No Control, No Problem

“I feel out of control!”

As a counselor, I hear this phrase all the time. It’s a powerful expression. It’s clear, to the point, and often times the most heartfelt way of expressing how you feel when circumstances appear unstable. We’ve all felt this way and uttered these very words at one time or another. It’s undeniable that all of this seems to make perfect sense, but I’m here to challenge the typical notion of control. The phrase “I feel out of control” may appear accurate, but often times it’s actually not.

People often feel out of control when they lack control. It’s important, however, to point out that lacking control is not the same as losing control. Though the difference may appear subtle, lacking control and losing control are two completely different animals. They only seem to go hand in hand because of the belief that a person must be in control to maintain a sense of control. This is completely false and a leading source of psychological suffering.

Let’s imagine you feel out of control at work because your boss made some choices you disagree with. The problem begins when you assume your boss’ choices would be better off as your own. As a result, you feel the need to take control of something that was never yours to control in the first place. When you realize you lack control, a switch occurs and suddenly you feel out of control. In reality, however, control was never lost; your boss had everything under control the whole time!

Instead of viewing lack of control as a problem, try seeing it as lack of responsibility, and recognize the less you’re responsible for, the less you have to worry about. You only lose control when you try to take control of what doesn’t belong to you. The key to understanding this is accepting that you cannot control what was never yours to control in the first place. It’s easy not to lose control when you come to terms with the fact that you never really had it—control was never actually yours to lose.

I say rest in the freedom that comes with letting others sort out their own concerns. Life brings us each enough to worry about without trying to control the messes of others. Say it with me: no control, no problem.