7 ways to learn to let go of what you can’t control

Being in control of things isn’t a negative attitude to have. We all want a semblance of certainty and assurance in this chaotic world we live in.

But here’s the thing: For some of us, the need for control can consume our entire being. And that can be crippling.

So, is there a way to not be as controlling of the things in your life? The quick answer: Of course! But it’s going to be a process.

If you want to learn how to let go of things you can’t control, keep reading! Because in this article, we’ll be discussing 9 ways to do just that.

1) List the things you can control, then focus on them

When trying to deal with control issues, it’s smartest to not completely block it all at once. As with all issues, it is safest to redirect it first.

The first step to relinquishing excessive control is: Start small.

Ask yourself, “What things can I control?”

The most obvious and readily available things are those which are tangible. Physical objects. You can control how you interact with them and how you see and use them.

Focus your energy on these objects as you slowly collect other things that are within your control.

According to Epictetus’ Discourses, “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externalities not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.”

If you find yourself unable to think of any, you can use this list as a guide:

  • Instead of controlling your emotions, control your reactions to certain emotional triggers
  • Instead of controlling what others think and say, control how you receive criticism
  • Instead of controlling someone’s affection toward you, control how you love yourself

Now continue the list and get to know the things you can and cannot control. This will come in handy as we go through this article.

2) Learn to be flexible

Now, with your energy focused on smaller, more manageable things, the next thing to do is to choose the act of letting go.

I know this is easier said than done. Most of the time, making choices isn’t as easy as thinking of it and then deciding to do it. There are a lot of complications that go in between.

For some of us, this may even require a grieving process.

The main reason you’re here reading this article is that you admit to needing help with letting go. It is possible that you’ve done everything in your power so far in order to do it, but you still can’t.

That’s fine.

Here’s the thing: While the process of letting go of control is not easy, it is rather rewarding. And an important step to getting to that point is learning how to be more flexible.

Let’s say you’ve done everything you can to prepare for an interview, and you still didn’t get the job. Or you gave everything you had for someone you love, and they still chose to walk away

These things can be enough for anyone to snap or break. Which is why it’s in these moments that you need to be more flexible.

Cry today. Gather yourself. Then get back up.

Send out more applications. Wish your ex well and heal your heart for the next person to come. Learn to accept that, sometimes, the end of something does not mean it’s completely destroyed.

Be flexible about where life leads you.

3) Don’t blame others

It’s easy to point fingers when things go wrong. It’s the interviewer’s fault, or it’s our exes’ toxic behavior, or it’s the doctor’s incompetence.

While you may be right at times, pinning blame is an attempt at controlling things you shouldn’t. Except now, you’re doing it to people instead of the situation.

And controlling people is called manipulation. Something I’m sure you don’t want to be a master of.

It’s true: there are situations where we were hurt or taken advantage of by other people. And most times, it can lead to trauma (another thing we can’t control).

But blaming others for things they caused will not make the situation we’re in more controllable. Instead, what we’re doing is simply assigning another person responsibility over our lives.

And all that’s doing is giving that person who wronged you more reason to have control over you.

Instead, what you should do is approach the person, say what needs to be said, then release it. When you do this, you’re assigning them accountability for what they did and setting the stage for moving forward.

This leaves your mind and your heart space to fix things yourself and be on top of those things under your control.

4) Look back in order to look forward

Add this to your list of things you can control: your future. And to do that, it is sometimes best to look back at your history in order to figure out how best to go on.

At this point, it is important to ask: When did I start trying to control things out of my power? What influenced me to do so?

As mentioned in Point 3, it could be your parents. It could be a teacher. Or it could be someone you cherish deeply.

What do you think is their reason for trying to control you?

No matter the reason, one thing’s for certain: controlling your words and actions is not something they should have done. It will do you good to remember this.

Now why is it important to figure this out? Well, if it’s true that someone in your past has influenced your tendency to deal with matters with a controlling chokehold, then that means it’s not your personal choice to be like that.

And if so, then you can let go of it.

Awareness is an important step to improvement. And being aware of your influences can be the right push you need to finally let go.

5) See a professional

Dealing with the past can be an emotionally draining process. You may ask, “Why does letting go feel so heavy?”

The truth is: It’s not letting go that feels heavy. What’s happening is, as you slowly let go of things one by one, your fingers begin to feel the strain and the burn of holding on for so long.

You’ve been carrying too much this entire time, trying to be the force keeping everything together. And that has made your mental and emotional responses go numb.

When you let go, your mind and your heart begin to rest and recuperate. So it’s only normal that they start feeling again. That is what hurts. That’s what feels heavy.

Occasionally, it will take some time before you realize it. You’ll feel the weight slowly, then all of a sudden.

When that happens, it is best to see a professional who will be able to guide you through the journey of healing your mind and your heart. It can be a psychiatrist, a spiritual guide, or a religious leader.

No matter who it is, as long as you find the right person to guide you, you’ll begin to get better in no time.

6) Meditate

As you heal from the scars of controlling things for so long, try doing some meditation.

This can keep you centered, grounded, and steady enough to sustain the needs of the changes coming your way.

There will be days when you’ll feel the urge again to seize control of everything around you. But learning how to meditate will help clear things out in your mind.

Meditation will help you be aware of things you can’t control as they happen around you, while being at peace about it.

7) Be present, be in reality

One thing that urges us to try controlling everything is the need to be in charge of both our past and our future.

Earlier, we talked about being aware of the past in order to open possibilities of change tomorrow. But this doesn’t mean trying to extend our arms in both directions in an attempt to mold them to the image in your head.

In order to let go, we need to be more in tune with and on top of the present, because this is our current reality. This is where the things we actually can control exist.

Now look back at your list and see that most things there are happening and existing in the now.

Letting go opens space for new things to come into your life

While control in itself is not an evil, an excessive use of it is dangerous. Learning how to let go of the things we can’t control makes sure that our life keeps moving, because things and people we encounter keep on flowing.

When we let go, we prevent things from obstructing our progress.

Because we’re in this world not to accumulate and dictate the flow of time and space, but to ride its waves.

Gershom Mabaquiao

Gershom Mabaquiao is a scholar of psychology, oral tradition, and interpersonal relationships. His creative works have been published in Inquirer.net's Young Blood section, The Unconventional Courier, and Tint Journal. He lives in the Philippines with his best friend-turned-partner and their dog, Zuko. Gershom has plans of taking his master's degree in Clinical Psychology to help young adults heal the inner child in each of them.

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