Your brain craves control. Every single brain looks for ways to control the environment. The control can be subtle, but it’s still control.
Love to drive your car when you feel stressed? That’s control.
Try to fix everyone else’s problems when no one asked you to? That’s control.
Work 60 hours a week because home feels chaotic? That’s control.
Solve all the problems of the world in your head? That’s control… and fortune telling, mind reading, and a myriad of other brain distortions but that’s another subject.
Finding control in an uncontrollable world is your brain’s way of protecting you from the emotional chaos around you. In great detail and speed, your brain processes each moment and tries to find a way to control your environment to keep you emotionally and physically safe.
Cool, right? Until it’s not.
That control also keeps you from being connected to your family and friends. The control keeps you from being authentic and intentional about living and keeps you from experiencing joy.
How do you know if you’re trying to control everything?
You get frustrated when people don’t take your “advice”
You give play-by-play instructions to your husband when he’s planning an outing with the kids.
Your employees can’t seem to do anything without asking you first.
Control is really about fear:
Fear of failure
Fear of being emotionally vulnerable
Fear of what others think of you.
Why stop the control freak in you? Because you can’t be the kind, empathetic and amazing person you are and still control everything. Your kids won’t become the responsible and resilient kids you want them to be if you’re controlling them. Your desire to connect with a community and be seen by others won’t happen if you’re too busy controlling everyone else.
So, stop it. But, how?
Write down what you can control.
In every situation, there is always something you can control. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, write down (don’t type it on your phone) what you can control in that situation and what you can’t. It will remind your brain that there are things you can control and will reroute your brain to focus on those things.
Are you trying to fix everyone’s problems?
While you’re likely a good “fixer”, it’s also just as likely that no one has asked you to fix their issues. If you’re in “fix-it” mode, you’re probably trying to control something, anything, so your brain feels better. Here’s the other thing about fixing other people’s problems: it keeps you from having to focus on yourself and your own life.
Ask your friends and family to give you a signal when you’re in fix-it mode. It will help your brain start seeing the pattern.
Plan your day.
Brains love routines and if your brain doesn’t know what to expect, it will create mental chaos. By taking five minutes in the morning to review the plan for the day, and prepare mentally for any stress that might be happening, will signal “I got this” to your brain and creates calm. The cool thing is that by doing this, it also creates space for the unexpected.
Control is a healthy coping mechanism of the brain until our world feels so out of control that we try to fix everything in it. Give yourself, and your brain, a break from the control and create space for intention and authenticity.
Mattie is a counselor, coach, and CEO of Cerebrations, LLC. With over 25 years of experience in understanding how the brain affects our emotions, reactions, and our experiences, she is passionate about empowering women to harness the power of their brain and body connection to create intentional action and deeper connections with their families. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by scheduling a free consult chat.