In this post you’ll learn some highly effective but simple to use techniques to help you let go of control. I start the article by helping you understand how wanting to control works and where it comes from.
I’ll discuss some perspectives that will show you how trying to control things is actually counterproductive and never gives you what you really want.
Then I’ll talk about how when we're surrendered to what is, things seem to work out and our baseline of happiness is much higher.
I also briefly discuss some common misconceptions about what letting go of control is. Hint: It’s not “giving up" and it's definitely not about apathy or being passive.
Finally, I’ll outline several techniques and how you can use them to let go in your moment to moment experience of life.
The Mechanism Of Wanting To Control
Wanting to control the people and things around you is built into the conditioned human mind. When you’re completely identified with the egoic structures of the mind you feel separate and cut off from Life.
This feeling of being only a separate body and mind (me with my name and my “story”) with no depth or transcendent dimension creates psychological fear. We are afraid of “other” people and we're afraid of not being good enough.
We either need to protect ourselves from others for security or we need them to approve of us in order to feel safe.
All this connects back to needing to control people and situations. If we can somehow make them behave in certain ways, perhaps we can get what we want.
Next time you notice yourself trying to control someone, observe closely. Watch how they respond to you. Notice the sensations in your body and the feelings that are stirred up. See if you can feel how both of you are pushing against each other and blocking the flow of real communication.
Another really simple example is with traffic. If you get cut off, you might blare your horn, curse and shout or simply mutter under your breath - but it all comes from wanting to change or control the event.
Even if you're quiet and you don’t curse or mutter when cut off in traffic, there's a good chance you're suppressing your feelings about it. When this happens, it is so we can conform to whatever our idea of what is socially appropriate is. Or we might be afraid of conflict.
This is not the same as letting something go.
Consider that by the time you either express or suppress from this place of resistance, the event has already happened — even though it was only a split second ago!
Because we’ve never directly looked at how this works, it continues to work automatically. This “auto mechanism” is useful for certain things we’ve learned like walking, driving our car and basic arithmetic. But when it becomes our default state of overall consciousness and identity, we’re in trouble.
We believe that by using force we can get what we want and push away what we don’t want.
How is that working for you so far? I’m assuming not so well as you’ve read this far. In the next section, we'll look at how trying to control other people or situations actually works against you.
Why Wanting Control and Resistance Is Counterproductive
The more you push against other people the more they push back. Have you ever noticed this?
Even if you’re bigger and stronger - or even right - and you use force to get your way, you’re not actually getting what you truly want.
Consider that everything we do is because we want to be happy and at peace. Don’t just believe me on this. Sincerely examine your intentions and actions. I’m sure you’ll see that wanting happiness and peace is at the root of everything you do.
For example, if someone yells and screams at a person they "love," it's because they are trying to change that person so that they can then "love" them.
This also means that when you are resisting life's flow and trying to control things, you can never truly be happy.
Even when it seems that you do get what you want, you’re afraid you might lose it. Your white knuckled grip on life is choking the joy out of living.
It wreaks havoc in relationships and makes the people around you miserable.
Eventually, relationships will be destroyed. Even your health can be negatively impacted from the stress of trying to control things so much.
Trying To Control Puts The Brakes On Love and Wisdom
Control is the opposite of Love. Would you rather force someone to love you? (Incidentally, this is why “love spells” are considered to be a form of black magic). Or would you rather they love you because they want to love you of their own free will?
See what I mean? Force or manipulation is not Love. And love is what makes us happy. But wanting to control is going about things in the wrong way.
Love is a feeling of giving with no strings. Giving for the sake of freely giving. But wanting to control is about getting something.
Remember the root cause of why you want to control that we spoke about at the top of this post? It's because you identify completely with your physical body and psychological (ego) structure. This causes you to feel separate from others and from Life.
You are cut off from the deep inner knowing that we are all connected in this Web of Life.
I’m not talking about understanding this intellectually. I’m talking about FEELING this connection. It’s an intuitive knowing as opposed to an intellectual concept. It’s not abstract. Every human being has this knowing “hardwired” in their heart - but since we have had it covered by layers upon layers of social conditioning, many have lost touch with it.
6 Benefits of Letting Go of Control and Surrendering to Life’s Flow
1. More energy and greater vitality for life.
It takes a lot of energy to try to control things. When it's released, it is then available for better things such as feeling gratitude and acceptance. This is what you’re actually unsuccessfully trying to accomplish by wanting to control!
2. Less fear of living and dying.
When you let go of wanting to control you weaken your identification with name and form. This makes it possible to feel your connection with the Invisible Eternity that is the source of your being. Not only that, but you feel this connection more frequently and with greater intensity.
