THE BLOG
12/23/2014 02:14 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

When Control Gets Out of Control

Jessica Peterson via Getty Images

Margie was the best hostess. She greeted everyone at the door. She passed appetizers and offered drinks. Margie ensured that everyone had a good time and that absolutely everything was perfect. The problem was -- this was not Margie's party. She was a guest at the party like everyone else and yet she acted as if she owned the place. Margie is a control freak. She needs to be in charge. She needs to be in control. I used to be like Margie.

When I was in the height of my Type-A days, I was a major control freak. I felt responsible for the feelings and actions of all those around me. I felt responsible for ensuring everything within my view went smoothly. My body ached due to the weight I put on my own shoulders. I was in a constant state of alert watching for something to be out of alignment for me to fix. My adrenals worked overtime as the stress I created never receded.

Finally, one day while I was out with a friend, I finally realized how far my desire for control had gotten. As I talked to my friend, a stranger's towel five feet away from me was picked up by the wind and almost fell in the water. I gasped and lunged in vain for the towel. My friend called me on it and I finally realized the extent my sense of responsibility had gotten. I was no longer living my life. I was living solely to care for everything and everyone around me. Realizing my desire for control and responsibility smothered my ability to enjoy life, I had to make a change.

Why do we feel we need to be in control all the time and in every situation?

For Margie, her intent was not to be rude to the actual hostess. The reason Margie took on the responsibilities of the hostess, and the reason many of us do it, is to feel safe. If she could ensure everyone was happy, no one would attack her. If nothing broke, she couldn't be blamed. If nothing went wrong, there was nothing for her to feel guilty about. If she took care of everything, then she was safe and secure. Control is a security blanket in a scary uncertain world.

Did you know there is a better way to feel safe? Do you know there is a more relaxed way to be productive?

Instead of holding an iron first around everyone and everything around you, try letting go. Control binds us keeping us closed off and small. Releasing our feeling of responsibility and misbelief in the power of control, we can actually find real contentment.

If we turn to nature, we see that it does not fight to control. A maple tree does not feel responsible for its saplings; the tree naturally releases seeds trusting they will fare well. A stream does not try to direct its course; water simply flows the path of least resistance. A bird does not create an exact flight plan; taking flight the bird trusts its internal guidance system and adapts easily to new wind currents and obstacles.

Next time you catch yourself trying to control the uncontrollable, next time you feel tightness in your back as you strain to make something bend to your will, take a breath. Relax. Wait. Instead of forcing what you believe must happen, relax into the flow of what is emerging. We always have choice and action but instead of misbelieving we can create the outcome, relax into the truth of the situation and then like the river choose the path of least resistance. You will find that things happen for the better, with less effort, and in amazing ways you could not have imagined. And you fill find a love of life again.