One of the biggest things that rob us of our peace of mind are our control freak habits. Learning how to let go of those things that we have no control over, is one of life’s biggest and most challenging lessons.
My first opportunity to learn this lesson was when my kids were teenagers. Up until that point, I hadn’t really given much thought to my controlling nature, as it hadn’t impacted my life in a way that caused me to become aware of the fact that I was a control freak.
Like most parents, I wanted the best for my kids! I did a lot of things to attempt to “control” how they were growing up and to give them every opportunity to be “successful.” This was all great until the teenage years hit.
All of the sudden, my ability to control was being threatened! They had minds of their own and were not afraid to make decisions and choices that I didn’t necessarily agree with. It was driving me crazy and for the first time in my life, I felt totally out of control. Not only was I out of control, I was out of control about the one thing that meant more to me than anything else in the world, my kids.
I honestly think that god (or whatever you want to call the divine) gives us kids who become teenagers in order to give us opportunities to let go of control. It’s often the first realization that although we give birth to our children, they are separate beings and although we want the best for them, they are not ours to control.
We start to get a glimpse that the whole idea of “control” is really just an illusion, and that while we can control our own actions, we can’t control the actions of others, as much as we might try.
During those challenging years, a friend gave me a book and the whole message was about learning when to let go of control and have faith. That was very profound for me, and I remember thinking, “that’s all great to try and let go of control and have faith, but HOW am I supposed to do that?”
I’m happy to report that my kids came through the teenage years and are amazing young adults. I often say that they have grown up in spite of me and my controlling nature. Since that time, LIFE has given me other opportunities to practice letting go and having faith. You see, one thing I’ve noticed is that LIFE will keep giving you chances to learn some lessons, and the chances will keep appearing until you get it.
So back to HOW are you supposed to learn to let go of control when that isn’t part of your nature?
Like everything, it takes practice. There are 3 steps that I have found to be invaluable in my own journey to be less of a control freak.
Step 1: Awareness
Many of us aren’t aware that we are slipping into control freak mode. We give ourselves all sorts of reasons why our control freak nature is justified and this is really obvious when it comes to our kids or things that we really care about. The more we care, the more we want to control.
So the first step is all about taking an honest inventory of what is going on with our thinking.
The serenity prayer is all about asking for help to become clear about what you can control and what you can’t control.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference”. (Reinhold Niebuhr).
Once you’ve become AWARE that you are focused on controlling people or things that are not yours to control, you move on to the next step.
Step 2: Letting Go Practice
This is a very powerful practice that you can do:
- Close your eyes and take some long, slow, deep, breaths.
- Put your hands out in front of you at the level of your heart in a cupped position.
- Focus on your heart area for a few breaths as you notice your chest rising and falling.
- Visualize yourself placing the person or situation that you want to let go of in your hands.
- Now silently repeat several times: “I surrender and let go with love and compassion.”
- As you let the phrase fade away, continue to focus on your heart.
- Now visualize that person or situation leaving your hands and being embraced by the universe, god, spirit or whatever resonates with you.
- When you’re ready, you slowly open your eyes.
Step 3: Repeat
As I mentioned before, for those of us that have established the habit of feeling we need to control people or situations, it takes time and repeated practice to establish a new way of being. Establishing this practice at bedtime is really powerful. Bedtime is the time when our mind gets going about those things that are troubling us, and that we’re feeling the need to control.
Being a control freak is a choice and with consistent practice, it is possible to build new habits, which will bring greater peace of mind for yourself and others.
If you’ve ever struggled with the feelings of control, we’d love to hear from you. What helped you move past control to a feeling of peace?