Does ‘Everything Happen For A Reason’??

Some people believe there is no reason at all – that shit happens – plain and simple…

I heard someone this week say that they had a love/hate relationship with the thought that ‘everything happens for a reason’. How does one consider that the death of a newborn baby or the young father of four children or the massacre of a village has a ‘reason’? How hard is it to try and believe that the most devastating thing we’ve ever experienced may have some kind of ‘purpose’ attached to it?

It’s completely nonsensical and yet our humanness insists on trying to answer the question… “Why?”

We just can’t help but wonder…

When I was fifteen years old, I accompanied a friend to Youth For Christ student conference. For me, it was about going to the beach because it was in Ocean City, Maryland and I had only seen the ocean one other time so I was really excited. On that first day as I woke with thoughts about donning my bikini and lathering myself with baby oil, we were instead herded into this big auditorium with hundreds of other teenagers to listen to people talk for a couple of hours. Someone promised me that I would eventually get to the beach.

The first speaker began by telling us a story that I have never forgotten. He talked about how he was late for a speech one day and he was flying down the interstate, driving way too fast, being way too aggressive and focused only on getting to where he needed to go so that he wouldn’t be late.

He talked about how annoyed he was that a little red car was driving in the left lane, the lane that was supposed to be for passing people only. He described how he got right up on the bumper of that little red car and flashed his lights so that the car would pull over and let him by. But the car just kept going, preventing this guy from going any faster.

And then he said, he got a flat tire. He recounted hearing the pop, noticing the wobble in the steering wheel and feeling the car pull. He had no choice but to pull over to the side of the road and he said that he cursed the entire way; so frustrated that he was going to be even more late than he already was.

This guy was angry. He explained that the entire time he was changing the tire he thought dark, ugly thoughts and then he got back on the road and went even faster.

After a few miles he hit a traffic jam and could see a lot of emergency lights up ahead. Again, he described extreme frustration because everything that could be going wrong this particular morning, was going wrong and it was making him later and later.

As he came upon the problem there was a car upside down in the middle of the roadway with bloodstains across the windshield. Alongside that car was the little red one that he had been tailgating just a while earlier and it looked like an accordion, having been smashed from both the front and the back.

In that split moment, he said realized that if it hadn’t been for the flat tire, the upside-down car may very well, have been his car. He could have been the one IN this accident. He could be on his way to the hospital or worse, he could be dead.

If it weren’t for that flat tire.

This man, and I am sorry that I don’t know his name, spoke about how he got off the interstate, cancelled his speaking engagement, and went to church. He went to church to say thank you for the flat tire. He went to church to express gratitude and from that day forward, every time something bad happened, he would go to church and say thanks. No questions asked.

I’ve never forgotten that story and in fact… it has directed much of my life; so much of the perspective that I’ve attempted to solidify when something unexpected and indeed, tragic has happened. It’s amazing how many different ‘reasons’ I’ve considered for some of the things I’ve experienced.

Is it true? Does everything happen for a reason? When it’s a minor thing like a flat tire or a cancelled flight, thinking that there may be a Universal rational is easy to consider. But when it is a true tragedy, a horrific accident or unnecessary death, the theory seems to implode; to be nonsensical and we can’t seem to rectify the logic.

We don’t know. We’ll never truly know – not until we die.

There are books written from people who have died, temporarily at least – and they tell us that there was light… God… Angels… and Sprit Masters… that’s a great thought.

I’m a bit of a skeptic at heart though and I consider that perhaps they just wanted to sell books, to make money and have a moment of fame but maybe not… maybe it’s real. And don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that I don’t believe in God… I am simply vacillating over the idea a ‘divine plan’.

I generally end up at the point where I believe that it is as possible as anything else. Some people believe there is no reason at all – that shit happens – plain and simple and I guess that is possible too.

However, that doesn’t help me. That doesn’t make my day to day life better here and now and so I prefer to believe that there is some kind of reason – some value. I find it comforting to think that my soul is on a journey and that it chose to come here and learn the lessons presented to me in this lifetime. If I look for the value in my experiences and consider possibilities, I feel empowered and willing to push on; to keep learning.