3. Less resistance and inertia - especially in regard to goals.
Going for our goals or dreams brings up a lot of resistance. For this reason, many people don’t even bother. Or if they do, they’re often quite stressed out about it. Any apparent setback can halt us in our tracks. When we let go of wanting to control, we are more resistant to the inevitable challenges and setbacks involved in bringing our dreams to life.
4. More loving relationships.
Wanting to control other people is probably the biggest reason why relationships fail. How do you feel when someone tries to control you? On the other hand, when you allow someone to be the way that they are, they often do what you want simply because they want to! And even if they don’t, you’re still free of the stress caused by believing that they have to be different before you can love them.
5. When action is taken, it’s more powerful and effective.
When we act from control it’s usually in reaction to something from the past. This doesn’t usually lead to the most effective decisions or actions. When our mind is calm and clear we can better see what needs to be done or not done.
6. Greater baseline of happiness and freedom.
Everybody goes through cycles within cycles. Good hair days. Bad hair days. Things go wrong. We win some, we lose some. Our flux of attitudes and inner states of consciousness as these cycles unfold create our “baseline” of happiness. As we remember to let go and surrender to Universal Intelligence more consistently, our baseline of happiness greatly increases.
When I first met my wife many years ago, I knew deep inside that she was the one. But you know how intuitive knowings are — you don’t really “know” in a tangible way so there is still a lot of doubt and fear stirred up from the past.
As we started to get to know each other, I realized that if she really was who I thought she was, I would need to get out of my own way.
I affirmed this every day by saying to my Higher Power “If she really is who I think she is, I surrender it to Your care and Guidance. I only want the Truth of this.”
I really felt this in my heart. It was a major experience of learning how to let go of control. And I'm so grateful that I was able to do so. Because despite having many obstacles and challenges to overcome in the beginning, we were brought together in a beautiful way. And I love her even more now these many years later.
Perhaps you’ve felt something similar. There's probably been a time in your life when you’ve said, “That’s it. I’ve had it. I give up!” And you spontaneously tapped into Higher Intelligence and got out of your own way. As you look back on this, can you see how things that had been stuck were then able to shift?
When You Actually Don’t Want To — Or Can’t Seem To — Surrender.
This pattern of wanting control is so ingrained in the human collective that there are times that no matter how much you want to let go and forgive, you simply can't.
How can you forgive the unforgivable?
But if you look closer, you'll see that it's because you really don’t want to.
That’s right. You don’t want to. Heresy, I know 🙂
Essentially what has happened when you're stuck like this is that your intelligent will has been hijacked. You are completely immersed in the thoughts and chemical reactions of your body-mind.
And it’s almost impossible to even remember that you can choose to let go of wanting to control. When this happens, just do your best. Watch out for judging yourself harshly. This is just more ego. With practice you’ll remember more and more.
It’s not really “you” remembering anyhow. It’s your essential nature - or Higher Self - remembering for you. Ego would never choose to remember the very thing that would mean it’s death as "the one who runs the show!"
Some Myth Busting Re: The Ego
Many people on the spiritual path get the false impression that they are to get rid of the ego.
This is an absolutely ridiculous notion and needs to be stopped! You cannot get rid of the ego simply because the "you" that wants to eliminate ego IS part of thought's movement. No matter how far you advance in spiritual understanding in this lifetime you will always have your personality and psychological structure. It’s part of the warp and woof of God’s expression.
And as a matter of fact, you wouldn’t even be able to tie your shoelaces without having some ego.
Here’s the difference. Your personality/ego will no longer be running the show. You will no longer be completely identified with it. It will still be a filter and a tool through which you engage with the world —but you will derive your identity more and more from Presence.
As you do so, you will spontaneously feel more at one with others and with Life Itself.
1. Relax and place your attention within.
2. Start by relaxing your shoulders and taking a couple of breaths to slow down. Stop engaging with whatever you are engaged with.
3. Now place your attention on your thoughts. Keep part of your attention on your breath as an anchor otherwise you may get swept away by your thought stream.
4. Ask yourself: If these thoughts and feelings are “me,” then who or what is watching them?
5. Notice the space and awareness that is always there before, during and after every thought.
6. This is the deeper “I” that is prior to the mind made sense of self (ego). Some call it "Beingness." It exists effortlessly and spontaneously - and is the changeless background upon which all the experiences of your life appear.
note: I assume that if you've read this far, you realize that God is simply a word pointing to That which cannot be limited by words or concepts - including that of an old man in the sky! You are free to substitute any other words that work for you if you wish. Do your best not to get caught by words or concepts. This is the deeper meaning of idolatry and the worship of false idols.
