One of the biggest challenges we face on the path towards emotional adulthood is letting go of our need to control. Whether it’s exes, children, siblings, parents, coworkers, or other drivers, much of our emotional pain comes from the inability to control people and life circumstances. We want to fix everything around us so that we can feel peaceful and happy, but the more we try the worse we feel when our efforts change nothing. Our lives come to a halt: we become depressed, resentful, hopeless.
This struggle is based on the belief that our “good” feelings (safety, love, peace, etc.) come from external circumstances, instead of from within ourselves. If our child is struggling in life we make this mean that something terrible is happening and we feel terrible as a result. The truth is that while it may be challenging to see someone we love struggling and unhappy, our response to that doesn’t have to mean that we feel unhappy as well. In fact, our child will benefit far more when we don’t join them in their suffering.
Letting go of control and accepting circumstances actually generates the peace we’re seeking. Because when we’re willing to let go we stop struggling against reality. We shift from the misguided perspective that we have the power to control people and things and shift into the perspective that our energy is best put towards changing ourselves. We align with the flow of life when instead of interpreting challenging circumstances the lens of fear, worry and anger we decide to become curious, patient and resilient.
Releasing our grip is simple, but not easy. It can feel intolerable to allow uncomfortable emotions like fear and anger to exist within us without jumping up and rushing to take some action that we think will make those feelings go away. If only we could make this person do this or stop doing that, then we wouldn’t have to feel these awful feelings! If you’re like me, you’ve strategized and analyzed, you’ve begged, scolded, threatened, criticized and nagged…all to no avail. Albert Einstein is credited with the defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. And how true this is.
Becoming a “sane” and healthy functioning adult means recognizing the limits on the actions we can take to create results beyond those we create for ourselves. If you find yourself continually banging your head against the wall, maybe it’s time to stop doing that. Take control of yourself first and foremost and you might discover that everything around you falls into place (or not) and that’s okay. You can still feel optimistic, enthusiastic and hopeful about the future and in so doing become a wonderful influence for those around you.