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The Satisfaction of Giving Up Control Author: Radonda Rowton, MAS LPC

Updated: Oct 12, 2022

I was talking to a friend the other day who had asked my opinion on the kind of toll the pandemic took on people emotionally. I think it’s safe to say that the pandemic of 2020 flipped everyone’s life upside down in one way or the other. Some people will tell you that being house bound affected them greatly. Other’s will tell you that they enjoyed it…until they didn’t. But the truth is that for a while there, how it was affecting us didn’t matter, if we chose to follow what the government asked us to do. Instead, we found ourselves in a situation that we would have never dreamed we’d be in. Some were asking “Who is really in control here?” Was it the CDC? Was it the Democrats or the Republicans…the President...the truth was all we knew for a time is that we were not allowed the freedoms that we were used to.

For me, it was all a great reminder of how little I really do control, other than the choices I make throughout each day. When life as we know it has been flipped upside down, inside out, and we were feeling basically powerless, I realized that I could either live those days out in an emotional upheaval, or I could search for something positive to offset my emotional turbulence. What I realized is that practicing some of these positive motivators I’m going to share with you not only worked then, but they also work now. I’ve found the following to be timeless and effective, and they certainly have made a positive difference in my life.

· Gratefulness: Having a grateful heart means that we can be thankful for big things, as well as the small stuff. When I start to feel like I don’t have what I need [or want] physically, emotionally, or intellectually, I know I need to redirect my attention to focus on the wonderful things that I do have. And that includes the things that seem “anything but” a gift. Choosing to be grateful is not always easy, yet when we do choose gratefulness, we step into peace and joy with an appreciation for all that we do have.

· Authenticity: Be real. Be open. Be honest. Having a bad day? While it’s not recommended that we throw our yucky feelings all over the nearest human target, it is healthy to acknowledge that life is just plain hard sometimes. When we stuff what we consider “ugly” emotions, we can do more harm than good, to ourselves as well as others. To be upset and hurt is to be human, but to hurt others in the process is inappropriate and unfair.

· Rest: To take a break from daily tasks and enjoy a favorite beverage, or head for the nearest sofa and stretch out for a nap are not activities reserved only for seniors. If you are tempted to feel guilty for what you consider an indulgence, please remember that you can’t drink from an empty cup. Self-care is important because it helps us to thrive. It doesn’t just have to be sleep, one could also use their rest time to pray, meditate, or listen to some peaceful music. To choose rest is to give our body, mind, and spirit the opportunity to breathe deeply and be refreshed.

· Play: “Responsible” adults often stumble over this one. Play you say? How can I play when I have all this stuff to do and all these responsibilities? Maybe what we need to do is redefine “play.” Rather than seeing this kind of activity as childish or indulgent, what if we see it as a few minutes or an hour here and there, where we take time to enjoy a favorite hobby or creative activity? The possibilities are limitless. What we may find is to choose to take a walk, watch and listen to the birds, write a note, or learn a new craft could do wonders for our attitude.

Listen: Listen? Yes. When I realize my thoughts are flittering from one topic to another or the next twelve things on my to-do list, it’s a clear indication I need to pause and listen. Whether for a few minutes or an hour or so, to calm my racing brain and pay attention to what is going on around me. To make the choice to listen instead of thinking of an answer or what we are say next is to truly be zeroed into what is going on with that person at that minute. It is to awaken ourselves to hear the insight and wisdom that can only manifest when we quiet ourselves enough that we aren’t overrun by our own incessant chatter.

When we let go of our need to try and control people, circumstances, and events, we ultimately discover an amazing truth—the control we do have with the choices we make inevitably makes a positive difference on so many levels. When we begin asking ourselves questions such as:

Do I believe I’m in control? Of what? Of whom?

Does the idea of letting go send shivers up my spine? Why?

What do I need to work on so that I can realize that giving up trying to control people and situations is really giving myself freedom from anxiety and frustration?

We will likely also discover truths and gifts we would have never imagined.

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