Have you ever dealt with crippling fear, regret, or anger? I have. And it’s horrible. Today I want to share one of the best ways I’ve found to let go of those emotions and bring a little more peace into your life. The secret is to lose control.
I Don’t Have a Problem
I don’t feel like a control freak. If you look at the outfit my 6-year-old wore to school today, you’d probably agree with me. I like to have input in what’s happening around me, but I certainly don’t feel the need to micromanage everyone and everything.
That’s why I was surprised a few years ago when I was struggling with postpartum anxiety and my therapist told me I might have control issues. She suggested I learn how to “lose control” a little more and gave me this book to get me started.
I balked. When I think of “losing control”, I think about going crazy, something my postpartum brain did not want to explore. I think about chaos and destructive behavior. I think of spiraling out of control. And I don’t like it. It scares me.
But that wasn’t the “losing control” she was talking about. She was talking about letting go of the subconscious belief that I could control everything. When you realize the small percentage of things you can control and focus on those, your life becomes a lot more peaceful.
I read this book 11 years ago and don’t honestly remember a lot of the details, but it had a profound effect on my life. Over the years I’ve developed my own theory of losing control that began with that book.
What Are We Losing Control Of?
Losing control means letting go of things we have no control over. This includes things like other people, major world events, natural disasters, the flow of traffic. Sure, we can exert some influence over some of those things, but we don’t control them; not by a long shot.
Losing control also means accepting the power that comes with knowing what we do have control over. We have control over our own actions, what we do with our feelings, and how we react.
This summer, my family went hiking in the Narrows in Zion National Park. It was a gorgeous hike along a riverbed. The water was deep in places and sometimes moved quickly. It was amazing but also difficult for all of us, especially my 6-year-old.
I watched her struggle against the force of the water and there was nothing I could do to stop it. We were in the water and the water was moving.
98% of what happens around us is like that river. We can’t stop it or change it. We just have to react the best way we can.
Imagine how frustrated I would have been if I’d spent the whole hike trying to stop the water or redirect it.
Conquering Regret and Shame
To conquer regret and shame, you need to learn how to lose control of the past.
Today I have the opportunity to decide how I will react to my whiny child. Tomorrow? I can’t go back and change how I reacted to my whiny child today.
If I mess up, I have two choices. I can make myself sick with regret and shame. Or, I can realize I’m not Superman and I don’t have the power to go back and change the past. When I let go of this false sense of control and recognize where my real power lies, I can make a better choice today. I can stop living in the past because I know there’s nothing I can do to change it.
But I can change what happens next.
Letting Go of Fear
When I’m afraid of what *might* happen, I figure out what things I could control in that situation.
So if I start with a “what if” statement, I write down a “then I would” response.
And I just drill down.
What if there was an earthquake? Then I would try to get ahold of my family.
What if I couldn’t get ahold of my family? Then I would shelter in place and wait for them or walk to the place I knew they were. Also, now I should make an emergency communication plan for my family.
For any situation you are fearful of, make a list of things you could control in that situation. Admitting you can’t change everything about the future may free you to focus on what you can change.
Dissolving Anger and Frustration
I tend to feel anger or frustration when things don’t go my way, or when someone messes up my day, or when I fall short.
It helps to realize and be at peace with the fact that I cannot control others’ behavior or even the outcomes of what I do myself. It helps to own the fact that I can only control how I react to each situation.
When I’m stuck in horrible traffic, I can be angry that cars are blocking my way. I can be angry that I’m going to be late. I can be upset that even though I did everything in my power by leaving 10 minutes early, I will still be late.
When I let go and own that I can’t control the traffic or the fact that I will be late, I can focus on solutions. I can focus on how I can apologize when I walk in late or what I can do next when I miss my plane. Because in that moment, those are the things I can control.
Being realistic about what you can control, moves you into action mode and away from rage. When anger clouds your mind, productivity ceases.
Make Like Queen Elsa and Let it Go
As you’re marking your ballot, lose control of the races you can’t win and concentrate on those where you have the power to make a difference.
As you’re working with your child’s teacher this year, recognize you cannot control what she does. Work to control your own behavior and reactions and to work with her for your child’s success.
As you go about your day today, mentally label the things you can control and those you can’t. When you come up with something you can’t control (which will happen a TON), ask yourself, “Okay, then what CAN I do?”
Then do that.
Good emotional health is essential for not only ourselves but for our children as well. Here are a few more inspirational posts about creating and maintaining good emotional health in our lives:
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