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In The Grip of Control, Part 3: When Life Goes Out Of Control

January 18, 2015

In the first two entries of our three-part blog series, Lynne and Maryanne invited you to examine the role of control in your life. How do you use control and how is control using you? Where is the balance? I hope you have had a chance to examine your own relationship with control.

I would like to bring up another issue with control and that is what happens when control is taken away from us. The truth is, I like being in control--it is a warm, fuzzy blanket that I put on every morning when I wake up. It provides me with a sense of stability, predictability, which in turn make me feel safe and secure. For example, I like knowing that I am in control of my car and that I can safely get to where I need to be. I also know that my certain actions will most likely produce the expected result, which I am in control of. I can (most of the time) be in control of myself. If we couldn't or didn't control anything in life, we would live in chaos. So in that sense, we need control.

Of course, it is no surprise that we are rarely truly ever in control. Even if I am in control of my car, I can still get hit on the road. Even if I take care of my body, I can still get sick. Life has a way of reminding us how little control we actually have. Life throws us a curve ball—loss of health, job, relationship, dream—and just like that--our sense of control, predictability, and safety is gone. Instead, anxiety sets in--What now? How do I handle this? What do I do? We become fearful and anxious when we feel out of control.

My middle daughter is taking horseback riding lessons. Watching her and the other not-so-big girls handle those giant horses is always a good reminder about how to stay in control in an out-of-control situation. Horses have a mind of their own and will not listen to the rider if they feel the rider is not in control. That doesn't just mean the physical control of the horse, but more the control of internal attitude of calm and assertive riders.  I have seen many horses ignore their riders whom they don't respect. They will listen only if they feel the riders are internally in control. When a horse gets out of control for whatever reason, the coaches always tell the girls to stay calm and assertive in spite of being scared themselves. A frightened rider cannot help a frightened horse. The only way to calm down a horse is for the rider to stay calm and confident in spite of fear. What a great lesson to learn at a young age—how to stay in control of your own emotions and reactions when the very animal you are sitting on is out of control.

This week I had the privilege of listening to the stories of young people who are undergoing a great deal of personal stress. They have had to deal with stress that is enough for a whole lifetime, in the short time they have been alive. They cannot control their outside situation and are in the throes of dealing with difficult life circumstances. The only way they can survive this kind of chronic stress is by finding their inner control—their place of safety in the middle of the storm where they can have a sense of mastery over their emotions and reactions, their destinies and lives. The only thing they can control is themselves—their reaction to a frightening situation in the middle of the out-of-control storm that is their lives. 

Where do you find your sense of safety and control in the middle of a storm? How do you handle and anxious, out-of-control situation?

One thing that helps me cope with anxiety in a difficult time is to know that feeling anxious is OK. It is a normal reaction to an out-of-control situation. But staying in that anxious state is not OK. So I turn to prayer, I talk to God and to those who are willing to listen to me. I rely on the fact that when I am not in control, the only one is in control at all times is God. In Him, I can find my sense of  “all shall be well.” One of my favorite verses is in the Bible is John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” What a wonderful promise of God's peace!

Mindfulness is big new movement in the field of psychology especially effective for those suffering from depression and anxiety. The basic premise behind the concept of mindfulness is noticing your breathing, slowing it down, being aware of your body's sensations and meditation. It relieves stress by lowering stress hormones and allowing us to tap into the healing power of peacefulness. Prayer serves a similar purpose, allowing us to rest in God. Guided meditation, walking mediation or nature mediation is another way to relieve stress. A good resource for different kinds of meditations can be found here: http://www.meditationoasis.com/

We hope that this series on control has been helpful to you and has allowed you to think about your own relationship with control in your life. We invite you to continue your journey as you practice journaling, grace, forgiveness, prayer and mediation. We always welcome your comments and thoughts as we grow and learn from one another. 

Peace be with you!

Henrieta

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