Is control a myth?
For a lot of us, at times we can feel like we have things inflicted upon us, like things happen to us and we can’t affect the result. This can feel like someone else is in control of your life or an element of it. And when things feel like that, it most likely is true, because we are allowing it to be like that.
Quite often the very thought can be enough for us to unconsciously evidence this fact over and over with every action we take. The more we are confirming our thoughts and inner beliefs to ourselves, the more real and true they become.
If your hand is burning in hot water, your body will automatically react, to remove it fast. So why is it that we will tolerate other forms of ‘pain’, and sometimes for lengthy periods, and suffer as a result?
Some people appear far more in control of how this form of pain affects them and will retreat or resist more quickly than those who will continue to suffer. It appears that a form of Stockholm Syndrome can develop. I have heard many say ‘better the devil you know’, even if the grass appears greener on the other side, it is not always actually true and some will not be willing to take the risk of trying it out.
What does control look like?
When I consider times in my life when I have felt ‘in control’, I would describe myself as maintaining a balance. A balance between all important elements of my life. I will admit here and now that it has never been that everything is balanced, hence I added the ‘important elements’ piece. I strongly believe that no one, in our modern fast-paced world, can have everything balanced 100% of the time.
What I enjoy the most about this feeling of things being in control is the feeling of calm it can bring. That calmness in me will breed calmness around me – does this sound familiar? You can join or be part of quite an intense situation but by being there, and remaining calm, you can diffuse the tension in others, allowing more cooperation, clear thinking and a more compassionate approach.
Being in control can often be thought of as being organised. This organisation seems as though everything is managed and nothing is forgotten. But being organised can mean that you also have a standard approach to most things that enables you to be more relaxed. It could be that experience has brought you to a standard process or that you are surrounded by contacts (or experts) you can call on. An ability to organise / lead can also be seen as an ability to be in control.
Some individuals are seen to be ‘in control of their own destiny’ when they are in control of their own career or future, when there is a plan laid out and the route is known. This form of controlled / steady progress can be seen in more conventional development paths and can bring a sense of awe about an individual who is fortunate enough to ‘know where they are going’ compared to others who may be ‘winging it’.
Being in control, or an ability to take control and lead, builds personal and professional confidence, in one’s self and builds it in others we connect with. I know I have met many people in my life who have been confident in their direction / plan / abilities and it instils confidence in me that they know what they are doing. In this case, it can make me more willing to be part of their team, as I feel that success and opportunity is more likely.
If we pull together a few of these points (being organised, balanced and calm) we can imagine that also meaning that someone who is in control also has good time management skills and, even if they are time poor, they actually use their time more wisely. There is quality over quantity.
I often talk about the benefit of having tunnel vision on a goal. Like you are ‘on a mission’ and by being laser focused you can become bulletproof. Being bulletproof means you are able to manage your distractions and have good levels of concentration. Being bulletproof has to be the ultimate in being in control or being able to stay in control.
The effect of feeling out of control
There have been times in my life when I can safely say I have felt out of control. Like everywhere I looked, something else felt like it was coming at me or going wrong and I felt like I couldn’t get anything right. I couldn’t win. I couldn’t succeed and it was hugely overwhelming.
I have felt utterly useless when relying on others to help me or a loved one. I have felt behind in delivering to deadlines when I am relying on others who do not have the same priorities as me. I have felt like I want to run away and hide until it is all over.
In the last 13 months it has felt like this has happened more than any other time in my life. And I have allowed myself to go through it. No matter how many people told me ‘it’ll be alright’, and how much I wanted that to be true, I was often left asking ‘but how?’. How can this get better? What am I doing wrong?
The most frustrating part was people who would simply say ‘it’ll be alright, stay positive’….
I am ‘usually’ a very positive, happy, bouncy person. So when I was down and needed more than ‘it’ll be ok’, it was surprising how many people either didn’t bother with me or didn’t contact me. And if I allowed that to eat away at me, as well as trying to fix my situation, it could have affected my mental health permanently.
So, like running against the wind, uphill, into a hail storm (as I have actually done in real life before!), in order to feel like I was gaining control, I had to focus in, retreat to a safe place and weather the storm. One battle at a time, one part of the rollercoaster at a time, until I could emerge triumphant.
And when you are also emerging from such a tough and testing time, you come out wiser, stronger and deeper in so many ways. You can spot genuine members of your tribe, you know who you trust and can rely on. And most of all, you know who to turn to when you need them in future.
How to gain control in any situation
In any situation, a few golden rules I would now apply (and in this order) are:
Your breath is the one and only constant in your life. From the start until the end. Check in with your breath, allow it to guide you to a calmer place. Using a square breathing technique can help give focus on only your breathing and refocus your immediate reaction to bring back the calm of being in control.
- The power of now
Sometimes a future threat can cause anxiety. Worrying about a task you have been given that is challenging or an event that makes you nervous ahead of time, can build deeper concern and make things seem a whole lot worse. By learning to keep the worry / adrenaline of such a situation close to the actual event, it can maintain a sense of control in the ‘now’. The power of such an approach, looking at a shorter term of events, can maintain that control in emotions / reactions.
By being able to look at a situation and notice everything there is to be grateful about it, we can learn to temper our feeling of things overwhelming us or angering us. I actually love the phrase ‘lesson learned’. The reason I love it is that every situation can teach us. Teach us a new thing about us, or others.
- Third person thinking
If we extend the above point on lessons learned, and allow ourselves to step back from our own emotions to consider why others have behaved in the way they have, it can make us more mindful of why someone may react in a certain way. It can make us more considerate towards others’ behaviour and understanding of their motives. It can reveal why something they have done can trigger something in you. And a trigger for you, may be that way as it exposes a pain point. Being more analytical can help us understand this with less emotional effect.
- The tribe
Remember, there is always someone who will listen. Don’t expect them to understand, have an answer or to fix things for you. But, by having someone to share things with, can also air something and potentially defuse negative emotions. Build your tribe out of people you can turn to for different support. Some are great when you are riding high, others are better for when you are in the trenches and some will be there no matter what. We are social beings, learn to use that to your advantage.
So, if you are looking to feel like you are more in control, why not get in touch. Allow me to help you to feel confident and happy.
Let’s get you started today!