Why do we need to be in control of everything around us? Why can’t we simply accept things as they are and allow events to unravel organically? Are we really in control?
The answers to these questions lies within our fears. When I was in relationships, I was fueled with insecurities. I was afraid whether my girlfriends would leave me for a more handsome or wealthier man. When I travel for work, I want my son to text back to let me know that he’s OK. And when we used to go on camping trips, I used to plan every minute detail weeks in advance to do everything possible to make it a perfect weekend getaway.
Control is an illusion. The only thing that we can control is ourselves. When we try to control the environment around us, we are living in fear. When we need to read and reply to every email, or need to know where our partners are, these are types of control that can dismantle our relationship with ourselves. I have a colleague who is so fueled by control, she needs to find herself involved with every task that her workmates are doing, whether it’s in conference calls that she’s not a part of or even conversations between two people. A good friend of mine wants his teenage son to join more sports and to learn how to drive because that’s what he did at his age. And I want my son to spend time with friends because I want him to feel less depressed.
Fear and control are cousins…there’s a linear relationship between the two. Our deepest fears engulfs us and triggers us to create the illusion that if we can control the situation, our fears will subside.
Here’s some examples of our deepest fears buried in our subconscious:
This is true when you dissect all the examples above:
- My insecurities = my fear of rejection, abandonment, trust and being unlovable.
- My anxiousness around planning camping trips = my fear of failure.
- My colleague’s needs with every task = fear of failure, acceptance and trust.
- My friend’s desires for his son = fear of failure as a parent and acceptance amongst his own family.
- My desire for my son to be happy = my fear of failure as a parent and acceptance amongst my peers.
These fears were instilled in us growing up and became part of our belief system. Whether we needed to get good grades otherwise there were consequences, or in my case be obedient otherwise get physically punished, these fears are so engrained in us, we aren’t even consciously aware of them.
When we concede to our fears and need to control the situation, it comes out in the form of shaming, guilting and even anger. We begin to use imperatives, such as “you should be thinner” or “you should be a man about it” when we want things to be done our way. We become irrational and what we want may not be what the other person wants, but we do our best to convince them otherwise.
In my situation, I was irritable, short-tempered and verbally and emotionally abusive to control the situation. The irony is that my need to control a situation made things worse because my fear was creating an uncomfortable environment for everyone.
One of my dear friend’s daughter suffers from anxiety. She recently graduated from high school, much to the relief of her parents. Her mom is constantly wanting her daughter to go out and socialize, join a team sport, or to speak out in public. However, my friend’s need to control her daughter’s actions is fueling her own fears. In fact, her need for control is actually to appease her own needs so she can worry less and feel subconsciously that she’s being a good parent. Ironically, if she could only see that if she can loosen her grip on her daughter and relieve herself of her own fears, she will see that she’s an even more amazing parent than she already is.
If my son is feeling depressed, there isn’t much I can do to control how he feels. I can sit beside him and share my compassion but I can’t change how he feels. This would be much more conducive to his healing instead of me demanding that he tell me everything that’s going on.
Similarly if my colleague allowed herself to trust others, she may feel less pressure at work. If my friend allowed himself to believe that he’s a great father regardless if his son chooses to learn how to drive, his relationship with his son might improve.
If we allow ourselves to let go of our deepest fears, our need to control lessens and a solution will often present itself. Allow moments to come and go as they are and you’ll find some feeling of liberation when you do.