Letting Go of the Illusion of Control

Preface this to say that I discuss my ex in this episode – and not in a very flattering light. He was a good human being – an amazingly talented musician and smarter than anyone I’ve ever met. But he needed help and was unwilling to get it.  

I am a recovering control freak – and when I say recovering – I mean it – it is an ongoing, active, intentional process on my part to learn to let go of being frustrated when I can’t control something. I am by no means recovered.  I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that control is similar to a drug – and I’ll always be in recovery.  

How I Became a Control Freak

Became a control freak when my life began to feel out of control. I needed to divorce my husband. He was a depressed, substance-abusing narcissist who created chaos in our tiny little family. I was teaching at a parochial school and not bringing in enough to support myself and our daughter. I was stuck – at least until I could find a remedy.  

At that point I HAD to be a control freak to manage working full time, raising our daughter mostly alone, maintaining the household, and his utter lack of predictability. I never knew what type of mood he was going to be in and I got very good at working around whatever s/ whoever showed up that day.  

That unfortunate trait didn’t go into remission when I had worked through that mess. It was almost like my amygdala was stuck in overdrive and kept me juiced up long after I no longer needed to be on such high alert.  

I began to see the impact at work – now in the public sector – education director of a three-location vocational school. I was responsible for managing three locations and upwards of 25 team members. My level of frustration when someone failed to do something I requested or failed to do it to my standards was challenging. It was even more challenging dealing with board members who failed again and again to heed my suggestions. 

There were times when I literally felt like standing in the middle of the room and stomping my feet like a three-year-old. My blood pressure was sky-high. At just 40 I was having trouble sleeping and I felt constantly anxious. 

Sure – I had a lot of responsibility – but my way of approaching things was making it worse.  

Fast forward six months and despite my pleas and warnings, poor decisions were made and the organization was forced to close its doors at all three locations.  

A series of additional challenges – financial troubles, now ex-husband issues, and the death of my mother all kept me off balance for the next few years. In fact, it wasn’t until I had my moment of surrender that I gave things the chance to begin to heal.  

Giving up Control

I had tried controlling and managing everything for so long I was exhausted. When I’d finally had enough, I literally tossed my hands up in the air and said ‘I give – I surrender.’ What I had been doing clearly wasn’t working. Years had gone by and I still spent more time feeling that amygdala hijack than at peace. 

So – I’m in recovery. I can now check myself when I’m not the one managing every detail. I notice my controlling behavior and am often able to temper or let it go pretty quickly. 

It was –  and will probably always be –  a process. Slowly, I began integrating yoga, breathwork, and meditation into my daily life. Rather than sitting down to meditate out of frustration, I began to pre-emptively meditate so I could actually manage better and not get that point in the first place.  

Tools I Use for Support

Sometimes my meditation is traditional – most of the time it is in the form of art, exercise, yoga, or lying on my back and staring up at the trees – anything to bring me back to myself – the person who knows that if I do the work, the universe will do it’s part as well.  

Meditation, yoga, all the traditional things  – Non-traditional meditative activities – Getting in touch with something greater than myself – cosmos, nature, looking into my dog’s eyes 

Keeping a journal – begin to notice when you’re controlling – WHY you’re feeling the need to control 

Connecting to something greater than yourself –  Nature – an old tree, the ocean, a large lake – these things are here regardless – they have been here – they will be here – they’ve seen and experienced so much more than us. We are just a tiny part of the grand scheme of the universe and within that, we and our human problems are so insignificant.  

Asking yourself if you’re just being controlling. Does it really matter? Will your life be any different? Will this impact your safety or security? Will it impact the safety or security of your family?  Will you really care in an hour – a day – a week? – Recognize the areas where you need to be in control – Are they minor or major? – Are you a nit-picker, wanting to control everything from the way your teenager puts away the dishes , or is the concern one that really needs to be addressed?

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