"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Monday, 27 June 2016

Learning to 'Let Go': How to Stop Being Scared of Giving Up Control

Image of fluffy white clouds in a blue sky with text: Let go, and go with the flow of lifeDo people tell you to ‘just let it go’?

Do they tell you to ‘get over it’?

Tell you it’s not worth it and forget about it?

The whole ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ thing?

Do you struggle to do that? I know I do.

I’m an analytical and critical soul, who wants everything to be perfect and run smoothly and go to plan – particularly MY plan. I make a lot of lists. I think things through in great detail. I imagine how things will turn out. The small things matter to me.

On occasion, I have been called a ‘control freak’. Sometimes I’m okay with that and sometimes I’m not. The times I am not is because it relates to something that I am sensitive about; something that matters a lot to me. And in those moments I can become defensive. My defensiveness means I am feeling insecure and trying to control something that I am worried might not work out or meet my expectations (or someone else's), or is something I could have done differently.

We want control because we feel something is out of control. We don’t feel we have power in a given situation – that power being the ability to change or influence a situation, event, or project. We are seeking a particular outcome and putting ourselves under pressure to achieve it. It frustrates us, and it can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress, which we then take out on those around us by being defensive or unapproachable.

"The more you try to control something, the more it controls you. Free yourself and let things take their own natural course." – Leon Brown

But we must remember, the only thing we can control is ourselves. We can’t control how others will respond, what they will choose to do, or what they will think. We can’t control what will happen after our participation. We can only do our part and then release it.

In my post How to Reduce your Expectations to Reduce Anxiety, I discuss how to stop anticipating an outcome; how to stop having an expectation of how something will turn out.  Learning to ‘let go’ requires the same processes. We can only take responsibility for what is within our control. The rest we have to let go of, including the outcome.

Some call it ‘surrendering to the outcome’, and that is what we need to do. But the word ‘surrender’ to me indicates defeat or giving in, whereas I see 'letting go' as the opposite. It is rising above our anxieties and need for control; it is being sure we have done all we can, content with our input, and knowing it is enough.  Letting go means you made a choice to release it. 

“Sometimes letting go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on.” Eckhart Tolle

When we become sure of ourselves and our efforts, the fear we have about not being in control, or letting ourselves and others down, disappears. Letting go allows us to feel liberated and derive pleasure from any and all outcomes.

So if you find yourself frustrated and feeling like you are losing control, or out of control, ask yourself:
What is it I am seeking from this situation or event?
What is it I am trying to control?
What outcome am I looking for?
Why does it matter so much to me?

And then ask yourself:
Am I happy with my part in it?
Can I change it, or improve it?

Look at what you are in control of, what power you do have, and reassure yourself you have done all you can. Then you can take the pressure off and let go of your frustrations, expectations and desire for a particular outcome.And often you will find the outcome is much better - because you hadn't expected it.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” - Joseph Campbell

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