Our relationship with control


Considering the current global situation it’s unsurprising that over 64% of the users of our online emotional health support service, Inner Calm, are struggling with Control, one of our 5 Pillars of Stress.

As a natural control freak myself I can empathise with those for whom this may be coming to the front of the pack. There are so many issues that we are finding we have little or no control over. Issues such as the state of the economy, how fast the coronavirus spreads, our livelihoods and whether they will still exist when the crisis is deemed over?

We also have no control over how others react to government advice, whether they decide to panic buy at the supermarket and how well others will respond to the constraints we are placed under.

In other words there are so many things in this current situation that we have no control over.

Our relationship with control

The key to our relationship with this pillar of stress is to understand that it is not the things that we find out of our control that are the issue, instead it is our relationship with control in general. In other words, my inability to let go of control causes me stress.

To put it another way, I have already listed many issues that are out of my control. Where I generate the stress and worry is by somehow still trying to exert some control over them, usually by worrying. Despite all available evidence showing I have little or no control over these areas I still think worrying will make a difference to the outcome.

So why is that?

The chances are that at some point earlier on in my life I worried about something that was not in my control and guess what, it turned out alright. At that moment, and supported by many other similar moments in my life, I decided that worrying made things better; that trying to control things I could not control somehow made me feel better.

If something is genuinely out of my control, no amount of worrying about it is going to influence the outcome. The result will still be the same.

It reminds me of a quote from Glen Turner:

“Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.”

But it doesn’t end there. Living with prolonged stress is not healthy, that has been proved time and time again. Worry is just another word we use to minimise stress and the feeling at its core, fear. While it is natural to feel scared we can also take responsibility for how much we hold on to fear when we have no control over the outcomes.

And this is where I start to realise that my responsibility to myself and to those around me is to take care of myself in these uncertain times. To be fit, healthy and able to respond to those things I can control and ready to act when this crisis comes to an end and I have more control transferred back to me.

So, a question for you. Which parts of your life can you genuinely accept letting go of control over?

Why not make a list and remind yourself every day of the things you can’t control, and then focus on exerting healthy levels of control in the areas you can.

Or maybe you can move yourself to another level of thought advocated by the great Byron Katie when she says:

“We are never really in control. We just think we are when things happen to be going our way.”

I think that requires a whole different level of acceptance.

Have a safe day.