I don’t know why shit happens and frankly, I am human so when it hurts – I hurt. When it sucks, I am challenged. When it is heavy and hard, I struggle. But… I am always seeking the lesson. I am always attempting to find something of value in the midst of the misery because I *hope* that my soul is in the midst of learning something important. Perhaps something that will guide me in whatever happens in my next life or… next in my life.

And so when I hear someone say (or when I use the words) that “everything happens for a reason” – I am really believing and/or saying that ‘it’s OK, my soul is learning’.

And I can accept that.

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When Things Get Tough…

We never committed to one another in a public forum; we don’t have a ‘legal’ union.

So… things have been tough lately. H made it through surgery ok but it was a rough start to recovery. The last ten days have been a heavy-duty wakeup call in understanding the impact that his illness has on our lives.

I vacillate between being deeply heartbroken for him, for us, and for myself. This isn’t how either one of us ever pictured our time together. I am aching to go on a bike ride with him and I know he aches to feel the wind on his face.

I think I have gained every pound he has lost. I wonder if at night, they secretly move from him to me in an effort to avoid contamination by the cancer cells. We eat the same amount of food I think… and yet I am the only one gaining weight. It may be that I still love to eat and he is sometimes only eating because I force it in front of him, sometimes with little compassion and too much energy. I feel afraid when I notice how thin he is becoming.

I try not to notice every time he shudders with the agony of the bone lesions because it stirs in me an urge to scream for him but it never comes out that way. Instead, it emerges as impatience and frustration which is equally infuriating because that is never my intent. I want it to go away so that he can smile again, drink a Mojito, and mow the lawn because those are the things that give him pleasure.

We never committed to one another in a public forum; we don’t have a ‘legal’ union. However, on that beach in Vieques without a stitch of clothing on, in broad daylight, as the waves gently crested across our knees, we promised to trust one another and to tell the truth – no matter what. We didn’t promise to stay together “in sickness and in health, til death do us part” but I am not ready to let go of him. I don’t care that he is sick – I still want to hear the sound of his breath above the roaring fan at night as he snores loud enough to attract the zombie apocalypse. I still want to hold his hand while he man crushes over Pete Nelson or Chip Gaines.

The doctors say that the cancer is managed; the treatment is working but we stay confused about that because in nine months, a lot has changed. Right now, it’s better than it was thirty days ago so we stay hopeful that these last attempts at pain management will continue to mitigate his discomfort. And we dream. We’re making plans as if it was last summer when we hopped on our bicycles to enjoy the sounds and temperatures of early summer evenings. We continue to think about things we’ll do ‘when he feels stronger’ which feels much better than thinking about all the things we may never do again.

And I attempt to do what I tell people to do every day. I deliberately work at self-care. I write. Sometimes it’s for just me and then there are times I have something to say that I know is relatable or helpful and I share. I go on walks. I talk with friends. I read. And apparently, I eat.  Work is a blessing because it allows me to shift my focus; to problem solve, which is of course, my passion.

And I seek inspiration… Here are some thoughts that keep me moving. I hope they do the same for you.

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When Darkness Knocks

He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.

“If you want to find happiness, find gratitude.” ― Steve Maraboli

In the beginning of the year I started a gratitude challenge on my Counseling Facebook page. Each day since then – except for two – I have listed three things I am grateful for that day. I’ve tried not to replicate anything, which has been hard because every morning when I am writing them I am always grateful for my coffee! Certainly, at first it was easy as there are many obvious pieces of my life that I am always thankful for … a roof over my head, a warm room, comfy pillows, enough food, etc.

I’ve noticed as the time goes by however that unless I begin duplicating items, I must stretch my awareness a bit and it has been interesting to extend my awareness beyond my immediate surroundings to include the sound of my wind chimes and birds chirping. I am so grateful for those things. Not only do they represent the fact that I can hear but they are pleasant sounds and by noticing them, I also notice how they resonate in my body – my spirit. They create a nice sensation; pleasure.

