Undoubtedly, the biggest perspective shift in my life was surrendering to the idea of controlling things that are beyond my control.
I am going to do everything possible within my power to achieve this result, but not base my happiness on the outcome of the result itself.
I will give my all to fixing this relationship without any expectations from them to do the same.
The pandemic stopped me from exploring this new city, so I will focus on building up my skills. This will enable me to offer some value to society when normalcy is restored.
We can’t change things like the pandemic & the behavior of others, but what we do have control over is how we approach and contextualize the problems.
Overcoming this was, and still continues to be, one of the toughest mental challenges I face every day. I use the word overcoming very intently in the previous sentence because it’s truthfully a daily effort. It requires a great deal of intentionality to stop myself from going towards conditioned habits.
A bit of History
Stress, anxiety, worry, and the desire for control have all evolved over time. Mark Leary, professor at Duke University states, “A deer may be startled by a loud noise and take off through the forest, but as soon as the threat is gone, the deer immediately calms down and starts grazing. And it doesn’t appear to be tied in knots the way that many people are.”
Similar to the behavior of deer, our ancestors were equipped to react to dangers and threats in the environment by utilizing stress and anxiety to their advantage. However, once the threat was gone, their stress and worries subsided with them.
This is not the case anymore. We live in an environment that is drastically different from our ancestors. This mismatch between our old brain and a new environment is what leads to long-term stress, overthinking, and other such negative emotions that we must overcome.
Control in Relationships
The difficulty of giving up control is realized when we form a relationship with another being. It is a bit more difficult to control the actions and emotions of other people. I will go as far as stating that most relationships fail due to the perpetual battle for the need to control and dominate one another.
When two people start a life together, they enter relationships with many expectations. They reflect these expectations on their new partners with the assumption that their partner should understand exactly what their needs and wants are.
Hypothetically, let us assume that one person in the relationship becomes unhappy with the level of attention they receive from their partner. They confront their partner but get no apologies in return. Instead, their significant others argue that their partner is being dramatic and making a big deal out of nothing.
“Me, wrong? Never.”
They get frustrated because they are not able to convince their partner to accept his or her fault. In another word, they are angry at not being able to control their partners’ emotions.
When we enter relationships expecting perfection out of the other person, disappointment is the inevitable destination.
Not only does perfection not exist, but it is a subjective concept embodying traits that differ from one person to another. For example, a perfect life to me is a life of simplicity — filled with loving relationships as well as freedom from the shackles of being financially dependent on my paycheck. However, if I asked my dad to visualize his perfect life, it would be somewhat different.
The expectation that someone meets your idea of perfection is nothing but the desire to control various aspects of their life to fit your own dreams. Furthermore, when you make someone else responsible for your happiness, they are bound to let you down. Recall happiness comes from within. No one truly knows what is going on in your mind, and therefore, no one will ever be able to meet your expectations a hundred percent of the time.
Apart from being intentional with your action, it is essential to approach controlling partners with empathy and compassion. If you are the one that has a difficult time letting go of being in the state of power and control, then congrats! Self-awareness is the first step towards change.
Relationships are meant to be a space for two individuals to synergize their abilities and create something that is higher than themselves. Sometimes reflection on this higher purpose can place conflicts in perspective, turning control and ego into humility.
“To live in a society that is dominated by the idea of egoism, to take a counter approach means challenging the social climate of ego.”
The ability to sustain long-term relationships require that we develop a level of comfort with our partners, where we are able to hold open dialogues and discussions around insecurities, fear, shame, and other similar traumas that may subconsciously be stirring various conflicts.
Letting go of the need to control and learning to go with the flow to allow things to happen naturally, as opposed to forcing a connection is important for establishing authentic connections. If you have exhausted all options to mend a relationship, take it as a beautiful sign from the universe that not everything is meant for you.
So, are you willing to swallow some of your pride and ego to give up the need to possess control and fear for the development of something greater?