Brian and Angela Anderson move forward after tragedy. Photos by Keith Borgmeyer As you turn down the long gravel path toward the Andersons’ home...
Finding peace starts with losing control.
by Carolyn Paris
Managing situations works; controlling them does not. Control is an illusion. Most of what people try to control is out of their control, and people often spend much of their lives continuing in their effort to control situations that will never be controlled. “Someday I will get a handle on this,” they think. But that “someday” never arrives.
The desire to be in control implies that situations in our lives are out of control. We can’t always win these. The best tools we’ve got, however, are management and being in charge, which mean that we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got in any particular moment. We can influence situations. This again allows us to feel “in charge” of our life. Who we are being in a situation has a significant impact.
Imagine you are in a serious discussion with a colleague and have very different positions on the best approach to solve a problem. Underneath the surface, you may begin feeling angry, overwhelmed, untrusting, irritated, or intimidated. What often follows these emotions is a pattern of acting defensive, suspicious, and arrogant, perhaps even becoming a bit overbearing and, often, closed off. You may try to control the outcome, thinking that it’s the best way to protect your position. This “control,” however, is an illusion and never really resolves the situation in a healthy, positive manner.
How different might it be if we went into the same conversation being open, undefended, curious, and grounded? Take a moment to think about this approach in a situation to which you can relate. You can almost feel, see, or hear the difference in the outcome, can’t you?
When I visualize control, I see a fist clenched, holding on tight. There’s not much give and take. It’s like holding your breath when you’re scared. Control stymies creativity. However, when we come from a position of personal power, we are able to stay grounded, be receptive, and influence the direction and outcome we desire. This is true for interaction with your colleagues, and equally so with your partners. It can even empower your kiddos. Most importantly, perhaps, this lifestyle of managing situations and being in charge (instead of feeling an impulse to control) can bring a new strength and calmness to your life. Being in charge is so much healthier than trying to control.
Whether we are attempting to be in control or be powerful, there is no assurance that things will turn out the way we want. But releasing control is not resignation; it is not throwing in the towel. Rather, it’s accepting that situations don’t always go as planned. It doesn’t dampen our passion for competing, fine-tuning our skills, or winning. It’s just a fact of life. But there’s good news: by releasing the negative energy used to control circumstances, you have more energy and skills to be fully engaged, which leads to a greater possibility for success.
Consider asking yourself this: What would my life be like without being in control? Notice how your body responds. Do you tense up, holding your breath? If so, take a take a deep, cleansing breath, then ask yourself this: What would my life be like if I were managing?
There is such great opportunity for freedom and liberation when approaching life with an open stance, receptive to the flow and power of the universe.
Three Ways to Release Control
Relax: Take three deep breaths before you begin the conversation.
Receive: Be open to hear and consider the other person’s position.
Respond: Give yourself time to go inside and do a self-check. Take one more deep breath, then respond.