The Illusion of Control: Chasing Safety and Security
Life is inherently uncertain and unpredictable. Regardless of our efforts to control our lives and circumstances, the truth remains that we have precious little control over what the future may bring or hold for us. This awareness can lead to a heightened desire to maintain a sense of control, especially during times of great uncertainty like the current situation in May of 2020. However, it is crucial to acknowledge that life, at its core, is uncertain.
I once worked with someone who constantly asked themselves, "What if?" They would immerse themselves in a world of worst-case future scenarios, meticulously planning their reactions and actions for each imagined situation. Interestingly, none of these scenarios have ever materialized. Nonetheless, this client devoted a significant amount of their energy and emotional resources to this mental preparation. Their belief was rooted in the notion that leaving anything to chance would jeopardize their sense of safety and security, leading them to more anxiety, a rigid and strict mindset and a life devoid of joy or fun. A realization that later in our work would become an important insight in changing beliefs and behaviours.
Choosing Trust Over Fear
It's tempting to believe that more control equals greater safety, while the absence of control signifies danger. This mindset can lend itself to the illusion that we can exert absolute control over our lives and external circumstances, if only we plan and execute everything perfectly. In reality, we can only make educated guesses about what the future holds; complete knowledge of the next moment eludes us, and it always will.
Yet, rather than succumbing to fear and allowing it to dictate our lives, we get to make a choice. That choice is whether we live from a place of fear or from a place of trust. It's the trust in ourselves that we can handle whatever situation arises. Trust that we can become big enough to hold it all, our fears, our doubts, our uncertainties as well as our joy, our love and our worthiness. Regardless of what we decide, the future keeps being uncertain - and to some degree unpredictable - but our internal stance will make all the difference in how we approach this fact.
Confronting Fear: Discovering Our Courage
While fear may still arise, its grip on our minds and imagination weakens. When we face our fears, we build our courage and follow our curiosity, enabling us to explore new paths and ways of being that were previously uncharted. As with any emotion, it is important to recognize that fear exists within the larger space of our essence, of our being, of our true selves. Yet, it isn't all that we are, it is but a temporary aspect of our existence. By acknowledging fear without being consumed by it, we can become viscerally aware that we are bigger and more powerful than our fears have us believe.
Life's uncertainty, instead of being a source of anxiety, can be seen as an abundance of opportunity - or pure possibility. When we embrace uncertainty and accept fear as an integral part of the human experience, we liberate vast amounts of energy previously wasted on futile attempts to control and predict the future.
Breaking the Cycle: Reclaiming Our Power
Although external circumstances may temporarily create an illusion of safety and security, deep down, we know that this perception is fragile and can crumble at any moment. Hence, we may find ourselves holding on even tighter and trying to control even more circumstances. This realization brings us back to the cyclical pattern of giving away our power in exchange for an illusory sense of control.
Can we learn to love, accept, and be with uncertainty? Can we embrace the state of not knowing and fully acknowledge that we can never be certain of what the next moment holds? I believe yes, that's possible. One way of doing that is by adopting a radical acceptance of what is. Tara Brach wrote a powerful book about this idea and it has been a meaningful resource for facing life's numerous challenges in a practical way, leading to more ease and less resistance.
What is your strategy for dealing with life's uncertainties? Leave a comment below.