The Control Myth

Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself. - Elie Wiesel

Control (Does anyone else hear Janet Jackson singing in the background?). Such a lovely yet deceiving word; comforting yet full of empty promises. Don't you just want to reach out and grab it but you just...can't...quite...wrap your fingers around it?

I am guessing that if you are like me, you like control.  I also have a hunch that you think you have control over other people. I know, when I put it that way, I make us sound like terrible people. But this belief can be cleverly disguised under the noblest of thoughts: I can make people happy; It's my job to fix people; I can make people like me. Well, I am hear to tell you that you cannot do such things.  You cannot control other people's thoughts and feelings and you cannot completely control their actions. Now if you want to believe that you can make your kids happy, fix your husband or your students or your clients and make your friends and co-workers like you and these beliefs cause you no stress, then by all means, keep them. But if you're like me and my clients and these thoughts cause you pain, then stick with me. This lack of control is actually a good thing.

Here is a little snippet of a coaching session:

Coach: How do you feel when you think the thought, "If my son is upset, it's my job to make him happy."

Client: Burdened, responsible, drained.

Coach: Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and this thought is completely eliminated from your thinking. You have no access to or awareness of that thought. How does that feel?

Client: Relieved, relaxed, free.

How do you think this client acts when she thinks she has to make people happy? Anxious? Controlling in a "You can't feel bad around me, it's really not that bad, so come on, let's cheer up or distract you," sort of way? Wouldn't you rather be around someone who feels "relieved, relaxed, free?" Might she help you feel the same? When we release the thought that we can control others (and there is more to this "thought work" than what I described above), not only do we feel better, but we become the person we thought we would be with the control we so badly wanted.

When we're not trying to make other people think, feel, or act a certain way, we're free to BE with them and we're available love them. When we are present with others, our true selves connect with their true selves.  When we release control, we give others space to be themselves and uncover their own joy.

Isn't that what we wanted all along?