything you could to make it great, you may start to wonder are your answers good enough? Have you thought of all possibilities? How early should you get there when you have no experience of how long the journey takes? Then the wondering slowly turns into panic when things... well, get out of your control. You managed to arrive on time for the interview, but there's no designated visitor's parking space. Like this is not enough, but then your brain draws a blank on the first question. Why haven't you thought of preparing for that one? You end up angry for not thinking of everything and blame yourself for ruining your chances. Is control still not so bad?

When we focus too much on making things the way we want them, we easily get so caught up that we can't promptly adapt to the way things are. This creates a chain of negative emotions from frustration and panic, to anger and blame. Thinking that we can control everything prevents us from healthily living. Control is illusive. You may want it and you may think you have it over your life, but in reality, none of us do. Yes, sometimes things will go the way you want them and sometimes not so, but it's not because you controlled them. If you eliminate the need to control, soon you'll realize how good it feels not to feel angry and frustrated, how liberating it feels to deal with a situation without expecting it to be perfect. The process of learning is a giant part of our life, if we could control everything to be the way we pictured it, then what would be there to learn? Freeing ourselves from the need to control takes time, but once we build the blocks of change, we can feel the difference.

Start with self-awareness, observe your thoughts and reactions, and notice how unpredictable situations make you feel. Then when you find yourself planning and subsequently overthinking, remind yourself that it's fine - whether you'd do well or bad on a job interview - it's fine, you've done all you could, some things are out of your control, let it go and move on. Wrapping yourself in a cycle of negative emotions - doubt, lack of confidence, anger and worry won't help you get that job, but accepting the situation can help you focus your energy somewhere else. Next time you end up not getting the position you worked hard for or you find out that you have to stay late at work when you've got plans or  - take a notice, then let the anger and frustration go. Think of what a great new idea you can come up with instead. I have confidence in you and so you should too!

Inner Quiet is all about you. We will tackle the thoughts and fears of living in a world that keeps going even when you feel that you need a break. When a stressful life wraps you in its claws with no-way-out, we will try to show you another possibility, another solution, another way. No matter what you do or what you want to see yourself doing, we want to help you to shine through you. To be a human is hard enough without the constant pressure of being perfect and in this day and age we might feel it's impossible to live free of self-imposed constraints and others' expectations. Let's prove it wrong.

Previously on Inner Quiet - Why It's Important to Re-charge This Autumn

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