Brene Brown defines “vulnerability” as:
and emotional exposure.
She also explains how it’s the essence of humanity. All emotions have their source in vulnerability. But we don’t really like vulnerability. Most of the messages we grew up with emphasized the negative aspects of being vulnerable. They sounded like;
“Suck it up”, “Power through,” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and “Emotions are weak.”
There are more, but all these messages say the same thing: “Don't feel, control.” And that’s precisely what we try to do. Some of us have gotten pretty good at it, but life is MESSY, and the fact is, there is more outside of our control than under it.
Maybe we’re thinking about control incorrectly.
IS CONTROL HURTING YOU?
We don’t like feeling uncomfortable emotions so we try to predict how to avoid them. How we go about trying to control things in our life typically looks like we’re trying to control the circumstances outside of us, or predict them.
We put on shields of protective armor where we try to prove, perfect, please or perform all with the intention of being able to control what hits us, what triggers our emotional state.
In his book the Untethered Soul, Michael Singer relates this to having a thorn in our side. He asks, if you had a thorn in your side would you pull it out or would you build a contraption to protect it from getting touched, which ultimately would be uncomfortable, potentially painful for you. Logically most of us say we’d pull it out, knowing doing so will be painful, but just for a moment and then we wouldn't have to worry about the thorn.
But we do the opposite in our daily life. Our daily life thorns are our triggers, things that touch our limiting beliefs. Instead of working on them and upgrading our mindset and sense of self (aka pulling the thorn out) we react, we blame, we try to control our circumstances in an attempt to prevent our thorn being hit (aka the contraption).
For example, when you have a work project that is important, you likely spend more time on it, going over and over details trying to make it look perfect. Why, because you want to do a good job….or because you’re afraid if it’s not perfect your boss won’t like it? And what would that mean about you!
We’re trying to control ourselves from feeling the uncomfortable, but inevitable, emotions of life. Nobody gets through life without suffering and pain. It’s ok to not like these experiences, but when you use control as protection, you end up causing more suffering for yourself.
What it does is it creates unrealistic expectations of how things are supposed to go, and if they don’t….if they aren’t perfect or damn near perfect, then we suffer. Weddings are a perfect example of this!
Planning a wedding is A LOT of work! But my day was perfect…..to me, but I’m not sure my mom would agree. We got married on a beach with just our bridal party, so only 21 people. It was a beautiful day, no complaints. Then in the middle of our ceremony the wind picked up BIG time. To the point our huppa almost fell over, and we needed our best man and maid of honor to hold is sturdy.
But the best part was, one of my best guy friends was officiating and he couldn’t turn the page to read the next part. As he got flustered he got redder and redder. And all I could do was laugh. What did I have to be upset about, I was marrying my best friend.
When people dream of their wedding they don’t dream of a random windstorm, but now I have sooooo many pictures of me laughing. I remember the wind, but what I remember about it is the spontaneous joy it allowed.
Had I been so hooked on controlling how the day would go, I WOULD’VE CREATED suffering ona very important day.
If you’re trying to control people, circumstances, plans, or anything externally be mindful of why. If it’s to protect yourself or so things can go well, you’re likely setting yourself up to suffer.
CONTROL HELPING YOU
Then there’s TRUE control, control within. This would look like pulling the thorn out. Instead of trying to control all the things you can’t in an attempt to protect yourself, it’s shifting to control what you can….YOU!
It starts with acceptance. Accepting ALL of who you are, not only the stuff you like about yourself. And understand that you can dislike something within and still accept yourself. It's just acknowledging it’s true.
But it’s also accepting you can’t escape uncomfortable emotions. They will find you one way or another. The goal is to be aware of your emotional triggers and work through them to create peace.
The beauty of this control is it’s foundation is in peace. It’s not giving power to anything external to take your energy. It’s choosing when to expend emotional energy because you want to, not because you can’t control it.
That is why I call it true control. When we emotionally react to a trigger, we aren’t in control…our thorn is being touched. BUT when we have forgiven ourselves, healed, built our self esteem and self identity we control when we emotionally engage.
WHERE TO START
Now I’m aware I put it simply, no big deal, accept life as it is, and accept yourself as you are. WAY easier said than done, I know! So start with patience AND acceptance.
Understand you’ve been trying to control your outside world in an attempt to keep yourself safe. You’ve been doing it for years, that pattern is very solid in your brain. Transitioning will be messy.
It’ll feel like sometimes you’re holding onto controlling your outside environment and other times noticing you’re controlling your inside environment. Regardless it’s all helpful.
When you are learning, and you slip into old behaviors of trying to control your outer world, notice why. What emotional state are you trying to avoid. Then you know the emotional thorn you need to heal from.
That’s what it’ll feel like. Mentally it looks like seeing what is and acknowledging it’s happening. That’s all acceptance really is, acknowledgment.
But you don’t have to do it alone. I have a FREE handout I give to my clients to help them gain perspective on how they view the world. If you’re ready to pull your thorn out click HERE!