Feeling Out of Control? Just Breathe...

Frustration.  Anxiety.  Aggravation.  These are some of the feelings I have when things happen that are outside of my control.  I had to take a test the other day.  I prepared for weeks and felt pretty good about it.  I was ready to get it over with.  I got to the testing center the next morning and lo and behold, the test facility was having technical difficulties and could not sign anyone in to take the exam.  Wow!  That’s great.  I never thought a test could get postponed, but it did.  It was aggravating.  I just wanted it over with and now I have to reschedule it.  Was it a “God-thing”?  Quite possibly. I now have more time to study.  Maybe I wasn’t fully prepared.  The point, however, is that I had no control over the situation and I felt very frustrated.

Another instance of frustration is when people feel things that I do not want them to feel.  My brother is getting married and my wife and kids are not able to stay at the same hotel as the rest of the extended family.  I’m fine with that, but my dad said it kind of bummed him out.  I hate that he feels this way.  I want him to be perfectly fine with us staying a little farther away, but he’s not.  I feel anxious and upset that my dad is bummed.  His feelings are completely out of my hands.  I can’t control his emotions.  I can’t control the emotions of anybody, however hard I try!  

So much of our lives is not in our hands.  We have no control over traffic.  We have no control over our peers and colleagues.  We have no control over anything outside of our bodies; and even with our bodies we don’t have a whole lot of control.  We get sick.  We get tired at inopportune times.  We become upset.  So, our bodies are frustrating us as well.

I read an article during lunch that was really depressing and I said to myself that “I can’t let this happen to me.  I can make a difference in this world.  I can be a positive influence,” and I get home and the last thing I want to do is continue in that vein—it’s too challenging.  Where would I begin?  I don’t have the resources.  I’m powerless.  I’m frustrated.  I’m sad.

I’m stuck.  I’m stuck in this position of wanting to make a difference—to have control, but I don’t.  Why am I in this place?  Why am I stuck here?  Where is God in all this?  Doesn’t He know that I want to be special?  Doesn’t he know I want to be a difference-maker in this world?  Doesn’t he know that traffic ruins my plans to make it home in time to binge watch The Mindy Project on Hulu!

May I suggest in these situations where a lack of control elicits frustration, anxiety and/or aggravation is to just breathe.  Breathe in deeply and then exhale very slowly—for about 5 minutes.  Just do that.  You’re body will regulate itself and you may feel a tiny semblance of control, which is all we really got.  We can control our breathing.

Here are some other things we can control: our behavior, our thoughts, our emotions (to a large degree), what we focus on, what we believe, who our friends are, how disciplined we are, what our influences are, and lastly, the choices we make.  But they are all a lot less sexy than what we really want to control: the weather, our peers, our loved ones, traffic, the government, the economy, results, and if we’re really honest, the whole world.  Yep, we want to play God and design the world to our liking.  That would be awesome.  Back in reality we have little to no control over any of those things (at least most of us don’t).  The things we have control over are largely personal to ourselves.  They are also the things for which we should take full responsibility.  Whatever we control is also our responsibility.  

With the blame game we indulge to protect ourselves from failure, shame, guilt, responsibility, and whatever else we want to avoid facing.  Maybe having so few things which we can truly control isn’t such a bad thing after all?  We fret over so many things that are outside our realm of control; we expend so much time, energy, and thought over these things in an exhausting attempt to feel power over them and yet we’re left worn out with nothing to show for it.  Maybe what we really need is a little courage to face the person in the mirror and deal with the things we can control, however small and insignificant they appear, and watch as our lives become a little more peaceful and pleasant and quite possibly more successful.

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