The Illusion of Control

angeloureducedIf you want to be at peace, you have to let go of the illusion that you’re in control, because the truth is, you’re in control of very, very little. You cannot control circumstances, for example. You can’t control what other people are going to do, or say, or want, or need, but you can work on the way you respond to what you’re given, and there’s a lot of power in that.

Our time and energy are the most precious gifts we’re given, and they’re also the most precious gifts we have to offer. They happen to be finite, and we don’t get to know when our time will be up, or how long we have with the people we love. It’s a tough gig, in many ways. Some people will love us, others will leave us, delight us, surprise us, shame us, uplift us, inspire us and betray us. These things are all likely. There are other possibilities, of course. We might be abused, neglected, abandoned, marked by grief and loss that’s hard to bear. We may also be nurtured and loved and protected and celebrated. Life may unfold in a delicious and incredible way, and we may also experience storms and obstacles and times when everything feels dark and impossible. Sometimes painful, unimaginable things happen to beautiful, kind people. Sometimes people who have trouble being kind and compassionate still get the breaks. It’s not a level playing field, after all.

Often we have pain, and our pain controls us. If we don’t do the work to heal, if we don’t know ourselves, we’re going to careen through life, crashing into things and people, like the woman I saw today, who rammed her car into the back of the car in front of her. I don’t know if she was texting, or distracted, or thinking about something her husband said on the way out the door. I just know she totaled her car, and was lucky to be relatively unharmed. When we’re moving through life in an unconscious way and we don’t have any real sense of what lights us up, what scares us, what excites us or inspires us, or where we might be blocked, life can really be a confusing mess where we accidentally hurt ourselves and others. We all long to heal, but often we go about healing in all the wrong ways. We think we have to chase what’s outside of us, to cure the hole that’s inside of us. We might try to fill it with relationships or money or things or ideas. We might repeat painful patterns in an effort to win that happiness. We might think we’d be happy, we’d be at peace if only we’d lose ten pounds, or meet someone amazing, or have a different job, house, car, or personality. Maybe if we had better hair, or whiter teeth, or bigger boobs or biceps. This is what it looks like to be controlled by pain. It sends us on an outward hunt, when we should really be digging and unearthing what’s within us.

Sometimes we become attached to a picture in our heads of how things should be, or how people should be, or how life should be unfolding. When reality doesn’t match that picture, we suffer. And this is my point: you cannot bend reality to your will. That is not within your control, but you can work on the way you show up for yourself, and all the people in your life.

If you’re expending a lot of energy trying to force, control, or manipulate an outcome or another human being, that’s time and energy you could be using to heal, and free yourself. When you stop and think about how hard it is to control yourself sometimes, it makes it easier to grasp how futile it is to try to control someone else. You’re never going to make another person, “see the light”, nor can you ever be sure that what feels right for you is, or would be, right for anyone else. Sometimes people need to screw up in order to learn and grow. When you jump in to save the day, you might, instead, be robbing your friend of a lesson they would have gotten had you not grabbed your cape and run out the door. Sometimes we over-inflate our power, or we relate to the world and the people in it as they pertain to us. As if everything and everyone is in orbit around us, and things are happening to us, when the truth is, we are one tiny strand in a huge story, and our strand is no more important than anyone else’s. Other times we underestimate our power, and the impact we could be having. Discerning what is within your power, and what is not is the best way to figure out how to spend your time, and upon what to direct your energy. If you want the world around you to be more peaceful, loving, compassionate, kind, honest, patient, awake and aware, start by cultivating those qualities within yourself. Start with that world, because that’s a place within your jurisdiction.

Too many people waste too much time trying to force. Anything in life that’s worthwhile is going to require work, time, effort, commitment, patience, presence and passion, whether we’re talking about a long-term relationship, or the blossoming of your dreams, but working hard is a lot different than forcing. Working hard feels really good, because you know your devotion is in service to your dreams. Forcing feels awful, because there’s a sales pitch involved. You have to convince yourself or someone else that everything is great, when you know it isn’t. Don’t chase love. Don’t chase people. Don’t bend over backwards and try to be perfect for anyone. Don’t run after people who reject you. Don’t bury your head in the sand when a person shows you with their actions that they do not want what you want, and they do not feel what you feel. All of these things are a poor use of your time and energy, plus they hurt your tender heart. They deplete you. They make you feel less than, when the truth is you are more than enough, and you are capable of healing, but it takes time and energy, and you won’t have enough if you’ve spent it all chasing. Life is not a race. It’s a journey, it’s a process, it’s a story that’s co-written by the things that happen and the way you respond.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton