Be in control. Do not wait and take action. Choose consciously. Be present and stop wasting time with your head in the clouds. I have been hearing this my whole life and I have taught myself to be in control. To be on top of things, all the time. Now, I have to learn how to lose control and just ride the wave instead of trying to force my way through it.
Illusion of control
It seems ridiculous and dangerous. Doesn’t it?
Why in your sane mind would you want to lose control? Why would you like to be a passive tool? Why would you want things happening to you without your influence?
First of all, our idea of control of the situation is totally bogus. It’s an illusion. Anyone who had any kind of an accident, went through life-threatening disease, lost a child, was dragged through courts for no good reason can tell you that. Not to mention people living in war-zones.
Instead of controlling the situation it’s better to ride the wave, find ways and means of making the best out of what you have. Taking the moment as it presents to you. This is what stoicism is all about.
Losing control is not the same as being passive
Should you then just let it all be? Of course not. There are things that are perfectly within your control and you shouldn’t use this as an excuse for bad preparation or behavior. If you can foresee problems, take measures.
Losing control is not the same as being passive. By far not. It means to navigate rough waters without trying to regulate the river. It means to surrender yourself to something bigger than you are. Perhaps only for a while, perhaps for longer than that.
In my experience… Controlling the situation is extremely tiring. It looks like banging your head on the wall all day long. And remember, it’s not even real control, it’s an illusion. So the moment a lightning strikes (and somehow it always does) you are often left with nothing. You are stripped of your illusion in the most dramatic way and it’s not a good place to be. That’s what had happened to me. One day all charged and on top of things and the other a hot mess of helplessness.
Learning to lose control, accepting this loss and gliding on the wind instead of trying to flap your hands frantically seems to be more beneficial in the long run. This can be applied to everyday things, like jobs, relationships, parenting, you name it.
There is another realm where it’s beneficial to lose control and be taken on an adventure, namely problem-solving. Problem-solving usually requires creativity and any form of creativity is a process of surrender and not of control, apparently. For someone as strong-headed as I am, as I was… it’s a new skill to learn and a bitter pill to swallow.
The moment you let your mind run wild with the most ridiculous of ideas is the moment you are becoming free to come up with something special. Something good. This all happens from within and it’s not something you can force or control. The funny thing is, while engaged in this “pie-in-the-sky” thinking your mind starts slowly to see through its own bullshit and gradually it will find truly creative and practical solutions to any problem. It just needs time and focus. And practice.
So if you are sitting analyzing numbers, taking phone calls and answering emails all day long, and there is a 1-hour brainstorming session at the end of that day. Guess what? Not much will happen. You won’t be able to come up with any creative, out-of-the-box ideas. Not even one that would be worth mentioning in the meeting notes. However, if you will be “left alone” with one problem for a few days. During that time you will be doing nothing that is related to that problem. You will be reading the books you like, you will be going for long walks, taking hot baths, meditating (you can see a full list of self-care for introverts here). At first, your mind will be confused. It will be jumping from one thought to the other. From the grocery shopping list to contemplating if squeals have feelings. That’s okay. That’s normal. Every once in a while you will have a sort of brainwave that proves your mind is actually busy with the problem you are trying to solve. After a while, all you will be able to do, is to think creatively about that specific problem. And then… a solution will present itself to you. Like a revelation.
Obviously, it’s not exactly within everyone’s reach to bury themselves in a forest for three weeks before every strategic session. But do not fear. There are still things that you could do to lose control or at least loosen it up a bit.
Tools that can help to lose control
Up till now, I have found several tools that can help with losing control. I use all of them for quite a while now and I must say I enjoy it a lot. But perhaps even more important they do help me.
The important, however not a popular thing to say, is this is a practice and a habit. Do not expect any results after just one time using any of these tools. If you keep it up for a few weeks, who knows. The results will be small and gradual. You won’t notice them but they will be there. I have changed my attitude, I have made huge discoveries about myself and in the process became less stressed. All thanks to these tools and a huge amount of research, soul searching, rest and focus.
The morning pages
This comes from Julia Cameron’s book, the Artist way. I recommend you read the book even if you are not an artist.
Morning pages are sort of automatic writing. A written down stream of consciousness. You wake up, you write. What do you write about? Anything, nothing. The important thing is not to think, outline, correct, autocorrect. I often start with a dream that I had and then what I’ll be doing this day or what I have done the previous day. It’s not about a journal, it’s about starting and letting your thoughts flow freely.
You don’t need much to start. A notebook and a pen. Do not do it on your phone or computer. Write by hand and the moment you wake up. You need to write 3 pages. If you don’t know what to write, write “I don’t know what to write”.
You will not be showing this to anyone. You will not be publishing this. So don’t worry about spelling mistakes, about grammar, about half-sentences or even the structure of your text. It’s not for posterity. The only task this has is to get you into the flow of thoughts.
