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Joy Work: Releasing Control Part I

As part of my joy journey, I am slowly… and I do mean slowly learning to release control. It is harrrrrrD. I never knew how challenging it would be to stop trying to control everything around me. I heard people talk about giving up control blah blah blah. I didn’t understand how that was even possible. I mean really, who else would keep things in line the right way if I didn’t? I thought if I gave up control my life would fall apart and that I would be more miserable. It is in fact the opposite. Trying to keep control of everything was actually sucking any joy that I had out of me, causing a great deal of anxiety, and even breaking me down physically. To add to this, I was carrying the heavy weight of resentment because when you do everything to stay in control, everything and everyone disappoints. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not at all saying that I don’t deal with anxiety and resentment…of course I do. I AM saying that I work hard to deal with it less, and the work is working.

How did I begin this thought process of releasing control? Well, I started with a very structured approach. My therapist (who I like to refer to as Bo) introduced me to a short exercise to start each day. I’d get a single piece of paper, fold it in half, and make a list of everything I felt that I had to get done. He told me to separate (without thinking too hard) my list by the things I could actually control that day and the things I could not. I would then cut the paper in half and throw away the can’t control side. I was real dramatic about throwing it away too. I kept the can control side with me throughout the day. In the beginning my can’t control side was so long (sometimes 25 things). After some time, I noticed that my can’t control list got shorter and shorter. It was like I was literally forgetting about the things that I could not control and focusing more on what I could control. The weight that was being lifted helped me to flow through my day with more ease. I also quickly realized how much wasted energy I extended trying to control the feelings and behaviors of others. Oh but another thing I started doing less was trying to control things based on scenarios I played up in my mind. Doing this exercise each morning helped me to become more accepting of the fact that I couldn’t always get done what was on the can control side and that more often than I thought it was okay to carry it over for the next day or even several days. I realized that my way… was not the only way (well I’ll be damn) and that it is okay to go with the flow.

I don’t use this exact structure anymore because I use something different to help me manage my tasks. The point is, if we want to change a behavior, we have to think intentionally about how we are going to do it. It is a process before the new behavior becomes a natural part of who we are. Releasing control is at the forefront of my own personal joy work right now. I’m learning now that there is a BIG difference between releasing and retreating. But I’m going to talk about that in Part II.

Love, Dr. Joy

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