I wrote a bit on this in my previous blog post, but lately I’ve come up against this so much, that I feel compelled to expand on it a bit more.
My life over the past few years has been everything EXCEPT certain, with an international move (from Switzerland back to South Africa), a career about-face (from marketing to coach) and massive upheaval in my relationship. So it comes as no surprise that my need to control has been totally out of control and is part of the reason I started going to therapy and a 12-step program for co-dependency.
Control shows up in my life in many different forms – from trying to figure out the ‘BEST’ possible choice in a selection of options, to subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) forms of manipulation. I have to add that these are all the tools of a co-dependent to get what they need in order to feel safe or certain, however you don’t need to be co-dependent to have an issue with control.
Why do we control?
Control is often a symptom of not feeling safe, secure or certain – this could be in your career, in your relationship or in life in general. It’s a knee-jerk reaction (often rooted in childhood) to get rid of these uncomfortable feelings. We either find stuff that we can control to negate the discomfort of the stuff we can’t, or we just put all our energy into trying to control that which feels out of control or uncertain.
In reality, we have very little control over anything except our reaction to things. But this perception that we can somehow influence the outcome of A, if we do B leads us, at worst, to very unhealthy behaviours which have an impact on ourselves and those that love us, and at best, to high levels of anxiety and stress.
But is uncertainty so bad?
Uncertainty feels very uncomfortable but it’s not in itself a bad or negative thing. Being uncertain just means that whatever is to come, hasn’t fully formed or materialised yet. Socially we’ve been conditioned to believe that being uncertain is somehow a bad or negative thing, but in most cases it’s just our relationship to it which is unhealthy, not necessarily the feeling itself.
The downside is that when we constantly feed the fires of uncertainty with control – we bugger up our internal navigation system and fall silent to the whispers of our intuition, because all we’re doing is reacting to an uncomfortable feeling instead of just giving it the space and air it needs to be expressed.
How do you become certain?
Uncertainty and patience (another human condition that we struggle with) are the perfect partners. Often it’s with time that things become clear – it’s the ability to sit in this uncertainty for an amount of time, for certainty to arrive.
Space – which often feels like time, is also something you can apply to uncertainty. When we give something the space to unfold, without bludgeoning it to death with ideas and plans and expectations, then it unfolds as it’s meant to, and not in some misshapen version of what it could have been.
Another strategy is acceptance. Accept that uncertainty is part of life and it’s quite normal when we’re changing something or need to change something. As I said in my previous blog post, I wanted the opportunity for the Universe to step in and offer experiences which I couldn’t have dreamt of or planned or controlled into being – which was why I’d left a lot of my trip unplanned (or at least loosely planned, having no plans would have been a step too far for me at this point).
What does this look like in real life?
Let’s use a practical example to illustrate – when I was choosing which organic farm to volunteer on I was going through all the options meticulously, creating pro’s and con’s and measuring distances and really just getting myself into a tizz trying to choose the perfect place to have the perfect experience. But, as I’ve said before, we can only imagine what we’ve already experienced so this is extremely limiting.
I’d applied to a few gardens and they either didn’t get back to me (which sent my controlling tendencies through the roof), or they were already full. A year or two ago I would have called or made a nuisance of myself until I either got an answer or was on some waiting list, but instead I just let go of controlling where I went and left it up to the Universe. I decided that whatever garden accepted me would the perfect one for that experience – so I applied at random, and as it turned out, the one that I got into was the perfect one for me!
Other examples could include:
- Not signing a lease for X number of months to give yourself the time to decide where to live, or
- To suggest a separation in order to see where the relationship is after 6 months of not living together, or
- To give yourself 3 months to figure out what kind of job you really want, instead of just ‘taking what you can get’, or
- Holding a new relationship very lightly, without looking into the future and trying to ‘see’ if it will work or not – and just living in the moment if it feels good.
Now I’m not suggesting that you throw caution to the wind and never plan a damn thing – not at all!!
What I am suggesting though is an awareness around when you feel like you’re trying to control something or someone – and then to ask yourself the question – what am I feeling insecure/uncertain or unsafe about?
Getting comfortable with the discomfort of uncertainty, and leaving some space for the Universe to step in and weave some of it’s magic, is definitely worth the effort!
If any of this resonates with you or if you feel like you’d like to move out of control and into a more allowing way of being, then get in touch and we can find your way forward together.