It promotes more consciousness of people smiling, friendly service, and kind hearts. It stimulates my recognition of generosity, helpfulness, and benevolence, which are all contributors to the experience of happiness. Indeed, I believe I’ve felt a little bit happier than usual despite the negativity that tries to inject itself into my life.

It’s one thing to be a mental health counselor and experience the sadness, frustration, and negative emotions of clients – that’s my job and I am sufficiently capable of keeping it away from my personal psyche. Along the way, I learned the art of allowing clients to dump their stuff in my office without feeling as though I needed to pick it up. I rarely experience a derogatory impact of my clients affect. Don’t get me wrong… if there is something deeply sad – a client who lost a child or someone so deep in their own pain that they are suicidal – I feel sad but I don’t hold it. I can walk out of my office and leave it there.

It’s a whole other thing to live in an environment that is frequently heavy. Our political climate is currently stressed – no matter one’s affiliation – every day there is some element of drama pumped into our consciousness and we are exposed to exhausting bickering, draining our enthusiasm and confidence.

I am still adjusting to the whole ‘empty nest’ experience. While I quite enjoy the clean and constantly straightened atmosphere of my home, there is an eerie silence here that highlights the absence of my family. I miss the anticipation of hearing the creaking steps as one of the girls would come home from work at midnight or the sound of the shower and blasting music in the morning as she prepared for her day. I am blessed that they stay in contact with me via Face time or regular phone calls but it’s entirely different from the smell of their perfume lingering in the air.

And then there is the reality of Harlan’s illness. Coping with fatigue is one thing but coping with pain is another entirely. Every day is filled with the blessing that he can still work and concurrently filled with the reality that he does it battling the effects of chemo and the relentless pain of bone lesions. I see him getting tired. He does an amazing job but I watch him and I am sad and pissed and helpless and scared.

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I don’t like those feelings yet I know they are real and appropriate. They exist like fleas that jump on me when I walk in the door and every time I think I have fumigated their existence with my coping skills, they find another entrance or they are simply re-birthed into our experience. The early spring weather allowed me the opportunity to open the windows and replace the dark sad air with fresh spring hope and then it got cold again. I can feel the air thicken and so I walk outside where the sun is starting to stay longer and a bit brighter.

I live by the motto that there is something good in every single experience; not only on a global level but day by day. What is good about today? The gratitude challenge that I am conducting forces me to pay attention, to look beyond the obvious, to deny those damn fleas too much of my blood. It helps to push the pendulum back, to balance the scale, to make life tolerable.

When I am sad that he is hurting, I am grateful for his doctors. When I feel helpless to fix it, I am grateful to hold his hand. When I am disappointed that we aren’t bike riding, I am grateful to sit next to him on the couch. When I am frustrated that he goes to bed so early, I am grateful that his body heat warms the sheets on my side.

Please know that this is a ‘work in progress’ and I am – in no way – perfect in my efforts to find the silver lining every. single. time. But I keep trying. My daily expression of gratitude is one of the ways that I am working to create balance and a stronger sense of happiness in a time when darkness is constantly knocking on our door.

Won’t you join me? Hop on my HCC Facebook page and add your own three things. The more positive energy we can put forth in the world – the better.

 

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Fading Into Fear

There is a fine line – perhaps an invisible line – between living each day with its offerings and preparing yourself for what is to come.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ― Henry David Thoreau

I’ve had a hard time getting motivated to write lately… I have several ‘irons in the fire’ so to speak and making the time to sit down and put my thoughts on paper has been more difficult than it has been for months. I wonder… have I said everything I have to say? Probably not. It’s just… life is getting  in my way.

I wrote about Plan B recently… it was on my mind because I have control ‘issues’ and having a plan B helps me to feel safe but it also challenged me to think about what our backup plan was. It promoted good conversation here and maybe offered some fuel to fire up our efforts in laying track so that alternatives could become possibilities. That can take time and organization.

