Last year, I wrote a blog on living by letting go of control. I was very rigid in my day to day. Everything was planned down to the schedule and this need to control bled into how I handled my hearing loss. Since that post, I learned a lot about what control can mean when it concerns my day to day living regardless of ability and also when it concerns my disability itself.
I thought I had to let go of control entirely in order to feel like I was living freely. This is actually an extreme view. Like all things, it’s all about balance. It’s finding the balance between too much control, and too little control.
Control is a healthy thing to have because it gives us autonomy over what we want out of our lives. It’s only when the desire to control bleeds leads to the inability to handle change. For example, when things don’t go according to plan, it causes a major disruption in your emotions, and how you perceive the situation.
I’m not speaking about major life events - those are always jarring, but about something on a smaller scale - like a friend canceling on you at the last minute or a pivot on a project you were working on. Those events don’t seem like a big deal to most people, but for some, it might cause them to panic, or be really upset. Both types of reactions are valid, but if you dig deeper into the more extreme reaction, you can’t help but think, ‘what is causing the emotional disruption? Is it because things haven’t gone to plan or is it around the loss of control of the situation?’
Carefully controlling every aspect of life can lead to a lower emotional resiliency to unexpected events. More time gets spent on fretting over the loss of control rather than on dealing with the moment head on. That’s when the concept of control can become toxic.
However, for folks with certain types of disabilities, control is necessary for them to function in their day to day. For example, some folks with ADHD need to have control over their environment, by minimizing loud noises or clutter, in order to be comfortable in that space.
Everyone’s relationship with control is different. I used to control so many aspects of my life - some aspects centered around my hearing and some did not. Some of the ways I let my need to control take over are when I:
- Plan where I sit in any environment - so that I can be in the best position and location to hear as much as I can when I can. I used to plan to get to places early so I could grab the best spot, or dish out extra money to get closer seats to the stage when watching a live show. I still do this every now and then, because to me, this is an aspect of controlling that helps rather than hinders me - I’m always going to want to place myself in a situation where I can hear the most, but I won’t get upset if what I initially planned doesn’t happen.
- Obsessively map out the route I was going to take when driving. I hope I’m not the only one that does this! I used to map out the route I was going to take when driving to a location I wasn’t familiar with, find out exactly where to park, and what to expect in the surrounding area. For me, it wasn’t the planning ahead that bothered me, but the control and level of anxiety I built with myself when it came to driving somewhere new. I had to let that go - and have enough faith in my driving skills that I can handle whatever happens when I’m on the road. I’ll figure out where to park when I’m there. It’ll be fine!
- Plan when to do certain tasks. For example, I blocked out specific time slots in my calendar to write this blog post. I blocked out time for everything - when to prepare meals, when to workout, when to clean my room. On the surface, this was great - I was giving myself the discipline to do these tasks by intentionally making space for it in my day. But, what happens if something disrupts that plan? I would get irritated - this was the time I set aside to do ‘x’, and now I can’t do ‘x’ anymore. Now, I let go of that control - I can still do ‘x’, just at another time, and that’s ok.
Giving myself the permission to control every aspect of my life gave me some discipline, but it also lowered my resiliency to change and spontaneity. I wasn’t allowing myself to go with the flow or to follow my intuition. My response to any sort of change in plans was to become irritable, or feeling caged in and anxious when things didn’t go my way. When I realized that, I knew something had to change.
Control is important in different aspects - especially for folks that have disabilities that need a sense of control in order to manage it effectively. I had to learn how to relinquish control in certain situations, and to realize that by relinquishing control, I was gaining freedom. I took my belief that I had to completely let go of control, and instead noted what I could/couldn’t control and why.
For example, I could control where I sit in a room so I can hear as best as I’m able because I’m advocating for myself, and giving myself the best experience I could in that situation.
A lot of it boiled down to the realization that I can’t control what happens (especially unexpected changes), or how people are going to act, but I can control my own reaction. Letting go of certain types of control ultimately made me feel more free. If there’s one thing you know you don’t need to control, what is it, and how can you let it go?