A Deeper Sense of Self
Recall a time from your childhood or teenage years. Can you remember that this silent effortless awareness was the same then as now? It has always been there in the background of your life. But usually the noise of thought covers it up.
When we forget about this silent space or “witnessing Presence” we become completely identified with our thoughts.
Our thoughts are limited concepts and they are from the past. But when we get lost in them, we believe we are our thoughts.
Thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations are constantly changing like the weather — but our Presence/Awareness is like the spacious and changeless sky that the weather appears within.
This mind made sense of self is where the sense of isolation, walls and separation come from.
Common Misconceptions About Practicing Surrender
“If I let go of control and surrender, won’t life and other people just push me around?”
Consider this perspective. Everything your mind perceives and understands is in “duality.” This means that we need opposites in order to understand to world around us. We perceive light as “light” because of it’s opposite - darkness. Same with up and down, male/female, hot/cold, hard/soft, etc.
Of course there are degrees of this polarization which makes identifying particular things easier. For example, we identify an apple. Not only because it conforms to our saved image of an apple, but because it’s not an orange or a car or anything “not-apple.”
Because of this, whenever we want to be in control there is also an active polarity of wanting to be controlled. When you are resisting something you are also being controlled by it. Some say you’re “giving your power away” to it. Don’t just believe me — look into it for yourself next time (probably won’t be long) you want to control something or someone.
Therefore, whenever we let go of wanting to control, we let go of wanting to be controlled.
We are then free from our automatic reactions to act in a way that is more effective and appropriate. We can simply say “no” or “yes” accordingly. We are free from any concern about feeling obligated or overreacting to something minor.
“If I let go of control and practice surrender, how can I change things for the better?”
The most powerful place of change is from a place of acceptance of the present moment. This includes any uptight or emotional reactions that may be arising within you.
Once we can be at peace with the present moment, we have more clarity to see if anything can be done moving forward. Our consciousness will be expanded instead of contracted. We’ll be able to see options that we couldn’t see when we were caught up in our reaction.
And then we’ll simply take one step in front of the other with whatever actions seem to make sense. Or maybe we’ll see that no external changes are actually necessary and that the only change that was necessary was in our perspective.
Here’s Another Way To Understand Control
Wanting to control and actually HAVING control are 2 different things. Whenever we’re resisting life and fighting with “what is” we are coming from a place of wanting to control.
If you look at this activity within yourself the next time you notice you’re resisting something, you’ll notice that it’s a WANTING to control - because you feel out of control.
"The more you try to control something, the more out of control you feel." - Davidson Yeager (standing on the shoulders of giants).
When you want something it’s only because you don’t have it!
Instead of mentally and emotionally resisting Life, it’s far more effective to let go of the wanting. When you do this, you’ll discover that you already have control.
How To Let Go of Control: Some Techniques
Ok, so we’ve talked about the mechanism of wanting to control, why it’s counterproductive and why letting go actually gives you what you truly want.
Now I’ll share some powerful techniques for letting go of control and surrendering to Higher Intelligence.
1. Notice Whenever Wanting to Control Arises
Just simply notice it whenever you can remember. Some people find it helpful to have a flash card around their home or in their wallet/purse as a reminder. Or on their phone. Whatever works for you is best.
This seems simple. BUT if you can remember to be honest and alert enough to notice when you are trying to control people or things, it will begin to soften - just through the conscious recognition.
Practice this for one day.
Then practice it for the next day.
Then the next day.
Eventually, Awareness/Presence will do the practice for you.
2. Feel Your Feels and Breathe
You see this everywhere on social media. Feel your feels. What exactly does it mean? It does NOT mean to get lost in your feelings and whatever story is driving them. It does NOT mean wallowing in self pity.
It means to feel the sensations in your body. Usually with control programs there are sensations located somewhere in the torso or solar plexus area.
As an added option, you can name the feeling.
It could be anger, lust, frustration, pride, etc. Don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. Just as close as you can name it will do.
Then say “anger (or whatever you named) is here now.”
By doing this, you are already beginning to break up any identification you have with the reaction.
Then place your attention on the sensations and breathe. If you know how to relax your diaphragm and "breathe into your belly" do that. If not, just do the best you can to relax with your breath. If you notice your attention getting swept away by the thought stream in your mind, refocus your attention on the sensations in your body and breathing.
In a few moments or minutes the feelings will begin to dissolve. Occasionally, tears or laughter may come up. That's just part of the release. Please don't think this is necessarily a "deeper release" - or that you have to have cry or laugh in order to let go! This is not necessary. More often, letting go is just a very subtle inner shift.
The technique of self-inquiry (jnana yoga in the east, contemplation in the west) has been around for centuries. The version of this that I use, is a contemporary one from the Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin.