How does one unemotionally plan for a time when your loved one isn’t here? I realize how pragmatic it is and I know the logical benefits of planning but there is a part of my heart that fails to detach from these conversations. Each time one of us says “in case you’re not here” or “In case I die… there is a shudder deep within my spirit. My lungs suddenly inflate and I find myself slowly exhaling in an effort to breathe normally.

We are mortal beings and yet when our mortality sits deliberately and stubbornly in our path; when it spits in our face – coping can be quite overwhelming. We want to make life normal and yet there is a ‘new normal’ – a way of being that we are not used to – to which we have yet to acclimate.

There is a fine line – perhaps an invisible line – between living each day with its offerings and preparing yourself for what is to come. I believe this to be true regardless of the health hurdles we individually face because we, as human entities, prescribe to the need to forward think, to forward plan, to forward seek.

Right now, our lives are filled with details… taxes, budgets, business planning, etc. We will be buying a new car soon. Harlan has one of the TDI Jetta’s that is being bought back by Volkswagen and there have been a dozen hoops to jump through – more paperwork! Trying to fit car shopping into our lives and planning for whatever our future may hold is also tough. Harlan can only walk for a short bit before he gets uncomfortable and he still tires easily.

Getting one’s “affairs in order” – not because it’s ‘that time’ necessarily, but because it’s the prudent thing to do – is more detail oriented than you think when all you do it talk about it. In the face of your mortality there are more particulars and minutiae than is comfortable and the information can only be coped with in parcels. And time passes.

Yesterday, we learned the Oncologist we’ve been working with since the initial diagnosis is leaving the practice because of his own health issues and while we are of course, compassionate toward his personal needs and grateful for the help and kindness he extended to us, we are devastated to be changing doctors midstream. It’s interesting to look at how much trust you develop in a person who is guiding your medical care and the feelings that arise when it must be reestablished with someone new.

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I realized throughout my life that the best part about going on vacation was the fact that we didn’t have to deal with real life for a while. We could just hang out and enjoy the company of people we love, relax and be in the moment – truly. That is when being ‘present’ is easily manifested, consistently. In real life – being present is more difficult. It takes constant concentration and focus. I realize that I am good at it – in spurts – I can take a deep breath and center myself where I can zero in on the experience of ‘now’. I often find myself smiling then; enjoying the sensation.

And then it is lost. I fade into details and fear and uncertainty. I feel anxious about the future. And then the process repeats.

Drift…

Come back…

Pay attention…

Drift again…

It doesn’t matter if I am working, cooking, cleaning (which, doesn’t happen all that often), walking, or just sitting and watching television. I am aware of how frequently this process repeats and I find the intensity is triggered by specific nuances. If Harlan is having a good day, I feel stable and secure. If he’s not, the fear creeps in between the ‘now’ moments I try to embrace. If there is a big decision to make I feel an urgency to make it happen now – without hesitation and any patience I have practiced – disappears. If we argue, I immediately berate myself for needing to be right, or needing to be validated – both entirely human experiences that I honor, but I certainly wish my ego would just back down and let my heart do the directing ALL the time!

Each day we wake up to the reality of life, of cancer, of responsibilities, and of relationships and remember that in all of it – we are doing the best that we know how to do on that day. We are both acutely aware of how blessed we are and we have the ability to forge our broken and fearful spirits together like trees that have fallen into one another yet they still stand; at least until one of them is too debilitated to hold the other. For now, we make it through each day – through each week; maybe a little bit in spite – but hey, whatever it takes.

I must acknowledge that we do not stand alone. Indeed, a thick and healthy forest of support surrounds us. It is the oxygen of their existence that I breathe deeply when the spirit of hopelessness tugs on my soul. And I am reminded of hope. And I do the best that I can.

Drift…

Come back…

Quick Stress Relief – There’s an APP for That!

When we don’t get a break between perceived stressors, we need to FORCE our bodies to chill out.

I am taking a brief departure today to address stress. In the last two weeks, I’ve had a surge of clients making last minute appointments to cope with feelings of elevated anxiety and stress over the current political climate. I’ve shared this information so much in private sessions that I feel it may be beneficial to help alleviate accruing tension for any of us.

