As a child, I heard about the importance of surrendering control, especially how it pertained to a higher power. While I spoke a bit on Monday about the importance of giving up control, this post is for those of us who cannot stand the idea of giving up control. When I heard the words “surrender control” growing up, I found that I would internally shudder at the thought. The word “surrender” in this particular context still irritates me years later.
I still haven’t quite identified why I hated the thought of surrendering control, even as a child. I suspect it has something to do with the abject vulnerability that comes from giving up control. I saw that the moments I was most vulnerable, I was also treated as though I was weak. So any display of vulnerability was a display of weakness. Surrendering was the ultimate sign of weakness.
Additionally, growing up, you are beginning to assert your independence. Being told to give up control, just as you are starting to come into control of your own life, feels like so many steps backward. I learned to associate giving up control as infantilizing. I could not differentiate between the “positive” forms of giving up control like going with the flow, and the “negative,” which was micromanaging all aspects of my life.
And so I became a control freak.
How to Give Up Control when You Can’t
It’s all well and good to be told to give up control. It’s one of those “easier said than done” situations.
But when it comes time actually to try and give up control, it can be difficult. I think for those of us who need to be in control are keenly aware of how out of control the world is, so we cling to whatever means to maintain a sense of order. We find areas in our lives we can manage, and even if we manage it poorly, there is some stability in the belief we are in control.
Humans are masters of deception. Especially self-deception.
So, how do you surrender control?
Not easily, and I wish I were joking about that. This would be one of those areas where, if we could snap our fingers and fix everything, we would do it. I thought if I reflected on it hard enough, it would happen.
But it doesn’t work that way. Giving up control isn’t just a thought-based exercise. It requires active participation. I was seeking for something else to take control from me, even though it wasn’t for it to take, nor was I willing actually to give it. I couldn’t expect anyone, or thing, to take control.
I, and I alone, could give up the control in my life. But I am like an addict, and to be sure, control is addictive, and addicts struggle to give up their drug of choice. While micromanaging my life brought on only stress, frustration, and health problems, I was unwilling to give up my “drug.”
Once I realized that I was responsible for my own burden, that the only way I would regain control in my life is to let it go, was I able to make a choice needed in the situation.
Now, if you have a higher power, you might say this: my teachings tell me to give up control. Many allegories teach to give to your higher power. Yes, but make sure you are actively giving up control and not expecting your higher power to take control from you. This is the trap I fell into. Make them your focal point, but remember that only you can say “I am going to give up control in this area of my life.”
Often, meditating or praying to that higher power or the universe can give you the strength you need to do so, so keep that in mind as well.
But it really has to be your decision to let go. Acknowledge that you are not in complete control of your life, that you are going to go with the flow, and accept whatever life hands you as graciously as possible.
Clear Head; Healthy Decisions
Control freaks: do you find that your head gets so cluttered with all that you have to do? All that you have to remember? All that you didn’t do, and now you feel frustrated?
The advantage of surrendering control is that it gives you a clearer head. No longer do you have to think about all the parts of your life you need to manage. You get a chance to prioritize what you can control and what you can’t. It allows you to reflect on your life more objectively.
Remember when I talked about not having expectations and accepting everything? No longer do you place expectations on your higher power or life to take control from you (you’ve given it over freely), and therefore, you can accept anything that comes your way. Often we get so wrapped up in controlling everything that we miss out. We might miss an answer we were waiting for, or an opportunity we’ve been wanting because it does not fit into the framework we’ve set up for ourselves.
We can make healthier decisions when we are in an objective head space. We can see what we need when we need it, and why we need it when we aren’t so focused on the minutiae.
Seeking a deeper spiritual connection with your higher power, the universe, or life? I found that once I gave up control in my life, truly gave it up, I had a deeper spiritual connection to those around me and the world at large.
I used to get so focused on the minutiae, but each time I slowed down, took the time to relax and go with the flow, I felt more at ease with myself and my placement in the world.
I also find that my compassion deepens for others and myself. My resiliency increases, and I am more accepting of what happens to me and around me. I am more willing to stand up for myself where I never could before, and be selfish in healthy ways.
Once I gave up control, I felt freer and in control, rather than out of control like I assumed I would feel.
Taking the Right Amount of Responsibility
Just as a reminder, when you give up control, you are still responsible for what happens in your life. You might be waiting for an answer, so what happens between asking the question and receiving that answer is your responsibility. We sometimes use giving up control as an excuse to sit around and be inactive. Instead, we should continue to be proactive in our lives. Seek other answers while waiting for a specific one.
Sometimes we don’t get an answer, or it’s not the one we want, and that’s okay. Consider the timing wrong, and ask again later. Look at it as a roadblock, and find a way to adapt around it.
Whatever you do, when you surrender control, view it as a chance to be more free and active in your life.
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