Most of my inspiration comes from observing my son. He is small (14 months) and not yet fully developed, so he struggles sometimes with daily activities; it’s so funny to think about how the struggles of a little one are not much different from the struggles of an adult. While their struggles may seem more rudimentary in nature (and almost always are) the basis for which adults struggle is almost always the same.
Today I found myself thinking back to last Tuesday morning, when I watched my son using a fake remote control to try to change the channels on the tv. I chuckled to myself about how he thought he was in control of the tv, but really it was just an illusion. I thought to myself, “is this often how I feel? In control but really not in control?” The answer was: yes! We all go through this process: Trying to control something which we are powerless over yet we fail to recognize it.
How often do you find yourself trying to find that perfect job? Or trying to make someone like you? Trying to change or fix someone who doesn’t want to change?
I used to find myself doing this [more] often. I would find myself in situations where I thought I had control and would work myself into stress and anxiety trying to obtain the outcome which I wanted. The truth is this: we are not fully in control of the majority of things in our life. Many believe that there are bigger things at play: The universe, a higher power, God.
But all of that is not to say that we cannot control anything. We have a choice of the actions we take, the words which we choose and the situations we put ourselves in. But for those things which are mostly out of our control, we do have some influence over our reaction to those things.
Not following? Let me provide you an example.
Example: You take a job with a large company, and you do your best to meet your performance expectations and show up to work consistently. Several years later, the company lays off employees based on tenure with the company. Although you are probably better at your job than some of your more tenured peers, you are selected for the layoff and you lose your job. In this case, the layoff was out of your control. But your reaction or the way you respond to this is not out of your control.
Here are 3 Steps To Taking Back Control:
Step 1: Accepting that we do not have full control over life.
In our example, it is easy to feel down on yourself. Especially if you have worked very hard to get where you were in your life, or if you are a provider for your family. Instead of simply reacting with your first instinctual response, first, you must accept that you did not have control over this event in your life. No matter what you did differently, in the above example you were still the newest person and unfortunately the decision of a large company put you into this place. Once you spend some time thinking on the situation, and acknowledge that you did not have control over this circumstance, you can move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Process Before Acting.
Before going on a 2-day bender, or laying in bed for a month, try to process (talk about) the situation. Processing about a situation takes away its power over you. Sometimes when we tend to stuff our feelings (primary emotions), and our secondary response (secondary emotions) to those feelings can come out [example: you can feel sadness which is a primary emotion, but if you don’t express the sadness you can express it outwardly with anger which is a secondary emotion]. You can process the situation with a close family member, spouse, friend or even a therapist if you have one! By accepting that you did not and do not have control over the situation in Step 1, and talking about the situation in Step 2, you can then adjust your actions moving forward by focusing on the things which you do have control over.
Step 3: Shift Your Perspective.
Now that you have followed Steps 1 & 2, you have not only taken the power out of the looming issue at hand by talking about it, but you have also acknowledged that it is out of your control. You can now feel free to shift your perspective (in the therapy world they call this a “re-frame” of the situation). During this step, you can make a choice to look at the situation differently. Before, you may have thought that it was the end of the world, or maybe you would have scrambled to find a way to control the situation above; your efforts would have proven fruitless. Knowing all of this, your shift in perspective should come easy!
No matter the situation, there is always a different way of looking at things. By following these steps, you can be sure that your contemplative efforts are sure to provide some relief to your feeling of lost control. By shifting your perspective and seeing your circumstances for what they are rather than a raw, emotional reaction, you can take back control of your thoughts and feelings!
Disclaimer: I am not a therapist. I am simply providing my own perspective and sharing what has worked for me. If you feel that you are in a situation which requires the support of a therapist or doctor, please search for resources local to you; if it is life-threatening, call your local emergency number.