Do you find yourself trying to control things you have absolutely no control over? Wanting everything to turn out precisely the way you want it to be? According to Tanvi Patel, a psychotherapist, “relentless craving to control everything has many possible explanations.” Some people want to be in control of everything because they had very little control while growing up. On the other hand, some people crave control due to their need to be a perfectionist.
On my hypnotherapy practitioner diploma course, I explain that it is quite a common contributory factor to some forms of depression to attempt to control the uncontrollable or to have an inability to tolerate ambiguity (that is, some people feel they have to know something for sure and cannot cope with not knowing).
Although giving up control may not come easy to some people as it can feel as if we are relinquishing power and stability, the harsh reality is that trying to control everything robs us of our freedom and can lead to frustration and overwhelm. Giving up control every once in a while can be so good. It can bring joy and peace to our life. It adds unpredictability into our lives and opens new possibilities that we maybe didn’t even know existed. So, if you are a bit of a control freak, let things happen for a change instead of trying to make them happen all the time. You will notice how liberating it can be. Letting go of control is essential when something is beyond your control. Trying to control the uncontrollable can set you up for disappointment, unrealistic expectations, unhappiness, stress, and pain. So, it would actually do you well if you learned to effectively let go.
Contrary to what so many of us believe, letting go and voluntarily giving up control is not an act of cowardice. Trying to resist the craving to control everything and moving on, at times that call for resignation, requires a lot of strength and courage. As Steve Cuoco, founder and CEO of United Angels Dream has rightly said, “The meaning of bravery is more than the act of being strong; it is also about letting go of control and trusting the unknown.”
If you struggle with losing control, here are eight ways for you that can help you let go of control and embrace surrender:
- Radical Acceptance:
Practicing radical acceptance can help you stop trying to control everything. The idea behind radical acceptance is accepting the difficult parts of life. Life is not a bed of roses. Pain and unpredictability are inevitable parts of life. Life is full of ups and downs. Nobody likes suffering. No one likes pain. It is human nature to resist and avoid suffering. However, not accepting hardship can actually lead to more pain. Sometimes it is important to accept pain. It doesn’t mean you have to give up on everything good in your life. It just means making peace with things you have no control over. Diane Webb, the mental health counselor, recommends positive self-talk whenever you feel the urge to be in control. According to her, you should tell yourself, “Even though I am frustrated by the change, this is my opportunity to practice acceptance and flow peacefully with these transitions.” Self-talk and affirmations can go a long way in helping you become less controlling. Practicing radical acceptance can teach you how to let go of control. It is okay if your need to be in charge is too strong and stubborn. It is something that can take time and professional help for you to overcome. However, it is definitely possible.
- Manage your expectations:
As previously discussed, trying to control everything can create unrealistically high expectations that undoubtedly set you up for pain and disappointment. Expectations are beliefs about what will happen in the future. Stronger beliefs will cause you to go to great lengths to meet your expectations, which requires exerting more control on all aspects of life, so everything turns out precisely how you want. Lowering your expectations or being more realistic, on the other hand, can help you reframe how you view your relationships with people and your perspective on life. This reduces the likelihood of disappointment. For example, it’s alright to expect your friends and family to remember your birthday and celebrate your special day but at the same time prepare yourself when someone forgets to do so and fails to meet your expectation.
- Start by letting go of minor things:
Begin your journey of becoming less controlling by giving up control on smaller things first. For example, bring some spontaneity into your life instead of being an absolute slave to your to-do list. Just listen and focus on what others have to say for a change. Let your partner decide which film to watch this weekend and choose the restaurant for the dinner date. These small things can go a long way and make a real difference in making you less of a control freak. When you feel the sudden need to take charge, practice patience, try relaxing and distracting yourself by getting involved in other activities. For example, when your husband is folding clothes the wrong way, let him. Don’t immediately react by taking over for him. Be patient and delay the need to be in control.
- Connect with yourself:
Letting go of control requires a change in mindset and attitude. It involves admitting that you have absolutely no control over external factors. The only thing you can control is your reaction, outlook on life, and attitude. Changing yourself and your mindset cannot happen in a blink of an eye. Not only does this process require time, but it also requires you to connect to yourself on a deeper level which can assist you in processing change. There are several practices you can try in order to connect with yourself and manage this transition in your life smoothly.
Mediation is a very effective exercise for changing your attitude towards life. Mediation allows you to feel rejuvenated. Not only does it allow you to understand yourself better and find peace, but meditation also teaches you how to be more present in life. Living in the moment can help you stop planning and thinking about the future all the time. This can make you less controlling as you would focus more on the present and spend less time and energy controlling the future.
Self-hypnosis is my favourite way of course. Two great starting points for learning self-hypnosis for free are here:
– Adam’s Roadmap to learn Self-Hypnosis.
– Adam’s 20 minute crash Course in Self-Hypnosis.
