The desire for control over life (things, people, situations) is a tricky habit to kick. We want so much out of something or someone, and in return, we don’t get quite what we want. Instead of making peace with what happens, we get frustrated. We fidget with the dials of life, trying to attenuate whatever we’re trying to control to our liking.
It seldom works. If it does, it’s usually momentary as most things and people don’t like to be controlled. From experience, I can say that imposing control doesn’t feel like it in the moment. It’s only when you step back and remove the requirement of getting everything “just right” that you realize the negative—and counterproductive—nature of what you’re doing. Done with absolute humility, you realize that you don’t really care about protecting the outcome or behavior of something; you’re just stacking sandbags around your ego, looking at whatever doesn’t fit your ideal as an incoming flood.
The punchline? The flood never comes. It’s an invention of your own mind and a reflection of your own insecurities. That’s a really difficult pill to swallow. When you try to control something, you’re effectively saying that the thing you’re trying to prevent will hurt your image. A partner enjoys a tv show you don’t care for or a colleague completes a task differently from how you would. In some cases, it’s as simple as life spinning up barriers to whatever we’re after so we attempt to push back or control what’s happening to get to what we want.
Something interesting happens when you let go of all this. That pressure you feel on your chest lifts. Your mood elevates. The thing you’re trying to control doesn’t harm you. Nothing happens and everything happens. It’s ok. The earth keeps spinning and you keep eating your Lucky Charms. When you realize that the pain you feel isn’t coming from the thing you’re trying to control, but rather, from the act of trying to control it, life opens up. Suddenly things just…are a certain way and you accept them at face value. You can breathe again.
Earlier today, I rode my bike to the park to sit in the nice weather and meditate for a bit. I’d parked my bike next to me and, a good 15 minutes into sitting, I heard a pop and hiss; my bike tire burst, unprovoked. All I could do was laugh. Fortunately I wasn’t too far from home, so I pushed my bike back and enjoyed the detour. I could have tried to control the situation, fussing over the tire. Instead, I opted to just let it be. I saw a wiener dog. There was a nice breeze. Nothing bad happened.