A perspective on ‘Control’

Not everything that matters can be controlled and not everything that can be controlled matters.

Jacqui is one of our fabulous facilitators, running community sessions in Liverpool. She has many years’ experience in nursing and nurse education and here are her thoughts on the topic of Control, which is our theme for community sessions running in April.

Let’s start off with a quote:

“The closest thing to being in control we’ll ever be is in that moment when we realise we’re not.” (Brian Kessler).

Or read what Shakespeare wrote:

“Come what come may. Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. One way or another, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”(Macbeth, Act 1 scene 3 page 7).

Kessler’s quote and Shakespeare’s writing is akin to my lifelong mantra of “what will be will be”, sometimes referring to myself as a fatalist, but with a positive twist.

Why stress over what I can’t control when things will have a habit of working themselves out despite what I do or don’t do?

This form of thinking has allowed me to let go of certain situations and trust that somehow things will turn out as they are meant to be. Guess what? They usually did too!

What I hadn’t realised in my younger years was by allowing myself to let go and trust the universe, it provides me with what I need. More recently my mantra has become “the more I let go the more I receive” and I almost always get what it is needed as opposed to what I wanted.

This is, of course, easy for me to say and do but what if you don’t share my way of thinking?

What can you do to help yourself let go of having to feel you are or always have to be in control?

The first and best way, I believe, is to explore what evidence has to say about why it is necessary for people to have control in their lives.

How to let go of controlling, or why you should think about letting go

Control is a signal that we don’t trust ourselves, others, or the universe.

We believe that, if we don’t intervene, everything and everyone will collapse. That’s because we think the world revolves around us, which, of course, it doesn’t.

Recognise this in you or anyone else around you?

Being in control might bring you serenity at the expense of driving everyone else crazy. Letting go of control doesn’t mean not caring, but keeping our minds and hearts open, to make room for the unexpected. Go back and re-read what Shakespeare had to say.

Human beings crave structure, that’s why people love routines; they provide order to our existence and, without it, things can fall apart. When things happen within specific rules and parameters we experience a sense of control. Makes sense even to me.

Gaining more control over our behaviour makes us feel safer too and allows us to take on risks we might not take otherwise. Before embarking on an extreme activity, we can measure and judge if the risk is acceptable or not.

Controllers suffer from a deceiving arrogance they think they can outsmart reality. The less we feel in control, the less willing we are to take a risk, (Paul Slovic, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.)

There are two categories of controlling minds

Control Freaks have a higher than average need for control. They believe that, if they can gain control over external events or other people, they will avoid suffering; control can prevent bad things from happening to them.

Worry Warts, on the other hand, worry too much about everything, from natural diseases to random issues. They love to consider the worst-case scenario as the most probable one.

Wanting to control is the same as wanting to be controlled. We become dependent on what we want to dominate; we end up being wrapped around its finger. Control is a defence mechanism to protect our status quo. We are afraid of potential adverse outcomes. By trying to manage how everything works and everyone behaves, we turn our mind into a controlling one.

The paradox of control is that the fear of losing something doesn’t allow us to enjoy what we are trying to protect. Becoming over-protective usually backfires. Behaving as a control-freak harms your relationships and can increase the chance of losing those you love the most.

This brings us to the topic of the month, control and in particular control of others’ actions and how when we try and control others we are saying we don’t trust them and, as a result, we can lose intimacy.

Try autonomy, not control

Not ready to completely relinquish control yet? Let’s think of it another way.

If the definition of control is domination or rule, to use a couple of its meanings, then autonomy is independence.

Autonomy, the feeling that you control your own choices, is not the same as the need to control everything and everyone in your life.

See and feel the difference? Try choosing to control your decisions and not that of others, giving them and you some autonomy. How will that feel to both you and them, how would that impact on your relationship?

Life is what happens when we are busy making other plans as John Lennon wrote. When you feel the urge to control everything and everyone, ask yourself:

“What am I afraid of?”

Embrace surprises, not everything unexpected has to be negative. In my experience plan B has always turned out to be better than plan A.

Don’t try to control what’s beyond your influence – autonomy is about making choices. Do you want to regain control of your life? Then set yourself free from the need to control everything, what’s going to happen is going to happen anyway, remember Shakespeare’s Macbeth quote?

So give it a try, small steps and think how you can both free yourself and others from the grip of control.

For more on control, take a look at this.

written by

Jacqui Woods