Losing Control, Gaining Enlightenment

When I was really young the song “Control” by Janet Jackson was really enticing. The thought of being in control of every aspect of our lives can be intoxicating not only when we are children under the supervision of our parents, but also when we are adults facing all of the challenges that life offers.

As an international speaker, I often speak to audiences about stress management. One of the many things that can cause us increased stress is trying to be in control of all of the circumstances of our lives. At times this can extend to the people in our lives and their behaviors and choices.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if the people closest to us would just do what we think they should do then all of life would be in divine order. They’d be happier and, more importantly, we would be happier.

The cost of this thinking is a loss of the kind of intimacy that can exist between people who love each other. I’m not just speaking of romantic relationships, but all relationships. Intimacy is the phenomenon of being known by another who “sees into you.” If we are constantly trying to change the behaviors and decision-making processes of those we love, how can we ever see into them and appreciate and love them for who they really are?

At the same time, it’s important to separate the behavior from the person. When children do “bad” things, educators and adults are often advised to let them start anew. We are encouraged to separate their bad behavior from the fundamental essence of who they are. It’s time to start applying this same compassionate stance to the adults in our lives.

Laying heavy expectations onto others makes them feel less free. We all get freedom of choice—including those that we feel are making poor choices or even just choices that we don’t agree with.

So how do we relinquish control so that we experience less stress?

A good friend of mine once advised me to write the word ‘CONTROL’ on a piece of paper, draw a circle around it, and cross it out. This, she said, would serve as a visible reminder that I am not in control of everything in life. Sometimes I simply visualize it and it makes me smile. It reminds me to go with the flow of life and allow myself to sometimes be surprised by life rather than trying to control everything. It reminds me that sometimes control is an illusion.

Life has an inherent order to it. It can proceed and evolve without our interference. Nature shows us this very clearly. Under the right conditions, a seed will flower without our control.

Allowing others to create their lives the way they choose without judging or condemning them is a gift that we can give to them. But it’s also a gift that we can give to ourselves. When we free others of our judgment we free ourselves as well because there is a oneness of all of life. Releasing our resistance to what is and loving others unconditionally not only helps relieve our feelings of stress, but also allows us to experience this oneness on a deeper level.


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