Updated: Jan 3
Define irony. The belief that one is liberated from the “illusion of control” while consistently
exhibiting behaviors which demonstrate an obsession or a need to be in control.
Yep! That’s me in a nutshell. And I’m pretty sure, I’m not the only one.
Not too long ago, I used to think that I had a handle on what it meant to be flexible and free of worry, but in reality I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
In hindsight, and after much self-evaluation, especially in the last two or three years, I came to realize that my need to know that “X, Y, and Z” were going to consistently remain “X, Y, and Z,” was something to which I gave great power. It’s not something I’m proud of, but it's a way of thinking I'm only recently learning to overcome.
Please allow me to explain. Here are areas where I experienced the most challenges
My day to day routine was once my “holy grail” of control. The expectations for a given week, or situation had to be the same, without question and without interruption, or else I would turn into a cranky, cranky person.
I’m none too proud to admit this, but if my routine was going to be altered in any way, then to avoid a “meltdown” on my part, I would need to be made aware of said change with enough time to prepare myself mentally, or else my world would be turned upside down.
It can be difficult to explain, but my normal functions and mood would be impacted to the point of becoming somewhat manic.
I used to believe that in order to affect change and inspire those close to me (my own kids mostly); I had to push, push, and push harder so that they met my expectations of how they should conduct themselves and behave. I used to think I could motivate through lectures and drill. Yes, kinda sorta like the military taught me, and boy did I have it wrong.
Truth be told, though, I was not only pushing to control how I expected a given situation, or life to play out, but also confusing my thoughts behind how I expected a person to behave and appear “motivated.”
***For the parents in the room, exercise caution when it comes to pushing your kids. They are people, too. And sometimes we can forget that just because they share our DNA, they don’t necessarily share our same way of processing information.***
“Why are you crying?”
My previous response or discomfort with crying was potentially a product of societal norms and upbringing. I can truly only speak to the former because I have very vivid memories of being told that crying is only for when someone “hits” me. I don’t remember buying it then, or even recall feeling bad about being told that, but I guess, it did affect me because as an adult, I would get very uncomfortable when someone cried.
Especially if it was related to emotional pain or distress. It confused me, and it upset me. I only recently came to learn that my discomfort with crying was a product of my own “illusion of control.” I couldn’t control the emotions in the room, therefore, I am uncomfortable.
In the last few years, and especially in the time since I started “This Way Out,” I believe I’ve grown and expanded my thinking in such a way that I’ve come to learn and become more comfortable with outward expressions of emotions like crying.
Again, I didn’t realize how “in the dark” I was when it came to my “illusion of control.” But I also think that I’ve come a long way in the last few years with regard to enlightening my thinking.
Here’s some personal advice moving forward
Ch- Ch- Changes
I credit my improved ability to handle changes and breaks in routine to my receiving help from a counselor. Mine helped me to realize and explore my problem when it came to control, and to come to terms that not every aspect of life can realistically be scheduled out and organized
Even now, saying it out loud, it sounds ridiculous that I could not put that together on my own. But as I mentioned on a podcast episode not too long ago, identifying mental health and wellness issues can be just as difficult to see in one's self.
I wish I could report that I no longer “freak out” when my routine is messed with, but unfortunately, I cannot. What I can say is that it is no longer an “end of the world” type of “freak out.”
Make some time for you to sit alone and reflect. Ensure that the time you schedule for self-reflection is going to be quiet and free of interruption. My recommendation would be to block out as much time as possible, up to a whole day, but the mind is a powerful tool, and a
lot of reflection can be done in just a few minutes.
The important parts of this exercise are to think about the moments where a person’s behavior, or the result of a situation, or circumstance made you uncomfortable. How did you handle it? Did you handle it poorly? If so, take some time to think and to focus on the ways you could have done things differently. Be very deliberate in this process.
Keep in mind, though. This time of reflection is not for focusing on flaws or mistakes. It’s meant for identifying challenges, and creating solutions. This is very important to remember because to only focus on problems could lead to other issues and degrade your mental health.
If you find this exercise difficult, I recommend seeking out the help of a professional.
What I’ve come to learn and accept is that crying is a normal function of human life, and that a person who cries does not necessarily have control over that expression. Whatever the case, however, a person’s worth or strength should not be defined by whether they can, or cannot, control their emotions.
I, too, was once in the school of thought that crying was bad, or inappropriate. Especially when it came to a male person crying. A female person crying was more acceptable in my old way of thinking. But as I’ve stated already. Crying is a normal function. No different than smiling, laughing, or even the occasional hiccup, or sneeze.
In the end, no one is perfect. Especially yours truly.
But we can always improve. To that I can bear witness with confidence. And it’s that confidence which gives me hope for not only what I’m capable of, but what all people are capable of as we move toward a brighter and better tomorrow.