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A silhouetted person with their arm in the air, hand made into a fist, against the backdrop of a sunset. The need for control

The Need for Control

The illusion of control

We would all like to think that we have full control over our life, but every now and then life kicks in and reminds us that this control is all but an illusion.

I’m not talking about free will, the subject of last weeks article, but the idea of control that we try and maintain daily in our lives. We get in the car or on the bike and feel in control of the direction we are taking the vehicle. We never truly expect the other vehicle entering our lane and hitting ours or having to put a sudden stop to our journey because of another vehicle cutting our path. We may control our own vehicle, but we can never control the actions of another.

Our universe is so complex that to say we know it is a lie. What we do know is that it’s full of stars and galaxies, but we still can’t say whether life exists anywhere else or not. This is totally out of our control and we freely accept it, unconsciously.

When it comes to our own life, the idea of letting go and allowing life to happen, is not only alien but unacceptable. Why?

Fear of letting go

Fear is the main reason. We feel that if we let go and allowed our life to happen, then it would spiral out of control and we will never achieve what we want to achieve. In a way this has some reasoning behind it, when we don’t have any goals, when we don’t use our mind the way we ought to use it.

If you are living your life day by day, never truly thinking about where you want to be in a years time, 5 years time, 10 years time, if you never set goals, if you don’t have meaning or purpose to what you do, then you are going to go round in circles and always get the same results.

But even then, when you are open to opportunity and serendipity, letting go may be what you have to do to find that meaning and purpose.

Fear of not getting what we want in life is what keeps us trying to control what happens in our lives. That same fear also stops us moving forward and achieving even greater things than we thought we are capable of.

When it doesn’t make sense

Have you ever been in the situation where you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? How is this going to help me? I can’t see how this will help me in reaching my goal?” You feel frustrated because you can’t see where it is going.

Everything we do in life is to learn a lesson to get us closer to where we ought to be to have joy and happiness. The problem is when we don’t learn the lesson the first time because we missed the point completely or didn’t take the opportunity the first time. When this happens, another situation will come along to give us the opportunity to learn what we didn’t understand the last time.

A colleague was given the opportunity to enter into business with someone who was already established. He turned the opportunity down, but, two years after when the opportunity was placed in front of him again, he decided to take the offer. Fear had stopped him the first time, but the idea had been in his mind during those two years. When the opportunity came around again he took it – he was not willing to stand back as he did last time.

He learned the lesson to overcome fear so he could move ahead. He let go of fear and he let go of control, because the future venture was not something he had dealt with before or knew anything about. He simply chose to let go and had a goal to succeed in this venture.

Everything in life is a learning experience. We always have something that we need to learn.

Emotional control

The British saying of keeping a stiff upper lip is a brilliant example here. It means to hold in tears and not show sad or unhappy emotions.It’s not just about keeping control of our emotions, it’s about not showing them to the extend of denying them. Keeping our emotions closed in. Not showing emotional pain.

But these are the things that truly make us human – our emotions. Feeling sad when we see other people suffer, connecting emotionally with them, having a sense of empathy and allowing ourselves to be visibly emotional and vulnerable.

Emotions are also what dictate how our life will be, because our goals are directly tied in with our emotions. We create emotional goals, not just visual ones, because it’s what we deeply feel that we attract in our lives and what our mind, through the reticular activating system, makes as goals to aim for. Whether it’s to our benefit or not, it’s irrelevant.

Letting go of control of our emotions allows us to feel more, be more and, as a result, recognise ourselves more. We get to truly understand who we are and what our true likes and dislikes are.
I don’t mean to say that we should be an emotional wreck. We need to have some measure of control over our emotions, but not ignore them or keep them closed in – this can lead to psychological, as well as psychosomatic issues.

Let go

It’s a process, letting go. Controlling our lives is what we are used to, because our lives are controlled in turn – by work, by career, law, our behaviour and actions at home and at work. Sometimes we feel as if we can’t be ourselves, express ourselves the way we want to, be open with how we feel and what we want. These are choices we make, some willingly, some unwillingly.

Some of these choices we recognise we have no control over so we accept that fact and at that point we become more relaxed, because we don’t have to control that situation.

In the same way we can train our mind, ourselves, to let go and accept the direction our life is taking, maintaining the hope and believe that whatever comes along will be for our best and for those we love.

Resistance

The other thing about trying to keep control is that it creates resistance in our lives. Not only in what could come into our life, because we are forcing it in the direction we think it should go, but also in our mind.

This control is itself a block. Just like trying to control how people see us, our ego, the truth is that we can never control what others ideas bout us really is. So we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to let go and see what really is and what will turn up.

Letting go of control also releases the resistance. It’s like taking off the blinders of a horse, who can now see the wonders all around it, rather than just what’s straight ahead of it. New roads and directions, new views.

As Esther Hicks would say, pull in the oars of your boat and let your boat take you down the river of your life. It’s an easier trip and one much more fulfilling that you could have expected.

The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.
Epictetus

Photograph by: Miguel Bruna on Unsplash


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