To some extent we are all control freaks but very few of us are prepared to admit it! Some of us believe we are helping others by offering “constructive criticism”, or we’ll take over a project because we think “no one else will do it right.” We often don’t see our actions as ‘taking control’, we view it as ‘improving life’ or ‘doing things correctly’. We find it really difficult to accept other people as they are, or a situation as it is and so we try and change things in the belief that we are making life better for everyone.
Are we really that clever that we know the correct way everybody should do everything in every situation? Or are we so focused on our own thoughts that we don’t give much consideration to what others think? It’s irrational (and arrogant) to think that we always know best but it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to see things from other people’s perspective.
Rather than tackle our own irrational thinking we try to control situations, usually by attempting to control other people. When we do this the person we are trying to manipulate will usually choose one of two courses of action:
- They do what we are suggesting which means we think we’ve succeeded in changing things. However usually they don’t choose our approach because they believe we are right, they take this course of action either to please us or to avoid an argument and make their own life easier.
- Alternatively, if they are a control freak too, they will argue with us because they feel they are right and they should be in control!
Whichever path they choose to take, we don’t succeed in changing people inside, they either acquiesce or they argue. And here’s the rub: neither of those will lead to a better relationship. The truth is, we are only responsible for ourselves and our actions. The road to better relationships always starts and ends with us because the only person we actually control is ourselves.
Rather than attempt to control others we could work on becoming a better, more mindful, version of ourselves. Here are few ideas from mindfulness teachings that can help our relationships:
- Stay present. When we are trying to control others we are thinking about the future. It will help us to relax and show acceptance if we can learn to keep our mind in the present moment.
- Be vulnerable. It’s a sign of strength not a sign of weakness to admit that we don’t know all the answers or we’ve got things wrong.
- Be realistic about others. They are not the same as us, they will not see things as we see them and they won’t do things as we do them.
- Become happy with what is. Accept that a large portion of life is full of unknowns and things we cannot control. The more we release control the more we relax and the happier we become.
- Take responsibility for our own happiness. Happiness is a choice and when we completely embrace this we also learn that we are not responsible for the happiness of others.
I began studying mindfulness to help with my anxiety and depression and it’s made a tremendous difference in that area. However I’ve also noticed that by practicing the techniques on a daily basis, many areas of my life have been affected: my health, my relationships, my overall happiness etc. If you’d like to learn more about how mindfulness can help you then have a look around my website.