Finding Happiness: The Paradox of Controlling and Letting Go

A big part of why we are unhappy is our belief that we cannot control our lives in the direction we want them to go. The truth, however, is that the way we see/define control is the reason why we cannot move forward.  We either see control a something unattainable, impossible, something we cannot hold onto or seize. Or, we believe the we should control everything around us (including other people) in order to feel safe or powerful in our lives.

For me, growing up, I always believed that being a good person would bring good things into my life and keep the bad out. Of course, as a child and a teenager, I could not have known differently. Life, however brought many jarring surprises, leaving me feeling vulnerable, out of control and deeply confused into adulthood. “Why aren’t things working out the way I want?? I’m a good person!” Studying psychology in University shed some light on this topic, as I learned that human beings want and need attachment, as well as a certain sense of control (we refer to this as agency) over their lives in order to be happy.  It was later in life, as a therapist in training, I learned that we have an attachment to outcomes and therefore to control, as we feel we need control in order to produce what we desire. So, we must let go of attachment to outcomes, in order to be happy.  Well, this information was not only unhelpful, it freaked me out. I liked attachment. I liked believing that if I thought about something long enough it would come true just because I was thinking about it. I liked feeling I had the power to control life’s situations and work until I burned out in order to achieve results.  Letting go??? Why would I let go? That’s a complete loss of control! Who does that?

So, if you are freaked out by letting go like I was, here is something that might be helpful. Letting go is not about quitting. It is about recognizing that what we can control, we should, and what we cannot, we need to let go of. Our power comes from seeing that we have agency in certain respects, while acknowledging that some factors in our lives are uncontrollable. One really balances out the other. I find that the problem lies in the fact that we attempt to control things we can’t,  but fail to take control over things we can.  We also need to leave space for life, acknowledging that the journey we are on takes us through many a winding path, but we can get to where we are going nevertheless.

Lastly, comparing ourselves to others is useless, as they are not on our journey and their lives reflect where they need to be and what they need to learn. I used to feel envious or jealous of people who appeared further in life than I was, however, I realised that everyone is faced with challenges and people’s circumstances change…for better and worse. Comparison only diminishes the light within us that guides us in the right direction. Sometimes the purpose behind where we are is so we can use our abilities to get out of the place we’re in. Yes, sometimes life is weird and unfair. SO allow yourself to see that you are where you need to be, BUT also have control to move forward to where you wish to be. Let go of ultimate control, or the belief you have none. The truth lies in between. Do what you need to nurture what you want.

My journey has taken me to places I never imagined in ways I thought impossible. Without letting go, great things would not have happened. Although I still have not achieved certain dreams, through letting go and controlling only what needed and could  be controlled, I excelled in ways I did not expect to. My wish for you is that you also excel in ways you haven’t imagined.

 

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