The Process

Any time your brain perceives a threat it stimulates the flight or fight response (FOFR) – there doesn’t have to be a REAL threat – just a perception of one. The FOFR is a series of chemical reactions in the brain that activates the sympathetic nervous system by pumping adrenaline into the bloodstream creating a faster heartbeat, higher blood pressure, faster respiration, etc…  That’s the first thing and it happens in microseconds – before your eyes or ears fully process what is happening. To keep you in a state of readiness, more chemical reactions take place until the adrenal gland starts to produce cortisol.  It is cortisol that sustains your readiness.

The Problem

Our bodies are not designed to sustain high levels of cortisol. In fact, a continuously elevated level of the stress hormone can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, impact sleep, cause weight gain, impact your libido, and much more.

Typically, after the threat passes, our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) naturally takes over, returning our heart rate and breath to normal.

When we don’t get a break between perceived stressors, we need to FORCE our bodies to chill out. The chemistry works like this:  By extending your exhale longer than your inhale – the vagus nerve is activated and signals your brain to activate the PSNS, calming you down.

I know some people can’t pull themselves away from news or are surrounded by people who have differing opinions and so they stay stressed. Aside from the obvious… get away from news and people who suck your strength…. There is another solution to offer immediate relief…

Breathe

I recommend the app RELAX LITE to everyone I see who has difficulty with stress.

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I love it because it has calming music and a great visual to follow. Let’s face it, when we are stressed, it can be hard to find focus without a little help. Relax Lite has offers both breathing and meditation. Start with the BREATHING.

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Choose Beginner – and then set the length of time you want to focus on your breath. Even 5 minutes at a time is helpful. Start there.  LEVEL THREE is designed specifically to induce the PSNS by extending the exhale longer than the inhale.

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Sit quietly for a minimum of five minutes even if you must lock yourself in the bathroom stall at the office or on the pot at home. No excuses!

Not sleeping?

High levels of cortisol prevent melatonin production so you may find that you have a hard time getting to or staying asleep. Here are a couple of quick tips:

No news or bright lights at least two hours before bedtime.

Use a meditation CD or app as you lay down – guided meditations that use progressive relaxation are great!

Make sure you have actively made an effort to engage your PSNS.

Use synthetic melatonin – but sparingly.

Focus

Don’t forget to focus on what you DO have control over. Taking control of your body is first and foremost but there are other things as well. When you become proactive on any front, your stress is mitigated!

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Owning Your Control Issues

Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

Continued from The Birth of Control Issues

“Surrender to what is. let go of what was. have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti

Yesterday’s post laid out how control issues are born and manifest. When people accused me of being a ‘controlling’ person I would get defensive because I knew in my own mind that my intent wasn’t to manipulate other people. I just wanted to control for the ‘uglies’… I wanted to manage the bad feelings – the sadness – the fear. When we speak about controlling behavior we use derogatory words such as ‘control freak’. Comments like that foster shame and embarrassment. Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

When I notice that someone has the propensity to seek control of their circumstances and/or environment, the first thing I help them do is to understand why the need to control exists for them. And then we talk about managing it with a few simple thoughts.

OWN IT

Just OWN it! Acknowledging and understanding your ‘control issues’ is the first step in coping with them well. Accept them, love them, honor them. They are there because at one time you had a reason to believe that your emotional safety was in danger. We need to love the imperfect parts of ourselves just as much as those things that make us loveable. If one of the ways to soften your hard corners is through compassion… offer it to yourself! Seeking reassurance and comfort from the outside world is fine but if it isn’t available or frequent enough – you need to know how to give it to yourself.

REASSESS

Take a careful look around at the things that ARE within your realm of control. Many things are… you always have a choice unless you are being held captive or are in some way incapacitated… you have choices; even when you feel you don’t’. I remember many times feeling like I didn’t have a choice but that only left me with a sensation of helplessness.

