Taking my foot off the throat of life.
I am a control freak. Meaning I put a hell of a lot of freak into keeping control of everything around me.
It only requires rudimentary psychology to understand the cause. Check out Broken Bits. However, this isn’t about why so many grown adults of childhood trauma are obsessive controllers. It’s about learning to take my foot off the throat of life.
For those of you lucky souls (I gaze after you enviously) who skip carelessly through life, letting it unfold before you; guiding it — yes, but not trying to beat it into submission — this blog isn’t for you.
This is for my comrades who wake up each morning believing they can change the direction the earth spins through the sheer force of their personality.
I’m sure you, like me, have everyone’s best interests at heart. I don’t want to be hurt and I don’t want the people I care about to be hurt either. I want life to be great, fun and successful. At some point, I learned the only way this could happen was if I was directing it.
Not everyone agrees with me, which sucks for me. And for them.
What I have come to realise is the only thing I can control, is me.
Learning not to micro-manage life is bringing me peace. It is certainly better for my health, and no doubt a hell of a lot more pleasant for those close to me.
These are some of the thought processes and practices I’ve used, and still use, to allow the world to breathe.
Letting those I love have their journey
Trying to control the outcomes for those precious to us may seem like an honourable endeavour, but it actually does them a great disservice.
The only way to grow into a confident, dynamic, empathic human is to experience life — not just the happiness and the highs — the bits that also hurt like hell. Disappointment, fear, pain, jealousy, regret and guilt are all pretty unpleasant emotions, but they don’t kill us. Discovering this creates an inner strength and resilience essential to navigate a life with compassion and grace.
As a mum, one of the hardest things is to allow your child to fail, to feel the stinging pain of disappointment. Preventing it is the surest way to grow an anxious kid. A child who is afraid to take risks and feels they are only of value when they succeed.
Not needing to be right
Ask yourself when you feel you’re meddling or controlling: “Am I doing/saying this because I need to be right?” This takes a lion-hearted bout of honesty. At first, as you develop this skill, the only person you need to admit this to is yourself.
Being right affirms our sense of self-worth. If we aren’t right, then we are wrong, and somewhere along the way most of us learnt that being wrong was not ok.
In reality, being wrong is admirable! It means you are pushing your boundaries, testing new ideas, new beliefs and new ways of being.
Start to notice when you are digging your toes in, or manipulating a situation because you want to be right. And then — just let it go. Give yourself permission to be NOT right this time.
Own it, and say: “it’s OK I’m wrong”, or, if you’re not wrong, but don’t need to be right — drop the rope. Let your ego take a back seat and feel the sweet relief of disengaging. This, my beautiful friends, will have an immediate and breath-taking impact on your daily life and your most important relationships.
It is not weak to admit when you are wrong, it speaks of a great inner strength.
Empathy — the queen of all emotions
Before you leap into a situation, demand a different outcome, gnash your teeth or indignantly put someone in their place — stop!
Take a moment, close your eyes and imagine how anyone else involved might be feeling. When you let go of the need to be right, or to control out of fear and allow yourself to see the situation from another’s point of view, it will often change everything.
Most of us really care about other humans, but may be too caught up in our own needs to realise how we are impacting on others. When we do realise, often it is too late and we wish we had behaved differently. Empathy comes easily for some, not so for everyone — if it is not one of your strengths, choose to develop it by actively putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
Imagine the worst outcome possible
I’ve been using this for many years. Imagine the worst possible outcome — I bet it is nowhere near as bad as you think. When you realise your heart will keep beating and no limbs will be lost, you’ll find the courage to allow things to unfold without your intervention.
Give luck the space to turn up
I hope I can explain this. We need to know where we are going, have a strong vision for what we want in our lives, a good plan, goals, accountability and all that. However, if we control each and every step, we’ll control ourselves into inertia.
Creativity will be suffocated and there will be no space for people or things to spontaneously happen. Life never goes exactly as planned, fortunately the law of averages guarantees for every hiccup or catastrophy, there is an unexpected win.
Allow the space for luck to turn up and serendipity to help you stumble towards discovery.
Just say Yes
My challenge for you today, right now, is to choose to say “yes” for 24 hours.
Don’t think about the outcome, just say yes to everything. Say it with an open heart, with excitement and delight. No fear, nor resentment of what might come. For sure, you’ll experience something new.
And you, like me, will discover how safe the world can actually be.