Control. We love it, don't we? We desire control over days, our work, our relationships, our emotions. We are uncomfortable with the unknown. It seems to be part of the human condition.
When it comes to other people, we have less control than we think- and if we're being honest, less control than we would like. Now, most of us aren't out to control other people. But we certainly would like others to behave in ways that suit us and our needs. Our anxiety can get in the way of allowing others to experience freedom- freedom to make their own decisions, freedom to be who they are.
We also have more control than we oftentimes believe. We have control over how we choose to handle situations. We can choose to respond, rather than react. We can choose to take a deep breath before responding to an irritating email. We can choose to smile at the person with a full cart ahead of us at the self-checkout. We can choose to think differently about any given situation.
We often cannot change the situation- but we CAN change how we think about it.
Check it out:
Situation: driving to work, lots of traffic, and I'm already running late.
Thought #1: "WHY DIDN'T I LEAVE MY HOUSE EARLIER!? Why in the world is there so much traffic? This guy really needs to drive faster. Move it or lose it! I'll never make it to work on time."
Resulting emotion: upset at other driver, annoyed with myself, generally frazzled
Thought #2: "Weird, there isn't usually this much traffic on this road. Wonder what's going on. Ah well... it's out of my control. I'm going to take a deep breath or two... oooh, now I have extra time to finish that podcast episode I was listening to this morning."
Resulting emotion: calm, at peace, joyful from listening to comedy podcast
Same situation. Different thoughts. Different results.
Recognizing when you do or do not have control is absolutely key to your emotional wellness.
When you realize you have control in a situation, you are empowered to make a choice, make a change.
And when you understand you have no control over a situation, you may experience a release of that responsibility you were never meant to carry in the first place.
Top tips for exercising more control when you have it
Acknowledge that you can make a change- mindset is everything
Consider your choices and potential outcomes
- Choose the most beneficial route- how can you act in alignment with your values?
If you feel paralyzed here, that's a sign fear is getting in your way. Avoid making choices from a place of fear- address the fear first, then move forward with decision making.
Top tips for handling a true lack of control
Download the Calm app and use the breathing meditation tool. Game-changer.
Acknowledge your lack of control and practice radical acceptance
- Intentionally think about the situation in a new, more helpful way
Control issues are a common issue for many people. If you're ready to make some changes with how you handle control, consider working through this in counseling. Schedule an appointment to get started today. Why wait?