I love to control things. No, for real, I yearn to control everything in my life.
I plan ahead; I think about every contingency, every possible outcome, and do whatever I can so things go perfectly.
Why would I want to learn to let go of that feeling?
Simply, I’m exhausted.
Control Freak. Perfectionist. We’ve all heard these terms, we know what they mean.
But they really apply to us.
We just love to be in control. It feels so good to be in control.
We know the best, most efficient, easiest way to do everything.
We know the best routes to take, the best products to buy. And we definitely know what you should’ve said to your boss in that meeting last week, if you’d just listened to us.
Okay, maybe there are times when we micromanage everything. But… it’s only because we have to: we’ve tried delegating in the past – and it really didn’t work out.
We love to think that we’re in control and we have everything in check. It makes us feel powerful.
It makes us feel right and less afraid. Yet, somewhere deep inside, we know we’re not in control – at least not fully.
Why Trust and Learning To Let Go Is Hard
The thing is, even though being a control freak might make us feel good some of the time, we’re so wrapped up in controlling things that we aren’t very happy. We certainly don’t feel relaxed or carefree.
In fact, we’re not free at all.
Attempting to manage and control everything in our lives can actually cause more anxiety, inertia, and a sense of helplessness. It leaves us isolated and/or in a lot of arguments with our family, friends, and also co-workers.
What we don’t always realize is that control – and the need to control – is about fear. Well, reducing and avoiding our fear, as well as danger and negative outcomes.
It’s all about steering clear of the unknown.
Our brain and control
It’s natural: we’re hardwired to want safety and security. Our fears are meant to keep us safe, to keep us alive.
Our amygdalae, those tiny parts of our brain that govern our fears, work hard everyday to make sure we’re not eaten by a bear, or get run over by a rogue taxi.
But more often than not, our fears get the better of us and keep us from truly enjoying our lives. It’s hard to find safety and comfort in the ethereal unknown, so we settle for trying to control things instead.
There’s also an inherent lack of trust in our need to control: a lack of trust in ourselves and in others.
First of all, we’ve been burned too many times while trying to trust others. No need to keep trying when they’ll end up making a mess of things.
Better to just avoid trust and do it ourselves.
While we might think that we can trust ourselves, that need to control helps us not need to truly practice self-trust. We’re so focused on controlling everything that trust doesn’t enter into the picture.
We’re so focused that we don’t see we’re missing out on trust, joy, connection, love, freedom, and satisfaction.
So, dear ones, what can we do to get more of those in our lives?
Tips on Learning To Let Go and Trust
1. Get clear on where your need to control comes from.
Often, there was an event or series of events in your childhood that made you think you needed to control and manage everything in life. You don’t want to dwell on the event(s).
But having a basic knowledge of why you developed this habit is helpful when you need to remind yourself that you’re not in that event anymore – and you don’t need to continually repeat it.
2. Observe your patterns.
Get clear on what you need to control, when, how often, etc. Are there any situations you don’t need to control?
What happens when you try but can’t control a situation?
3. Identify the worst-case scenario(s).
What happens if you don’t control this one thing? This specific situation?
What’s the worst that will happen? What’s the next worst thing?
Make a list of the top five negative things that could happen. Is it really life-threatening?
Will anyone be hurt? If not, it might be a situation to practice releasing control.
4. Start small.
Try to pick a situation that feels safe and the outcome isn’t important where you can practice learning to let go. You don’t have to stop controlling everything – just this one small, easy, safe thing.
From there, it can become a practice where you eventually raise the gradient to bigger and bigger situations.
5. Consider that trust is a gift.
Practice trusting yourself and others as if giving a gift over and over. It’s not always easy, but this can be the most valuable practice you ever take on.
6. Remember that by practicing trust, you’re giving your loved ones the opportunity to surprise you.
They can create their own way and empower themselves. If you constantly try to control the people in your life, they’ll never have the chance to rise to the occasion and succeed.
7. Share with your friends and loved ones the new practices you’re creating.
Tell them about your desire to stop controlling everything and your new goals. Describe the ways you’re learning to let go so that you’ll have some accountability and encouragement.
It’ll be that much easier to ask for support when things get overwhelming, or it’s become too scary to give up control.
8. Take five deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
This helps calm the body and gets you more centered when you’re in stressful situations. Changing this pattern of control won’t always feel good, safe, or comfortable.
When you find yourself resisting or fighting to control something, stop, and breathe first.
Consider repeating a mantra as you breathe in and out to help focus and remind you why you’re changing your habit.
9. Do a quick body scan.
Where are you tense? Have you eaten enough/had enough water?
What’s happening physically that may be exacerbating a stressful situation?
Sometimes, taking care of our physical well-being is the best thing we can do to help calm our minds.
10. Think about the future.
Recognize that while you can’t control everything that happens in the future, you can control how you relate to those things.
You can take action to make sure you are creating a bright future.
Learning To Let Go Everyday
It may be hard to admit we’re control freaks, and even harder to admit that we can’t control everything.
We can’t control other people or situations. But we CAN control how we relate to the situations and circumstances in our lives.
We can work on changing how we view things and improve how we feel, which will translate into healthier relationships and overall less stress. We can choose to live within the confines of our amygdalae and fears, OR we can choose to practice something new.
Practice learning to let go, trusting, breathing, and starting to make those small adjustments and changes. Eventually, you’ll start to realize (just like I have) that life is so much easier when you don’t have to control everything!
Do you have any tips you would like to add? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.