Do not read your morning pages back. Well not immediately. Read them back after a while when you have gained some distance to the problems at hand. This is not exactly fun, I can tell you. It’s like taking a stroll in muddy water. But! There is a reason for this madness. Every once in a while, there will be one sentence, or perhaps an entire paragraph that will make sense in a way broader spectrum. And then again but stronger. You will literally see your most inner desires manifest to you through these pages. You will gain better access to your subconscious.
My morning pages are mostly journalling and complaining. But from that complaining and ridiculous ideas that I write down some propper ideas and solutions can be formed on the more conscious level.
I have accidentally stumbled upon this. The idea just popped into my head and I immediately searched on YouTube for some examples. Only later did I remember that my father told me about this already some months before.
At any given time, you sit down and start drawing or doodling. How do you know what to draw? You don’t. You start in the center of the page or at a cornet or wherever you feel like starting and then you make a line. Then another line. Make them curvy, make them edgy, make dots. It doesn’t need to be nice. You don’t need to show it to anyone.
You won’t need much. Pen and paper. If you like you can color your drawing.
You don’t think beforehand about what you are drawing. You just draw. I like to keep everything tight and wavy ‘cos I know I will be coloring it later. But it doesn’t mean you have to as well. The most important thing is to let your hand instead of your head guide the pencil.
In my drawings, and I have made several by now, I keep coming back to the same symbols. They just appear. I like to think that that’s how my unconscious is manifesting some ideas to me. I also have a pattern for “I don’t know what to draw next” and I still haven’t figured out what that exactly is. But I saw some other people drawing it as well. It’s absolutely fascinating.
I often catch myself trying to influence or make a conscious decision. If I do, I start somewhere else on the page.
I have been using both analog and digital pen and paper. I must say both have their advantages and disadvantages.
For instance with pen and paper, I must pay attention not to take control. This is way less of a problem when I’m drawing digitally. On my tablet, I can zoom in very much and then don’t see the bigger picture and how it all works in one big composition. But after drawing too much on my tablet I’m all wind up from the blue light. After drawing and coloring on the paper I’m usually all relaxed.
Dream journaling and interpretation
In our dreams, we are rarely having control over what is happening. Carl Gustav Jung was doing research on dreams and their meaning. I can recommend “The man and his symbols” to start with. Even though it was meant for an average person… it’s not your average pop culture book. It’s not an easy read but it’s worth taking your time. You can also just watch some YouTube videos for an overview of things discussed in the book.
Dreams are not just random images that are projected to us at night. The unconscious mind speaks to the conscious mind through dreams and symbols that are hidden there. The interpretation of dreams is not simple. It requires a lot of knowledge about the meaning of things. And I don’t mean “If you dream about a dog, an old friend will visit you next week” kinda meaning. Dreams are not fortune-telling. There are symbols that the unconscious uses to communicate its state and desires. Decoding these symbols requires a broad knowledge of mythology, religious symbolism, personal symbolism, meaning the numbers might have. Also, just one dream is like one chapter of a greater story. You can’t say much about just one dream.
I have noticed that the more relaxed I am in my daily life, the more dreams I can remember in the morning. I remember a lot of details just after I wake up but then they just fade and only some unarticulated feeling remains.
If you want to give a try to the interpretation of your dreams start writing them down. Again, just a notebook and a pen are alright. You don’t need a special dream journal. Like this, they will not fade away and you can always come back to them.
I review my dream journal every once in a while. I try to find the symbols that I’ve been learning about and try to decode the message. So my dreams have told me that I need to behave more extroverted if I want to succeed, or at least this was my interpretation. One of my images (still to be shot) comes directly from my dreams. I still haven’t really figured out what that was about but the image looked so great I couldn’t just leave it.
Probably everyone has an image of someone meditating in their head. That’s okay. You can do it like that. As long as you do do it. You sit down somewhere where it’s quiet and where you won’t be disturbed. You can put some relaxing music on. You close your eyes and you try not to think. I say try because in practice it’s really hard and you’ll manage just for a few seconds. But when you catch yourself thinking, just let the thought go on. Let it fly away.
I have been meditating in different places. I have a Spotify playlist just for that. 3 songs, about 10 minutes. You can meditate in the morning, noon or evening. You meditate when you need it or just as a habit.
Not thinking gives you a moment of silence in your own head. It gives you rest.
If you are just a bit like I am, you’ll think it’s an entertaining bogus. You can keep it at that. The method doesn’t matter. It can be horoscope if you can read the stars and planets yourself. It can be Tarot cards, tea leaves, I ching or what have you. The point is not to tell the fortune. The point is of having a self-fulfilling prophecy mechanism in place.
I use Tarot cards and a book where the interpretation of each card is written down. If you think about fortune telling not as reading the future but as affirmations it all starts to fall in its place a bit better. The cards will not warn you about a specific situation, but looking back at your day you will see the pattern and you will recognize what they might have been referring to. As a result, you introduce a bit of external influence on your life and lose a bit of control.
But actually the interpretation is the most important part of this. Your subconsciousness will guide you to the interpretations that you need to hear. It this respect it’s actually your subconsciousness talking to your consciousness.
That’s it for this month. If you have experiences with losing control, let me know in the comments.
Also, share this post with someone who could use a bit less of control in their lives.