Monday, March 11, 2013

Loosening The Grip

I'm a fully admitted, self-proclaimed control freak. It's not something that I'm proud of per se, but just something that has always been inherent in my personality.  The good thing about being a control freak is that in a bubble, you tend to be super productive and get everything done with a very high quality. The obvious down side is, we don't live in a bubble. Which means that life happens, and the inability to control it leads to high anxiety and failed perfectionism. It's a vicious circle.

Being diagnosed with cyclothymia four years ago was a huge wake up call for me, to be totally cliche but also totally accurate. It was the first time that I could honestly look in the mirror and say to myself, "you cannot control everything and you never will be able to." While you'd think it wouldn't have taken such drastic measures for me to get this concept, it did. To be completely honest, it's one I still struggle with. I know logically that I can't control everything in life, but experientially it is not so easy to grasp. For some reason, finally having an answer to why I was feeling the way I was helped me take the first steps. I've always been so tough on myself, thinking "maybe if I just... what if I tried a little harder..". Now, I understood that all of the weird emotional twists and turns inside my brain weren't always my fault. This isn't to slough off all blame - I still have to work hard to make life the best I can and make efforts to not exacerbate my condition - but for the first time I understood that I couldn't control every single thing inside my brain if I only tried hard enough. And when I grasped this, it became easier to see that I could not control outside situations either.

The last six months, I've been really working on the ability to accept this lack of control. In fact, I've been trying to actually embrace it. If my brain gets 10 random ideas flying into it, instead of thinking "well that's stupid, that could never work" I tried to pay a little more attention. Maybe there's an idea or two worth considering, especially if they keep coming back to me. Maybe in trying to shut out my rambling brain, I've been shutting out some instinct and intuition as well. Similarly, when outside circumstances don't go according to plan, I've been trying as best I can to see where they lead me instead of being so determined that I know exactly how things should go. I'm not a "everything happens for a reason" person (though I respect if you are, to each their own), but rather perhaps I'll discover something knew, maybe even better, if I'm forced to get outside the lines I've drawn for myself. Many times I'm finding I'm actually liking the results, and it feels nice to be a bit more free.

It's not a quick learning curve, but I'm trying every day to be a little more accepting. What aspects of life do you grip so tightly that you could loosen up on a little bit? 

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