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Are You Controlling?

Stephen Lau -- Focusing on doing our best rather than concentrating on controlling the outcome of a situation can reduce stress, as well as improve our chances of finding new possibilities that may make things turn out in our favor.

Most of us are controlling to some extent. Underlying every one of us is the inherent belief that we should be in control of everything around us at all times.

What exactly is controlling? Why makes people want to control others as well as their own destiny?

Control is a coward way of running away from everyday problems; it is a futile attempt to avoid everyday stress. Essentially, it is a direct or subtle way of exerting influence over others so that we may have power over the turn of events in our own lives. In other words, we delusively think we can make things happen the way we want them to happen in our lives through control and manipulation of others. Of course, it is only a wishful thinking that we can have total control of what happens in our lives.

Indisputably, life is forever changing, whether we like it or not. Just learn to accept the fact that we are sometimes helpless to stop an unwelcome change in our lives. Paradoxically, accepting that unwelcome change may actually bring us peace of mind. Unfortunately, many of us simply choose to avoid it by controlling people who, we think, may either cause or avert that unwelcome change. Control stems from fear and worry, which are the major factors of stress.

There is a difference between discipline and control. We can discipline our children so that they may do the right things without getting into trouble. But many of us still want to "control" them even when they have turned adults; we may want to steer them away from the difficult paths we had trotted when we were young. That, in reality, is controlling. We can give them advice, but imposing anything on them is deemed as exerting control. Life is full of changes, without which there will be no evolution and no transformation, and hence no enlightenment. Even our children have to experience their own problems, and learn their own lessons from them. Controlling their destiny is not beneficial to their growth and development as mature individuals.

The Biblical story of the parable of the prodigal son is a good illustration of what is NOT controlling. (Luke 15: 11-32) In the story, a man had two sons, and the younger son asked for his fortune; the father gave it to him, and he spent it recklessly. When he was out of money and the land was struck by famine, he returned home to his father, who welcomed him back. To many, the story highlights God's forgiveness of repentant sinners. But the story also illustrates the power of letting go of control. If you were the father of the prodigal son, what would you have done in his shoes?

Obviously, the son was rebellious -- asking for his inheritance before the time was due -- and wayward. If the father had said "no" to his son's request, he would be seen as "controlling" the destiny of his son. He must have admonished his son but to no avail before he finally succumbed to his request for the inheritance due to him. So, saying "no" to his son's request should be viewed more as "controlling" than as "disciplining" his son. It must be pointed out that the father must have anticipated the tragic outcome of giving his son his inheritance. Nevertheless, the father gave him the money; he was, in fact, saying "yes" to the realities of life.

In the Biblical story, the ending was favorable because the father put his trust in God, who oversees the big picture. For those who do not believe in God or divine intervention, the story could have ended the same way too. Why? It is because events and things in nature follow a natural course or pattern. We should go with the natural flow rather than against it. Spontaneity brings harmony, while resistance results in disharmony. If the prodigal son wanted his inheritance, there was no way to stop him. If he would squander his money, he would do the same then, or later when he duly inherited his money after his father's death. The objective was not to avoid the spending through controlling but to let the son learn a valuable lesson from the spending. Of course, in real life, the ending could have been tragic: the son spent the money and never came home -- but that is life!

In a world of impermanence, we should adopt an attitude of acceptance and trust, complemented by the willingness to let go of control. Our focus should be on doing our best rather than concentrating on controlling the outcome of a situation. Concentrating on controlling not only generates stress but also hinders our chances of finding new possibilities that may make things turn out in our favor.

Stephen Lau is a writer and researcher with book publications and websites on natural health and healing, vision health and vision improvement, money matters, golf and personal development. For more information on the art of living well, visit the author's blog: Zen Is The Way. Stephen has publications and websites on holistic living in harmony with nature. Visit his most recent website: Doctor, You're Fired!.

© 2011 Stephen Lau

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