What do you do when you feel out of control?
How many of you feel as though you are in control of your life? I would guess probably not too many. However, I bet a great majority of us try to control as much of our lives and our surroundings as possible. We have a big problem with stillness. This is especially true if you live with a chronic health condition like I do, because the health condition can often dictate each moment of each day depending on how we feel; a very difficult thing to come to terms with.
The condition I have, called dystonia, is especially unique when it comes to control because it is a movement disorder where the main feature is involuntary movements where you often feel like a marionette because your body is doing things your conscious brain is not telling it to do (click here to check out my article and video to learn more about dystonia). Talk about feeling out of control!!
For a lot of people with this condition and other movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, ataxia, multiple system atrophy (MSA), Tourette syndrome, Huntington’s disease, restless legs syndrome, among others, we try very hard to consciously control our movements. Doing this often causes us to become more physically rigid where we sometimes even forget to breathe. We try so hard to keep our bodies still that it can have the opposite effect, in that it can make the involuntary movements stronger.
Whether or not you have one of these health issues, if you are someone who does not allow for life to happen and you are not mindful of your emotional response to it, it is probably because you are an over-controller. If so, I am going to guess that life is rather exhausting and painful for you at times. It certainly is for me because I like control and routine, and I can often be stubborn, so when things don’t go as I would like, it can be hard on me. I have worked my butt off to be much better in these areas, but it comes with a lot of practice.
So what does all of this gobbledygook mean? The nuts and bolts of all this is that there is very little that we control in life, and ironically, embracing this truth is the way to gain real control. Remember, the only thing we can control is how we respond to what happens in life. This is where we have power. If we resist the natural flow of life by trying to control that which we can’t control, we suffer greatly. In other words, whatever we resist in life out of our control will begin to control our emotional health. Our stubbornness to want things a certain way, especially when things don’t go our way, dramatically increases our level of stress. Like water, we need to take the path of least resistance and practice learning to flow with life no matter what is happening.
This article was prompted by a month where life basically kicked my ass. Without going into the particulars, one day after the next, a new problem would arise; often, when the problem seemed like it was fixed, a twist in that problem occurred, which prolonged it, followed by a new one right on top of it; and they were not small problems. They were important, dangerous, serious, expensive, life changing, dramatic issues that I was dealing with seemingly nonstop. I was so beaten down at the end of each day and I kept trying to figure out why it was all happening, which furthered my exhaustion.
I have no concrete answers without going into philosophical hypothesizing, but the main thing I finally had to do was throw up my hands, laugh, cry a little, and accept all the insanity as well as I could and not make it worse with anger and fear. I had NO other choice if I wanted to get through everything as unscathed as possible. NOTHING was in my control, except my response to what was happening. Believe it or not, I am actually writing this as a major hurricane quickly approaches my area, which is a great test in my ability to let go. It was this week, just one year ago, that my area was devastated by another hurricane.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 161-180 A.D., speaks of reaching or achieving stillness. He writes about trying to be “like the rock that the waves keep crashing over;” the one that “stands unmoved and the raging of the sea falls still around it.” Try to be the rock on the shore that the waves keep crashing over to find your stillness in the calamity of life. To remind me of this image and the feeling that comes with this image, I carry a special pebble in my pocket. Whenever I feel a lack of stillness or need to remind myself to be grounded and at ease, I hold onto it. Maybe this is a way for you to also remember something of importance to you (please find a ton of other strategies for the challenges of life in my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey).
Whatever your belief system, a very important factor when you take your hands off the wheel and allow the flow of life to take its course without interfering, is to have faith in that belief system. Surrender to what you place your faith in and allow it to take care of you. Let go and allow. When we do this, which I know is very, very hard, and see that things much more often than not work out, we can begin to trust life and ourselves more, which reduces worry, fear, anxiety, and stress. It is a practice that I have to devote time to every single day of my life, and the more I do, the better I feel and the more at peace my life becomes, no matter what is happening, and that’s what I wish for you.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021. He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseamancoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.