When you notice a feeling of wanting to control come up, ask yourself if you could welcome it into awareness as best you can. It’s already here, so might as well welcome it for now, right? It’s not a judgement call — it’s simply acknowledging that the feeling is here - and you can choose to allow it in this moment.
As a matter off fact, if you can fully welcome a feeling, it will spontaneously dissolve of it's own accord. And you don't need to do any more than this. However, some feelings are "sticky" and need a bit more work. This is outlined below.
Note: Keep in mind this is a very simple outline of this technique. If you’re serious about this kind of work, I highly recommend either working with me in Inner Alchemy or looking into the Sedona Method by Hale Dwoskin for yourself. You can even start with their book as an initial low cost investment (not an affiliated link - just a friendly recommendation).
After welcoming the feeling as best you can, ask “could I let it go?” This just simply means could you. In other words, are you at least open to the possibility? Pause for a few moments.
Then ask “if I could let it go, would I?” Answer “yes” or “no.” Whatever is true for you in that moment. It’s perfectly ok to say “no.” Would you simply means that if you could let it go, then would be willing to let it go?
Next, ask yourself, "when?" This is a cue that usually leads to a spontaneous release. How do you know that you let go? You'll notice you're beginning to feel lighter with the issue. Your breathing will be more relaxed and your shoulders will drop.
In most cases it's helpful to repeat the above steps for several rounds until you at least feel a sense of inner strength and courage about whatever issue was triggering your feelings.
Above all, be honest with whatever is true for you in your experience. Don't try to manipulate things so that you are forcing yourself to let go. It's a choice. And like most things, the more you practice, the easier it gets.
This method is very powerful. Possibly the most powerful method I’ve ever encountered — particularly on “sticky” issues. I can honestly say that in my many years of practicing this, I’ve never had anything that I wasn’t ultimately able to let go of - or at least soften the energy around — even when it’s been a deep loss.
I use this method of self-inquiry to facilitate transformation (along with other modalities and perspectives I’ve practiced and developed over the years) when I work with people in my Inner Alchemy sessions.
This is probably my favourite method -- although it's not really a method or technique. It's simply coming back to the fact that letting go of trying to control is a choice. You see the distortion created by your mind and you make the choice to drop it. Just like you would drop something hot. In some ways this is the most advanced approach and needs to be worked up to. But it could potentially work for anyone at anytime.
There's probably been a time in your life where you just got fed up with something and decided then and there to drop it. That's it! Except now, the practice is to do this more consistently and consciously.
Once you see through and through that trying to control the "totality" of the present moment is not only futile, but brings you further away from what you really want -- peace and happiness -- you simply let it go in real time.
This frees you to be more authentic and powerful. You aren't afraid to say "no," and you aren't afraid of others saying "no" or disagreeing with your opinions and beliefs. You are free to express yourself in an authentic and vulnerable way without being overwhelmed by feelings of being out of control.
Sometimes, you may still feel down but you are still in touch with the peace and happiness at the core of Being. For example, within the past 2 years, I unexpectedly lost my father and also our family cat of 17 years. That kind of loss brings up intense grief and sadness. And in these cases, it is entirely appropriate!
However, because of being connected with Presence, the feelings of grief were able to be processed relatively quickly and they caused far less potential damage to my mental and physical health.
Sure, I still had many times where I would sob and weep! The difference is that I wasn't overwhelmed with the feelings. I wasn't afraid of them. I was (mostly) able to allow them to flow through me and express them in the ways that were appropriate with family members.
Because of this, I was able to be an authentic support with members of my family. This in turn helped them to deal with whatever grief they were experiencing.
I knew in a silent way that goes beyond the limitations of the human mind's concepts and conditioning, that my father and Garcia (our cat) were one with me in Presence. Where could they go? There is only Life. There only IS.
Summary of Letting Go Of Control and Practicing Surrender
1. The mechanism behind trying to control is based upon feeling separate. This is caused by completely identifying with thoughts and feelings and not being aware of it. The image you have about yourself — this “me” has become your complete identity. But it's only an image based upon selective memories. You’ve lost touch with the Totality of Life.
2. Our actions and goals are all rooted in the search for happiness. But happiness is a choice we can only make in the present moment.
3. Trying to control is actually counterproductive because it brings us further from what we really want — Love and happiness.
4. Trying to control things puts the brakes on our goals and destroys relationships.
5. Letting go of wanting control is totally possible. It’s a learnable skill. But you have to want it! This comes through recognizing the damage and misery it’s actually causing. Then you start to practice letting it go and you see the benefits for yourself. Kind of like when someone finally quits smoking — they finally see through the lies of their addiction and conquer it. They realize that better health and taking care of themselves brings them closer to true happiness than the false quick fix of the nicotine.
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