The Illusion of Control
By: Nancy
March 7, 2016

Control is a really common topic in my office. One very simplistic definition of anxiety is “an over-focus on things that may or may not happen,” in other words…thinking too much about things we can’t control, although we might be under the illusion that we can. So let’s talk about that for a bit.

controlWhen it comes down to it, what exactly do you think you can control? Other people? Events? The future? Yourself? Let’s break that down by topic, starting with other people.

We have all kinds of books and techniques about influencing others, manipulation, and having command of a room, so to speak. While all of these things may be efficacious in certain circumstances or for a certain period of time, in terms of relationships, trying to control others is not a safe way to engage in relationship. It is what enmeshment tries to do, and it doesn’t work for the long term. What it succeeds at in the long run is driving a wedge between people. So we really don’t have control of others at all, and trying to doesn’t work out well.

What about events? Can we control events in our lives? I would say….sometimes. We can control whether or not we marry that boy or divorce that girl, yes. We can mostly control whether or not we go skydiving or swim in shark infested waters. We can control whether or not we save for retirement, but not whether or not the economy drops out from under us and we lose our investments. So control of events is not really dependable at all. At best, we can try, sort of.

How about the future? We can plan for what we think will happen in the future, and we have the intellect to do so, which we should use to the best of our ability, of course. There is a reason, however, that the phrase “hind-sight is 20/20” exists….because we cannot fully predict the future, nor can we control it with any certainty.

What about ourselves? Physically, we can try to prevent diseases by eating well or exercising regularly. Relationally, we can learn to get ahold of our unruly tongues with a whole lot of practice. Mentally, we can do certain things to help our feelings become healthy in many cases. When it comes down to it, can we control whether or not we pass away suddenly from a major health event or develop a mental health problem, for example? Not so much.

illusionBeing totally real about what I can control and what I cannot is vital for finding peace inside. When I look at it objectively in the big scheme of things, the only thing I can really control is my response to things that happen, and the choices that I make based on the things I experience. I can try to influence events, others, the future, and myself; but, peace comes when I am not invasive of others, but rather respect them, and when I am brutally honest with myself about what I can and cannot control. We get out of balance with this easily and it happens unbeknownst to us most of the time. It’s another skill needed to become a peace samurai, so to speak. I like that…Peace Samurai.

Almost all ideas of control are an illusion. If you want to learn more about blind spots to control stealing your peace, come on in and let’s talk about it. You can learn to let go and experience the freedom and peace that comes when you get good at it!

Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. E-Counseling is available for residents of Indiana. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038

© 2016 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW