Every time I heard these sentences, I cringed.
You, know, the one’s that go like this:
- “Trust the process”
- “Trust that the universe is guiding you”
- “The universe has a plan for you”
These phases irritated me because they made me feel powerless. Plus, the thought of surrendering my healing to someone else or a higher power was unbearable. Hearing this would make me physically agitated and pissed off because I didn’t want the universe to control my life. And, I sure as hell didn’t want to “trust the process” because that meant that I had no say or impact on the outcome. I mean, who the eff is running “the process” anyways? Not me – that’s for sure. And I couldn’t have that.
Calling the shots gave me some influence over what was happening to my body. But the notion of giving up full control sounded like my living definition of hell.
When I became fed up with the answers that doctors gave me, taking full control over my own healing was a major turning point for me.
Turning away from the traditional medical system and experimenting with alternative methods of help, whether that was an acupuncturist or working on my mindfulness practice, was an intentional choice I made. I wanted to heal myself in a way that worked for me and speak into ears that could genuinely hear me.
Then, after many years of trial and error, I found a formula that enabled me to live functionally.
In order to feel better, I needed to eat a certain way, buy organic produce, cook it in my gluten-free kitchen where I knew that no cross contamination would occur, make it to yoga almost every day, and have time to practice gratitude, mindfulness, and self-care. Fiercely controlling my life was my escape route from chronic pain and the only way I knew how to manage everything. To be fair, I needed to control my healing process, but things slowly started to shift out of alignment. My love for control became an issue when my attempts to manage my health started to blur into my daily life.
In my head, I devised this equation:
Controlling my food = I can eat and never worry about getting sick = I’m guaranteed to feel good.
Therefore, in my life, the same equation applies:
Control every aspect of my life = never having to deal with negative consequences = I can feel good all the time.
So, it morphed into an obsession with controlling everything in my life.
For example, I needed to dictate how my place looked (hella clean), which flight I always needed to be on (the fastest one), and which hand soap was the only acceptable one to buy (an eco-friendly one that was scented with essential oils).
Then, I also tried to control the actions of other people. Like, making my partner compost, convincing him to toss out the teflon pans and get stainless steel ones instead, and making sure every household cleaner was replaced with Method. (Because you know, composting is the only way we’ll save the plant, teflon is toxic, and those regular household cleaners are chalked full of chemicals, parabens, and hormone disrupting artificial fragrances). Control issues right here, folks.
Learning to surrender and give up control was hard.
Here are a few tools I used to get over my love affair with control:
#1. Learning to be vulnerable.
Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection completely shifted my life. She discusses letting go of the need for certainty, being cool, and always being in control. (It was like she was reading my brain). I realized I’ve missed out on a lot of things while trying to always be in control. And this is not just spontaneous nights out or last minute party invites – it’s losing out on love. Being in control keeps me guarded and blocked to receiving love and kindness. Love and belonging will always be uncertain.
#2. Going to therapy & working on the deeper stuff that’s making you want to control everything.
Turns out that my desire to control everything was deep rooted in stuff that wasn’t related to my healing, my food intake, or making it to yoga exactly 15 minutes early. It was from the deeper, real-life stuff I had buried away for years. Chances are, the same is for you too. Talking to my therapist worked wonders for me, but you can piece it together in a way that works for you. Whether that’s speaking with your meditation teacher, your dog, or writing it in your journal.
#4. Figuring out the worst case scenario.
When I’m fixating on the small things, I try to ponder the worst thing that could happen. When it comes to the things like how I sound in emails, how my meal is made in a restaurant or what flight time I absolutely must purchase, I reframe my mindset. What’s the worst case scenario if the chef puts your gluten-free bun in the same toaster as the wheat buns? Well, you can get them to remake it. Or ask for it untoasted. Or give that bun to your friend that eats wheat. Not that bad. If you can deconstruct the issue, you can stop blowing things out of perspective.
#5. Looking at the moon.
Whenever I look at the moon, I realize that I’m just a tiny speck in the middle of the floating universe. Then, I start to question if my controlling habits are really changing anything when there are such larger elements at play – like gravity, the moon’s control over the tides, and multiple galaxies. This is when I realize that missing yoga for a week when I’m sick doesn’t mean that I’ve failed everything and I’ll never get better – it just means I have to accept that I can’t control all the inputs, all the time.
Want more? Here are my favorite books on letting go of control:
- Radical Acceptance
- The Dance of Anger
- Daring Greatly
- The Gifts of Imperfection
- The Universe Has Your Back
P.S. let me know how these books go for you! Send me a message.
-Kelly from The Wild Manifesto (+ photography by the super talented Rebekah Ho)!