Taking Back Control When You Feel Powerless
Control is used in a lot of ways: “in control, out of control, under someone’s control, going after control, losing control, having control, gaining control.” The word is powerful, and widely descriptive. It can be used to describe authority, or rule; it can be used as a benchmark in an experiment – like a “control” group. It can be a noun, and it can be used as a verb.
The connotation of control most often is negative, and in interestingly, the use of the word “control” has risen drastically since 1950. Most often, the use of the word implies a struggle or a fight for control connected to the use of power. Control, for some, is intriguing, desirable, and even sexy. For others, the concept of control is unwelcome, unpleasant, and even scary.
The need for, or desire for, or fight for control is something many people can identify with. Naturally, as human beings, we have a need for belonging. We have a desire for things to go right, and to be happy, and to survive. We naturally want to steer things to be this way for us. We all want things to go the way we want them to go. We naturally want some measure of control. Feeling out of control or as if we are losing control can create feelings of hopelessness and despair. When we feel as if we can’t manage things, we feel a general upheaval and chaos, which makes us feel lost. To have control, or to “be in control” implies that we have managed the upheaval or are directing or controlling the chaos. But this is all really an illusion.
The truth is, even when we feel like the world is going to shit, we are really always in control. We control ourselves. Even by letting go, we are in control. Your decisions, actions, thoughts, emotions – all of it is controlled by you. Always has been, always will be. And once we stop vilifying that possibility, we can use control as a positive.
We are ultimately only responsible—and in control of — our own emotions, reactions, feelings, perspectives, situation, circumstances, and words. Of course, there are many who would argue, “I didn’t want this stupid pandemic in my life!” Which is likely true. So since you can’t control an out of control pandemic, the government’s response, or your neighbor’s opposition to wearing a mask, what you can do is control yourself. You can do this by surrendering to what IS.
Stop and look at what IS in your life right now. Take account of what is occurring, who is currently present, what the present situation is. For each of the important areas of your life: relationships, money, work, emotional and physical health, contribution to others, and personal well-being, Think about the situations, circumstances, events, people, emotions, and thoughts that come to mind when you simply take stock of what IS your life.
What does each area really look like? All the good, bad, pretty and ugly. All of it. Simple and neutral - just the facts. Not what you want, or wish, or hope could be, but what actually IS. Be specific and use details. By recognizing the facts and “what is” you have an opportunity to regain your power. Because at this point, you have choice. You have choice to stay miserable, complain, whine, bitch, and moan. Or you can choose to simply surrender and choose to be happy, positive, peaceful —even in the midst of a pandemic.
To support you in having a positive relationship with the concept of control, consider the following:
- Don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong or have made a mistake. Take responsibility, and own it. Keep your power. And then, apologize. Saying “I’m sorry” sincerely and authentically can work wonders in a relationship. And then do something about it – correct or make right the behavior or situation, and give your word you won’t do it again.
- Stop criticizing and judging. This means stop criticizing and judging others, but most importantly, yourself. Harness that inner critic that always has something negative to rail on you about. Give yourself a damn break already.
- Breathe. Take a breath and notice your automatic responses to things, especially when you are angry or upset. Before you speak or take action when you are heated, ask yourself, what am I trying to control? What am I afraid of? Breathe, think about what it is you want to create for yourself and your life, or this relationship, and try to come up with a different way of handling the situation. This puts you in the positive realm of gaining control from an empowering and productive place, rather than reaction.
- Learn when to step in…and when to step out. Practice a balance of managing things, for example, at work or at home. Think about what you could give away to another person’s capable hands, or how you could ask for support so that you are not the one being dumped on, depending upon your situation.
Choosing to be in control of our own thoughts, feelings, actions, responses is not a bad thing. Arguing day after day and giving yourself anxiety about your wacky neighbor is. Give yourself some peace, take your power back, and realize you are in control. You are in the driver’s seat. And when you can harness this type of control, you then have the power to create a life worth living -- even when the world seems out of control.