ANXIETY AND CONTROL
Do you wish you could change how things are in the world?
That you could take away a loved one’s pain, or stop a deadly virus in its tracks?
It seems like a well-intentioned wish.
It seems like it’s borne out of love for the world and for humanity.
But trying to control other people and external circumstances is one of the main ways we block ourselves from being at peace. It causes us so much unnecessary pain.
Why do we keep doing it even though it rarely works?
Because most people think we have no control over our thoughts and feelings. We think we’re at the mercy of external circumstances.
We think if there is an illness in the world, we have no choice but to be scared.
We think if our partner does something we disagree with, we have no choice but to get angry.
Because we believe their circumstances have so much power over us, we try to gain some semblance of relief by trying to change our circumstances.
Trying to keep our loved ones safe. Trying to change our partner’s mind.
This creates a huge amount of pain when the world doesn’t cooperate.
And believe me, the world doesn’t cooperate.
Other people have autonomy to make their own choices. It’s part of the human condition.
Life is unpredictable. It’s part of the human condition.
Until you accept that, you will continue to suffer unnecessarily.
Most of us think we know what SHOULD happen. We think we know how life should be, how other people should act.
We get angry when people don’t practice social distancing during a pandemic. We get mad at our partner about how they’re handing a work conflict.
We think it’s because we would all be better off and safer if they complied with our wishes.
But the truth is that whatever we want, it’s because of how we think it will make us think or feel to have it.
We want people to participate in social distancing exactly the way we do because then we think we will feel safer and more in control of our health and the health of our loved ones.
We want our partner to reconcile with their colleague because then we think they’ll feel better about work and we won’t have to worry about them being anxious and upset all the time.
Issues can be big or small, but your brain works the same way.
Whenever you’re trying to control someone or something outside of yourself, it’s always because of how you think you would get to feel if it or they just happened or acted the way you want.
So: the faster you can let go of the idea that you are some universal arbiter of how the world should be, the faster that you stop believing that you know what other people should think, feel, or do, the less stressed out you will be about not being able to control their actions.
Just release that sh*t.
It’s not serving you.
Nothing feels more out of control than trying to control something you can’t control.
The harder you grip, the worse you feel.
What should you do instead?
Focus all your energy and brainpower on what you CAN control: your own mind.
Other people don’t need to change what they’re doing for you to feel better.
All that has to change is your thoughts.
All that has to change is your belief that the world should be different.
Ultimately, we want to control our circumstances so that we can feel safe.
But you have the power to create that safety for yourself right now, by changing your thoughts.
By relinquishing the idea that you can or should be able to control anything outside of yourself.
By accepting that you can’t control other people or the world.
By releasing the belief that you ever had a chance of controlling them in the first place.
When you free yourself from that, you can ask yourself powerful questions, like:
- How do I want to show up?
- Knowing that I can’t control other people or the world, who do I want to be in the world and in my relationship to those other people?
- What kind of thoughts do I want to think?
- What kind of feelings do I want to have?
- What kinds of actions do I want to take?
- What kinds of results do I want to create?
THOSE are things you can control.
Focusing on who you want to be and how you want to show up in a world full of people and things you cannot control is the most empowering thing you can do.
The next time you find yourself tempted to control the world or being mad that you can’t, I want you to ask yourself those questions.
I want you to actively choose who you want to be, on purpose.
Today and every day.