What do you have control over? Please consider the question for several minutes before going on. Sit with it, ponder it, and come to some conclusion about what you really have control over.
Well, what did you come up with? Is it a long list, or a short one?
We stress over so many things each day, and a good portion of that stress is caused from trying to exert control where we have none. We all have ideas about how people should act, and how life should go. When reality doesn’t agree with the way you think it should be, you can feel great irritation, frustration and anger. It can even result in feelings of anxiety or depression.
Most often, these feelings come from the way we think. Nearly 2000 years ago, the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”
I’ve been there. At different times in my life I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, and I can tell you from experience that life looks very different when you focus on your unhealthy thoughts. Over time, I’ve learned that you really don’t need more control over situations, you simply need to control where you place the focus of your attention. That is a choice, a decision that is always within your power.
Thousands of thoughts pass through your mind every day, and most pass through as background noise and self-chatter. You don’t pay much attention to them. But let a scary or worrisome thought come up, and you give it power by placing your focus upon it. Then, you find yourself on the hamster wheel of thought that goes around and around and around. It tires you out, but you never get anywhere. Want relief?
Peace of mind often requires a shift in thinking, and sometimes the most powerful thing that you can do is surrender. (Yes, I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.) You don’t have to play with every thought that crosses your mind, and you really don’t need to entertain all of those frightening scenarios that you imagine. In fact, it would be much healthier if you would stop scaring yourself. If you work on allowing those type of thoughts to pass without response, in time you’ll find that the urgent need to control fades and your anxiety level diminishes.
When I was a parent of teenagers I had to learn about letting go, and it taught me a valuable lesson. When the kids were going out the door, I’d tell them to be careful. In a very real sense, I was relinquishing control for their safety to them.
Perhaps you need to do the same with some issue in your life. There comes a point when it is important to recognize that you control very little, and allow those things out of your control to run their natural course. It doesn’t mean that you don’t care. It’s the recognition of your own limitations.
Bryant McGill has a very interesting quote. He says, “Don’t hold together what must fall apart. The familiar life crumbles so the new life can begin.”
It seems to me that one of the most important things that you can control in life is where you place the focus your attention.
Bob Payne, Manager
If you need help with an ongoing mental health issue that affects your daily life, please see a professional. You are worth it!