Imagine you are on a roller coaster and have your arms up straight in the air. How does it feel to let go? For many people, exhilarating and exciting is what comes to mind. For others, frightening, even terrifying is what they would feel. There are so many things in life over which we have no control; and when we can let go of trying to control that which is not in our control, we benefit greatly. So what are you holding onto that you would like to let go of trying to control? Is it a job? A relationship? A feeling? Let’s take a closer look…
Bob and Lisa had been married for over twenty years. During their marriage, Bob would have a few drinks after work each night. At first, Lisa would join him, wanting to spend time with him. After they had children, Lisa became busier with the kids and didn’t have time to sit and share their ‘cocktail hour’ anymore. Lisa became resentful that Bob continued drinking as she wanted him to help her with the kids’ bath and bedtime routines. Bob began to feel more alone and angry that she didn’t make time for him anymore. When they came to therapy, they hadn’t spent any quality time together, for over five years. Lisa was considering divorce. Bob was drinking before and after work at this point. In therapy, Bob expressed feeling like Lisa was trying to control him by telling him what to do and what not to do. Bob said he felt like a child. Lisa expressed that she only wanted him to be a ‘partner’ but instead she was acting like his ‘parent’. A lot of the work we did in therapy was about helping them realize they only had control over themselves and their response to each other. When we try to control other people’s behavior, not only do they resent us but also, IT DOESN’T WORK! Instead, when we are conscious of gmour own behavior and realize we have CHOICES as to how we respond to others, then we are in control…of ourselves!
Eventually, Bob started attending AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings and Lisa began going to Al-Anon (for family members or friends of someone with a drinking problem). Drinking was not as much of the issue for this couple as was their lack of ability to communicate effectively. With continued therapy and the help of the 12 step programs, Bob and Lisa learned to tell each other when they were feeling resentful, hurt or angry in an appropriate way. They completely embraced the Serenity Prayer from the 12 step programs; which can help anyone, regardless of having an addiction issue.
The Serenity Prayer…
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
No matter what is happening in your life, if you can apply this prayer and delineate that which you have control of versus that which you have no control, your life will likely be calmer and more gratifying. Trying to control that which we have no control over is a set up for stress. We are essentially inviting stress into our lives by attempting to control others’ behavior. While it is not always easy, if Bob and Lisa did it, so can you….
So if you don’t like roller coasters, you can choose to get on the ride or not. If you choose to get on, you can throw your arms in the air or hold on tightly. Life can sometimes feel like a roller coaster, but how we choose to ride it is completely our choice.