What do you do when you feel out of control?

September 8, 2019

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 NetworkThe MightyPatient 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.


16 responses to “What do you do when you feel out of control?”

  1. Derek Gifford says:

    Over 40 years of having CD have taught me not to resist dystonia because it just feeds it. We have to be sneaky, surrender but then when we can focus on things which promote relaxation.

  2. Connie says:

    Another wonderful blog, Tom. I have been doing Dr. Farias’ online program, and he also stresses the importance of acceptance/surrender/“giving up” (as he calls it) in helping the brain utilize its neuroplasticity while working the different exercises and other pieces of his program.. I have OCD, too, and this same paradoxical aspect of giving up control is what is necessary, but very hard, in order to find healing. Hope you weathered the latest storm okay. My husband and I live in the Raleigh area, so we only had a little rain. Blessings to you!

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you Connie! I am relieved for you that you did not have trouble with the storm. We were very lucky also. I was so surprised that it didn’t amount to more than a severe thunderstorm considering how close it came to us. I think the work Dr. Farias is doing is wonderful and completely agree with him that we have to “let go/surrender/give up” for the mind and body to be at ease. Otherwise, we are not properly prepping it for the changes we are trying to make, whether it be for a movement disorder or anything at all in life. We must be at ease and engage our parasympathetic nervous system for any change to occur. Thanks very much for mentioning all that because that is a struggle for a lot of us. We mostly focus on the body and its symptoms, and not enough on clearing and calming the mind.

  3. thanks Tom, I will be seeing a psychologist in a few weeks. I am also bipolar as well as having CD and essential tremor. I am 78. and married 57 years. moving to FL. saved my husbands life with radical surgery. I lived in hotels for over 2 months to go to hospital every day. now trying to live in our tiny retirement house and finding a place for me to do whatever art I want is difficult. Art has always helped me in all different types. we will be cleaning out attached shed in retirement park to our house. I hurt more in FL. maybe from stress. I still get BotoxEMG, 2x here. Neurologist disgusts me. 2hr wait even with appt for shots due to his triple booking. I understand the need but I feel he should decide where he will specialize. I saw his patients and they are in dreadful conditions. he has a monopoly in his practice. I am looking for a new one. His attitude is make another appt or find another Neuro. love mommarge.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      I wish you all the very best with the psychologist. Do you think the weather might be a factor in your symptoms? I live in NC and find that the humidity bothers me, especially in the winter with the damp cold we have here. I sure hope you can find a good neuro who will be of more help!!

  4. Thank you Tom for the reminder! I’ve reached out to Councelling a few times and received amazing help thru 1 of the counselors.
    I’m currently feeling really out of life and not sure how to feel like I am living?! I have worked thru this before but maybe you have some advice to share?

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Elizabeth – I am very pleased to hear that you have benefited from counselling. Have you discussed this issue with them? If not, I think it would be worthwhile. Also, I would be happy to talk with you. Please sign up on my site for a free consult. It would be easier for me to answer you that way. Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!

  5. Pauline says:

    Thanks Tom! I have been going through much the same crisis as you since last year and my mental health is battered so I have let go and reached out to a counselor. I have admit that I am not okay right now and need help and asked for it. I also ask the Universe to support me and try to trust that all will be well. Like you I often want to control things and it doesn’t do any good. Being organised and efficient is fine but life happens! I wish you peace and calm as I do for myself and I really appreciate all the good work you do for those of us with Dystonia and other painful illnesses.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Pauline. Thank you for sharing that. I think many people will find that they can relate. Seeing how you reached a point where you had to begin seeing someone is going to help others know that it is a sign of strength to do so. We all need help and be there the best we can for each other. I wish you all the best always and want to add how grateful I am that you are so open with your experiences. It means a lot to me and others. Thank you!

  6. Sandra Blackwell says:

    Thank you for your beliefs. I also believe all things are in God’s hands and we trust in Him.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Thank you. Faith in whatever we believe in is a big component to peace of mind, giving up control, and better flowing through life.

  7. Barbara Elmlinger says:

    Oh Tom! This speaks to me deeply. I’m dealing with the same Let go and Allow you talk about. My new PT tells me ALL of my body muscles are tight. Along with that comes many symptoms of pain and frustration. She told me to remember to breathe! What? I thought I was breathing! A nice woman I met in the PT office told me she had been so uptight, she had to relearn how to pass gas through Biofeedback. Very personal, but very important! I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a very tough month. Your posts are speaking to so many of us. I hope your life will feel more in control as you let go again, too. That hurricane was very controlling of so many lives. I’m glad you were safe.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Barbara. That is very ironic that your PT said that about breathing. I think a lot of us think we are breathing (and we are of course) correctly or all the time, without realizing that we hold our breath. Life, in every way we know it to be, stops when don’t breathe and allow. It is another form of resistance that keeps us in a rut (same as the woman who had to relearn how to pass gas). The more mindful of our breathing, the better off we can be. Thank you for your well wishes!

  8. Annette says:

    Great article! Thanks Tom.

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