When everything around you seems to be working against you, and you try so hard to think your way out of it…. Somehow it can just pull you deeper in the mess that you are in. Thoughts like: “Why can’t I just find a solution” or “if only my partner would understand”, “let me just push my disappointment aside” or “why can’t I be lucky for once?”. From one negative thought to the next… Focused on failure, it tends to grow on you, you think in negative circles, no escape. Lost control.
What is control?
Does control lie in a predictable environment? Is everything under control, when everyone just does what they are asked to do? It sounds so easy. We make an agreement, we follow up on our responsibilities, we know what we can expect. If only we can prepare every possible scenario and think of solutions now for whatever could go wrong, this way we know exactly what to do!
And then life happens. A car accident caused by someone else, you lose a loved one, a major hurricane hits the island… We know these things happen. Still, it usually happens to someone else… But what if this time it is your story, that one scenario you did not think about happened, or even when you did predict this exact scenario, emotions hit you in your face, unexpectedly. How much influence do we have on the outcome? To a certain extent we can prepare, but can we really?
Locus of control
The locus of control says something about how much influence you think you have on the outcome of situations in life. When you tend to either praise or blame anything or anyone but yourself, your locus of control is mostly external. And when you believe you are the one that mainly controls the outcome, the locus is more internal. Okay, i hear you think, good to know, but then what?
It is important to realize that some things just lie outside of our circle of influence. We can’t tell a hurricane to turn around or disappear. When you believe you are the one that is responsible for every outcome in your life, you are probably taking too much on your plate. So the right balance between the two is a first step. Even with that though, the unexpected can throw you off your feet. So it is also about getting the right balance in controlling (yourself).
Back in control
How to do this depends on what type of control you are in need off. Instead of trying to control a situation, all the elements, different scenarios and possible solutions.. just to prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed by anxiety, panic, helplessness or a mix of different types of emotions. Instead of trying to avoid these emotions or trying to push them away, what if we learn how to cope WITH these emotions. Learn how to signal and acknowledge a difficult emotion. Learn how to process the emotion and learn to take care of ourselves. What about that?
By acknowledging an emotion, you can accept that the emotion is there (which is different than accepting or welcoming negative life events, a common misunderstanding!). The emotion is there to give meaning to the life event. That is with both positive and negative emotions and all events in your life. It is a sign to remind you about self-care. Once you learn to recognize an emotion, you can learn to accept and acknowledge it, which creates space to apply adequate coping strategies to process the emotion and make an action plan based on rational thinking rather than an impulsive act that you might regret later. This strategy can be applied in every situation or scenario.
Prepare for self-care
In theory this sounds like logic. But in practice it can be a challenge to break through your old coping strategies and apply a helpful strategy. If only because in the past this was the only way to survive.
If you feel you are stuck and can’t find your way out, it is a good idea to ask a professional to guide you. We all tend to think in circles. Together with a coach or psychologist, you can explore your way of coping, how it used to help you survive in the past and to find adequate coping strategies that can help you in the present and the future.
You know where to find us.