Another exercise that can help you in your journey of embracing surrender is trying something new. There are many proven benefits of doing and learning something new. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps you fight the fear of failure. Doing something for the first time can stimulate creativity and unleash your inner talents. Also, it is a very productive distraction that can help you forget about your need to control everything. So, if you are looking for activities that help you become less controlling and offer you a creative outlet try bungee jumping, jet-skiing, or rock climbing. Or, if you want to be on the safe side, try taking up knitting, cooking, or learning a new language.
Spending time in nature is another good way to connect with yourself. Connecting with yourself requires connecting with nature which happens best in solitude. Being outdoors offers a plethora of cognitive and mental health benefits. Spending time outdoors surrounded by nature is also an excellent therapy for depression, stress, and anxiety. It helps boost mood and confidence and also facilitates concentration. When surrounded by nature, you can truly focus on yourself and connect to your senses. Try hearing out yourself. Try smelling the earthy odour of the wet soil. Taste the cool air and let the mud touch your bare feet. Just sit back, relax, and feel nature. This is an excellent exercise to move past your control issues and focus on what really matters.
- Address your fears:
One of the best things you can do to overcome your need to control everything is to acknowledge and conquer your fears. Why do you want to control everything? Address your underlying fears and fight them. As discussed above, some people are controlling because everything was out of their control when they were young, and they might be compensating for that lack of control by being excessively controlling. Others can be controlling because of their perfectionist tendencies. Other underlying drivers of controlling behavior include low self-esteem, insecurity, or anxiety. According to psychotherapist Christine Scott-Hudson, “They [controllers] may use control as a coping mechanism to create safety for their own spiraling worries and concerns.” Controllers may have abandonment issues, resulting in a need to control everyone to keep their loved ones close. Whatever the reason, it is potentially important you deal with those fears. This is often an important first step in becoming less controlling.
- Don’t resist change:
You cannot fight your fears and change your mindset until and unless you are willing to change yourself. Controllers are usually very determined to change circumstances and everyone else around them in order to keep control and make things happen their way. However, they are very hesitant when it comes to changing themselves. Channel the determination to change others to change yourself. A good start to change yourself would be to change the language you use with yourself to exert control. Stop using control-oriented language and be more self-aware. Self-awareness is the capacity to be more inward-looking and understand your own emotions and feelings. This is an excellent way to know yourself and acknowledge why you act or feel in a certain way. This might help explain the root cause of your controlling behaviour and help you let go of control.
- Evaluate whether being controlling is actually worth it:
Assess whether trying to take charge of everything is effective or not. Sometimes we need to stop, take a step back, and assess the outcomes of our actions. If our control has negative consequences and is actually hurting people around us, then reducing our control would be a reasonable thing to do. If you wonder whether I should be less controlling, ask yourself, “are people around me happy with my efforts to control everything”? For example, suppose you are working on a group project and constantly dictating everything to your group members, ignoring all their input. Rather than continuing with this behaviour, ask yourself if your need to take charge of everything is helping, or is it discouraging creativity and compromising the output? If the answer is not helping– stop being so dominant all the time. Taking out time to reflect on the consequences of your actions can make a real difference in making you less controlling.
- Learn from the past:
Remind yourself of the times when things did not turn out the way you wanted them to. Make a list of all the positives that came your way when life was completely unpredictable and out of control. Remind yourself how life being unpredictable turned out to be a blessing in disguise and opened up several opportunities for you. Just trust the unknowns and let go of control. This is the best lesson you could learn from the past. Letting go of this need to control everything allows enjoying peace and freedom. So, just rely on your past experiences and stop planning and controlling everything.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you suffer from a controlling personality and feel a constant and stubborn need for things to be exactly the way you want. Letting go of control is challenging, but it is not impossible. According to our experience, overcoming the need to control narrow down to 3 things: accepting things as they are, addressing your fears, and understanding yourself. Remind yourself that when you are trying to control something or someone, you allow that thing or that person to control you and take away all your freedom. It is also important to realize that being way too controlling can damage your relationships in a manner of ways. It can build up resentment and destroy respect. So, if you are a dominant controlling individual, try out the tips summarised here for you and see if it helps bring a change in you by neutralizing the root cause of this controlling behaviour.
Still, if you are unable to let go of control, try seeking professional help.
Has this piqued your interest in this field? Then have a read of these pages:
1. Would you like a satisfying and meaningful career as a hypnotherapist helping others? Are you a hypnotherapist looking for stimulating and career enhancing continued professional development and advanced studes? Explore the pages of this website.
Adam Eason’s Anglo European training college.
2. Are you a hypnotherapist looking to fulfil your ambitions or advance your career?
Hypnotherapist Mentoring with Adam Eason.
Likewise, if you’d like to learn more about self-hypnosis, understand the evidence based principles of it from a scientific perspective and learn how to apply it to many areas of your life while having fun and in a safe environment and have the opportunity to test everything you learn, then come and join me for my one day seminar which does all that and more, have a read here: The Science of Self-Hypnosis Seminar. Alternatively, go grab a copy of my Science of self-hypnosis book.