The need for control is often based in a fear of the unknown. After all, surely we can plan for every little thing to go wrong so we can be prepared when they inevitably do?
But what if things don’t go wrong? What if you find yourself on a path to success that you could never have imagined?
Control serves little real purpose. It’s a process of confirmation bias. That is, we think we’re in control when one of the plans we made comes to fruition as we planned it. We considered it, we planned it, and everything went as planned.
What about all the times that things didn’t go as planned? How much weight do we give to those plans that went awry for whatever reason? Sometimes they go wrong because of what you did or didn’t do. Other times it’s because of circumstances far out of your control.
To let go of control doesn’t mean you stop planning or stop trying to do things. Instead, letting go of control is about releasing the fear and anxiety that causes us to cling to what we think we know.
It’s knowing that you are competent enough to roll with the punches that life will throw at you, regardless of how the plan goes.
Letting go of control is easier said than done, as pretty much everything is. But it is something you can regularly work on to help ease your anxiety and fears about the future.
How can you do that?
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you let go of your need for control. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
1. Consider past plans that didn’t work out as expected.
One of the many problems with control is trying to force life into one narrow perspective. The controller is trying to make a particular thing happen in a way that they know, understand, and expect.
But what about what you don’t know?
There are so many ways to succeed and fail in life. External circumstances can tear a well-laid plan to pieces before it even has a chance to get off the ground. And success can come just as unexpectedly through a route that you couldn’t have anticipated.
It’s good practice to consider past plans that didn’t work out as intended. Consider how they succeeded or failed. How did circumstances outside of your control affect them? How were you able to recover? Were you able to recover? What could you have done differently?
You will likely see that things worked out, one way or another. It may not have gone well. It may not have been what you wanted. But, unfortunately, that’s just life. That lack of certainty is something we just have to embrace and love.
2. Consider the times you had to recover when your plans didn’t work.
The need for control can sometimes come from a place of poor self-esteem. Some people cling to the need for control because they feel like things need to go perfectly, as they envisioned, and they won’t be able to recover if they don’t. They want that control so they can be assured that they are good enough.
Addressing this type of fear may require more intensive work with a therapist because it can come from domestic or child abuse. Still, you can try to make some headway against it by looking at the times you needed to recover from a setback.
The key is to focus specifically on recovery. Remind yourself that you are a capable person who can address their problems, find new solutions, and create new paths. You don’t need to hold on to control because you can roll with the punches life will throw at you.
3. Practice mindfulness. Center yourself in the now.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool for defusing the need for control. The need for control is rooted in anxiety of the future, that is, how your plans, hopes, or the unexpected will impact you.
The problem with that method of thinking is that it does a disservice to both the present and the future.
All we have is the present. Yesterday is gone, and tomorrow never arrives because tomorrow just becomes today.
All you can really do is control your actions right now, in this very moment. That applies to trying to hold onto control in an uncertain life or laying down plans for the future. So what can you do to make the most of this present moment right now?
When you find your mind trying to run away from you, bring your focus right back to the present. What can you do right now?
4. Embrace uncertainty. Adopt flexibility as part of your lifestyle.
Uncertainty is a big part of life. Learning to embrace it will help you let go of your need for control and foster your own personal growth. Personal growth is rarely certain or comfortable. Comfort just doesn’t push people to be better or more than they are. It’s comfortable. It’s a place where we want to stay because the bed is soft, the blanket is snuggly, and all of your stuff is there.
Can you incorporate some uncertainty and discomfort into your life? Do some things that both scare and excite you! (Responsibly, of course.) Are there any activities that you’ve really wanted to try but have put off because you’ve been afraid to? That’s a good place to start because you will be forced into a situation that you cannot control. Maybe you’re in the hands of a professional. Maybe you’ll just be on an uncertain journey with an instructor.
Whatever it may be, the takeaway is that you won’t have that control you’d normally expect. That’s a good thing for comfortably pushing your boundaries.
5. Identify and conquer the fears that keep you tethered.
What fears are keeping you clinging tightly to your need for control? Are they something that should be addressed and worked through?
Consider a fictional example of a person with an unstable childhood. Beth grew up in a single-parent home where her mom had to work two jobs to make ends meet. She didn’t get to see her dad too often, and mom had a rotating cast of boyfriends in and out of her life. Beth had to move around a lot because her mom’s ability to provide a stable living situation wasn’t the best, so she could never be comfortable and feel truly safe.
What would Beth bring into adulthood from living that kind of life? She could be afraid of losing her place to live. She may have a hard time with relationships from watching how her mother and boyfriends interacted. Beth may cling onto a need for control to stay away from that kind of painful past.
Addressing those fears and the harm that Beth suffered because of that situation isn’t something that can be easily done through self-help. Instead, she will likely need to visit a therapist and work through that trauma and those fears to let go of her need to control.
6. Use affirmations to remind yourself that everything will be alright.
Affirmations are a powerful tool to keep your mind in a healthier mental space. They should be a regular reminder to help bolster the more vulnerable parts of who you are. And they can help you replace the negative self-talk that goes along with a need for control.
“I don’t need to be in control. I can deal with what life throws at me.”
“I can let things go. I am strong enough to adapt, adjust, or ask for help if I’m unsure.”
Use these types of affirmations to unwind the negative thoughts and anxieties that come with letting go of control. Focus on the affirmations and the emotions that go along with them instead of the fear or anxiety of the lack of control. This type of activity will help you replace those negative emotions with something more positive.
It’s a long-term project but can help so much if you stick with it.
7. Worry less about what other people are doing.
Some people have an adversarial relationship with others. They spend their time overly concerned about what other people are doing because they fear how it will affect them. For example, they may be worried about being harmed or taken advantage of.
But, here’s the thing. Most people are not evil or out to get anyone else. They are just moving through their lives in a way that makes sense for them. Sure, there are people out there with malicious intentions that do want to harm others, but that’s a really small amount of people.
Instead of focusing on what could be, focus on what is. Look for the differences between deliberate, malicious actions and people just not knowing any better. That kind of perspective makes it much easier to deal with the problems that other people will cause in your life. It also makes it much easier to forgive when you see that other people are just as flawed as you are, just doing what they can to get through this life.
8. Is it even yours to be concerned about?
This world is a vast, diverse place. There is so much going on that it can be really easy to tie yourself up into knots about all of the problems that exist. But you can’t spend your life and time constantly worrying about everything that’s going on. So at some point, you just have to acknowledge that some things are not yours to own.
You can be sympathetic or empathetic, but you can’t control what other people do. They will do what they will do, and that’s really all there is to it. At best, you can influence their actions, and even that can be questionable at times.
Ask yourself: is this actually my problem? Is this something I can meaningfully contribute to? Or is it completely out of my hands? Focus on the things that you can actually control, like your own thoughts and actions.
Still not sure how to relinquish your tight grip on control? Talking to someone can really help you to handle whatever life throws at you. It’s a great way to get your thoughts and your worries out of your head so you can work through them.
Speak to a therapist about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours. They can help you to identify where you can and cannot exert your personal influence over a situation so that you can act where necessary but let go of control when that’s the only viable choice.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
You may also like:
- How To Overcome The Fear Of Change: 5 Things That Actually Work!
- Balancing Your Internal-External Locus Of Control: Finding The Sweet Spot
- How To Overcome Your Fear Of The Unknown: 5 Critical Steps
- 10 No Nonsense Ways To Be Fearless In Life