Sure, sometimes we don’t ‘want’ any of the choices that are available but then we must be honest with ourselves and recognize – in that – we are still making a choice.

Can I control whether or not someone drinks? NO. I can only control whether I continue to share space with that person. If I chose to stay with someone who isn’t sharing the load with me, who doesn’t have the same vision as I do… then I have made a choice to accept the load myself and I have to redesign my vision. Understand that many choices are ‘package deals’ – they are bundled with a series of ‘consequences’… make sure you are consciously accepting the entire bundle because unbundling it – is OUTSIDE of your control.

LET GO

More often than not I find that we need to let go of fixed or rigid thoughts – the way we think things ‘should’ be or how things ‘should’ be done. Expand your thinking by eliminating words such as right/wrong or good/bad and replace them with ‘different’. There truly is more than one way to do most things.

Understand that in YOUR emotionally safe world things look a specific way. Responsibility, for example, may be represented to you in the form of a fixed blueprint that is achieved by doing x, y, & z precisely. But… we know – logically – that there is more than one effective building design. People demonstrate responsibility by using a, b, & c too. Letting go of an XYZ design and being open to trust that ABC will work is important.

Keep in mind that letting go is NOT a one and done thing. Thoughts don’t automatically disappear just because we want them to. We may need to let go of something over again every day until our mind remembers that we are simply not accepting that thought anymore. Be patient.

DISASSOCIATE

The things that happened in our past which, contributed to our current control issues are over. Just because the first man I loved died, doesn’t mean that the next man I love will, even though that is the fear. If your parents were horrible at parenting – if they were abusive – it doesn’t mean that other parents are abusive or that you will be as a parent. If someone you love died in a car accident, that doesn’t mean others will as well.

Certainly, bad things happen. But… the things that are creating your control needs are in the past and they need to stay there. Disconnect what HAS happened to what MIGHT happen going forward. Remind yourself… that was then, this is now. Stay present. Focus on THIS moment.

TRUST

“Let go and let God” is about trust. Letting go in general is about trust. We have to trust that if we let go – we will still experience emotional peace / security.

Sometimes I just repeat the word over and over in my mind as a reminder that I must surrender to trust. Generally speaking… things have always worked out in the end and I am reminding myself of that fact.

I find that most of us with control issues have simply learned to DIS-trust that people are working with us in the pursuit of emotional safety. I often remind myself that my children want to arrive where they are going and so they will make every effort within THEIR control to do so. I must trust that.

Trust is easier when we are constantly checking in to make sure that we are on the same page with those that are invested with us. Be sure that you are each moving toward the same vision and trust that you can get there via different avenues.

PLAN B

When all else fails, it helps to have a Plan B. People with control issues often have anxiety – the fear of not being able to control manifests physiologically. If we create an escape route – in case owning it, reassessing, letting go, disassociating and trust don’t completely satisfy our fears… having an alternative plan helps. It many never happen that you use Plan B but just initiating a design for another option allows your mind to experience a sense of relief.  Draw it out, make lists, save money, know where the exit is.

Having an active Plan B allows you to feel in control of something even when you have none.

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The Birth of Control Issues

We have a vision in our minds – we all do – of what a comfortable, safe life looks and feels like

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Kahlil Gibran

If you’ve been a reader for a while you know that I have a special place in my heart for those of us with ‘control issues’. I am one of those people who get anxious when I am faced with a lot of things that are outside of my control because it means that my emotional and/or physical safety is at risk – or at least that’s what my mind thinks.

Remember – we developed control needs when – at some point in our life – there was a perception of chaos or we somehow perceived that we were emotionally threatened. In an effort to calm down, relax, reduce anxiety… we searched for ways to create a sense of safety. To do that, we pulled in and engineered the circumstances in our environment to the extent that we were able.  If someone was inside the sphere under influence – they were also pulled in.

I’ve been accused of needing to control. It’s true. I do occasionally attempt to over manage, govern, inflict authority, etc… in situations where not doing so may leave my emotional welfare up for grabs.

