Control: Expectations vs Reality

A common topic discussed in therapy is control. What it looks like, how it plays out, and the need for it. Control is the act of using power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events used to maintain or increase feelings of safety, security, and capabilities.

The desire for control in situations or people is typically a way to compensate for how others have controlled us. Whether in childhood, environments, or relationships, there is almost always a power and control dynamic. One person exerts more control, often leading the other person to regain control as they see possible. However, this can lead to a continued cycle, as more often than not, the things we wish or work to control are the things that we really cannot control. We lose energy when we care and fixate on the things that we really cannot control, and it can cause us to feel anxious, unhappy, and stuck.

Here are some things to remember, the things you can and cannot control. 

Things you can control:

  • Your breath
  • How I react to people & situations
  • Who I spend my time with
  • What I do with my time
  • How I treat myself (how you speak to yourself)
  • How I treat my body
  • What I eat
  • When I ask for help
  • What boundaries you set
  • You sleep routine

Things you cannot control:

  • What others think of you
  • How others act
  • What happens around you
  • What others say
  • Other people’s feelings
  • Someone’s decisions
  • The past
  • What-if scenarios

It may be easier said than done to focus on the things you can control, but it helps bring awareness to the things right in front of you. Especially during moments where things feel out of control, gaining the ability to come back to what you know to be true can be a helpful way to refocus and increase agency. By changing your perspective and looking inward, you can work to radically accept that life is uncertain. There are things that we cannot control, but we are capable of coming back to the things that we know are within our reach.

Written by: Chardyce Kott, LSW