By Daniel A. Miller
Do you feel you need to control every aspect of your life? When we control excessively, we are attempting to alter life’s moving currents and rhythm. When we do this, we are unable to see options and make choices that would significantly change our lives emotionally, creatively and financially. We become imprisoned by our fears, anger and resentment and are thus not open to the wonders that await us.
When we let go of control our blinders are removed and we can begin to enjoy life’s possibilities. Intimate relations become more intimate. Family bonds strengthen. Creative horizons expand. Work becomes more productive and enjoyable. Moreover, when we stop trying to control others, the focus changes from others to ourselves. We can then work on improving our own shortcomings and enhancing our skills and talents.
Let me explain three key ways the decontrol process can improve your life.
Letting go strengthens your bond with your children
Excessive parental control often drives a wedge between parents and their children. There is no question that parental control or authority is essential not only for a child’s health and safety but also for fostering a child’s morals, family values, social manners and learning.
However, many of us overdo it. We become domineering because of our fears, egos, anxieties and insecurities. Consequently, we overmanage our children’s lives and deprive them of opportunities to learn and gain wisdom from their mistakes. Excessive parental control also leads to resistance and even rebellion.
As a major controller I always offered unsolicited advice to my son Brandon. Why? Because I felt I knew what was best for him and I wanted him to see the light. (It’s no secret that controllers are short on humility!) However, as a teenager, he was very dismissive of my many “suggestions.” That of course raised my ire. How could my sage advice be “put down” so quickly? But the far more serious problem for me was my controlling ways severely damaged our communications and bond.
Later, after l had learned the value of letting go of control, I stopped offering Brandon advice or even making suggestions. This certainly was not easy because the need to control can be very powerful—particularly in parenting, where our fears are so powerful.
What ensued was highly unexpected and enlightening. Brandon actually began asking me for advice about challenging issues he faced. I was of course thrilled to help out. I felt more a part of his life. It was thus through giving up control that I was able to reconnect with my son in a very special way.
Letting go of control fosters intimacy
Intimate relations are fertile grounds for controlling actions. Love control runs the gamut from unsolicited advice and opinions to criticism and unreasonable demands.
These actions invariably breed resentment from our mates. After all, who likes being told how to be and act—particularly in matters of the heart?
A case in point is Nancy, who was forever “recommending” to her boyfriends things they should do to better their lives. Moreover, she constantly repeated her ideas because she was one of those controllers who believed offering advice more than once would increase the chances of it being followed. Although her intentions may have been good, her messages were poorly received—and rarely followed. Indeed, for most of her beaus it was a turnoff.
Nancy thus never really achieved the intimacy she strived so hard for. She didn’t realize that true intimacy can only come if we accept our loved ones just as they are, rather than trying to change them. This acceptance allows the love currents to unfold naturally so that people can just relax and be themselves—and offer their love and kindness without pressure or expectations.
Letting go of control expands your creative horizons
Another area where letting go of control bestows gifts is in our creative endeavors. Creativity flourishes when we open up, whereas control closes us down by restricting freedom of thought and process. Examples of creative control actions are pressing too hard for completion, overthinking and overanalyzing creative works and setting overly high expectations.
Another obstructive control action in creativity is when we become bent on strictly following “rules” or “principles.” When I first began painting, I had only two short lessons from master artist Paul Eventoff. To my surprise, in less than a year I was turning out paintings that brought unexpected accolades. I was of course very excited and craved to learn more, particularly about landscape painting, so I took a weeklong plein air workshop in Vermont. I had a new instructor each day who propounded his personal painting “principles.” When I returned home after the workshop, I tried to incorporate all these principles in my paintings. The results were catastrophic. In very short order, I had lost my unique style and way of painting. I was really discouraged.
Six months later I expressed my concerns to Paul, and he shared with me the parting advice that the dean of the Maryland Institute of Art had given his class’s graduating students: “Now forget everything you learned and just go paint!” That was exactly what I needed to hear. To me that meant just let go and enjoy the process. I resumed painting without any expectations and went with what felt right and natural to me, incorporating my new knowledge selectively and intuitively. Within a few months my painting took on a new maturity.
Thus, through letting go of control in our creative endeavors, our natural and unique creativity can shine through, often resulting in original works of lasting beauty.
Accept this challenge!
I challenge you to do the following for the next week:
• With respect to your children, listen attentively to them without offering advice. Recognize that they are different from you in the way they think and process things, and accept that your way may not be the right way—for them.
• In your love relationship, lower your expectations of your mate—and of yourself. Focus on what steps you can take to improve your love bond.
• With respect to your creative endeavors, focus on just enjoying the process. Don’t plan or think too much about the outcome. Don’t fret about making “mistakes.” Start a piece with the intention of not completing it, and see what unfolds.
Even if you are only partially successful in doing these things, you will begin to discover that letting go of control brings you freedom and contentment!
Daniel A. Miller is a businessman, an artist and the author of Losing Control Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us And How to Let It Go . Daniel writes about control issues at Losing Control, Finding Serenity.