I will not apologize for this – it is my survival mechanism. It is how I manage risk and make it through difficult times.

I will acknowledge though, that in this effort to create emotional safety in my world I am sometimes overbearing and unthoughtful about the other people in my space. For that – I am apologetic. Please know that I am not interested in mastering YOU. I am only seeking resolution for the risk that I am unwilling to take.

Here are how control issues manifest:

When I was married and my husband drank a lot I would feel as if he wasn’t there for me. He would either get sloppy or emotionally distant. He was unable to take care of responsibilities and I felt as if the weight of the world fell onto my shoulders. – NOT A DESIREABLE FEELING. To get rid of that feeling, I would beg him not to drink. I would hide the alcohol. I stopped wanting to go out to dinner at any restaurant where there was a bar. I never wanted to entertain or go over to friends’ houses if there was going to be beer. In my mind – if he didn’t have access to alcohol, I had a partner and someone to share the responsibility. I was fearful of being the only one accountable… what if I failed?

When my kid’s friends started to drive, they wanted to transport my own children around town. Of course, the idea of having driving freedom is a highlight of all teens – a rite of passage. But… I didn’t have any control over my children’s safety if they were in the car with someone else. In an effort to control for MY own fears and feelings, I’d take the kids anywhere they wanted to go – I’d drive carloads of young women around town all afternoon and wait – sometimes at the expense of my other commitments so that I wouldn’t have to cope with the risk of them driving with someone else which stimulated my fears of them being unsafe – ultimately MY fear of feeling loss.

When I was married, I paid all the bills. (surprised?) I had a lot of fears that revolved around not having enough money. If we didn’t have enough money for the mortgage or the car payment they could get taken away (my parents had a car repossessed and a house foreclosed on when I was a kid). As long as I was the one paying the bills, I could ‘control’ how and when the payments were made. If my husband spent money without my knowledge it immediately triggered my fear that we may not have enough and ultimately that we would be homeless which, might be a little dramatic but that’s where my mind went.

Notice that in each case the underlying component is FEAR. In each case, I am attempting to mitigate the negative feelings that I WILL FEEL if things don’t go smoothly. I become afraid that YOUR actions may generate a problem for my emotional safety. Somewhere along the line I’ve adopted the idea that if you do … (this)… , I will feel … (that)… usually based on some historical event that either personally happened to me or that I witnessed.  Consequently, I have surmised that if I can keep you from doing (this) – I won’t feel (that). The most fundamental problem with this instinctual strategy is that I CAN’T CONTROL YOU and it leaves me vulnerable.

No matter how hard I might try to control for my own fear – in the examples I’ve provided they require something from another person – who may be feeling as if I am attempting to dominate their behavior. Superficially – I AM trying to control the situation but…

… not because I am interested in having control of YOU – but because I am trying to have control OF ME.

The crux of this whole effort – and where everyone gets stuck is – that we HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OTHERS! People are not puppets – nor do any of us want to be. We are designed for self-mastery… to want to make decisions for ourselves.

We have a vision in our minds – we all do – of what a comfortable, safe life looks and feels like. We have an idea of how to accomplish that vision. When we have experienced successful collaborations, we generally learn to accept that there are many roads leading to the achievement of that ideal. However, people who have been abandoned, betrayed, and left to their own devices learned that they were solely responsible for reaching the objective and therefore, develop a premise that they must go it alone and have to have command in order to be successful.

My mom said a thousand times if she said it once… “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” That statement all by itself is probably enough for me having learned that ‘I had to have control’. Remember – if something is done ‘right’ – that’s good. We will do anything to create more ‘good’ feelings… they create a sense of emotional safety. Indirectly, and I’m am sure without any obvious intent, it was one of the ways that I was taught that to do it yourself – to have personal control – was the way to emotional safety.

However, we do not live in isolation – nor do any of us really want to exist all by ourselves. We come together in pairs or groups with the intent of achieving a joint vision and we must learn how to achieve emotional safety without the deleterious effects often produced by the ‘control issues’ that formed along the way.

Tomorrows post will address that problem.

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