I have been trying to write this post for a month — seriously. But one thing or another would get in the way: work, family responsibilities, illness, scheduled commitments. The very subject of control seemed to attract a barrage of incoming demands, both positive and negative, as though Life wished to make sure I would write from experience.
So much of life is outside our control.
Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar? You have health worries or childcare issues, difficult co-workers or car problems. Your children aren’t behaving. You have so many responsibilities and there’s never enough time or money. Life just keeps coming at you. And every issue outside your control feels like a barb of mounting pressure, creating stress—sometimes to the point of panic or depression. In your worst moments, you think about running away, but where would you run? So you manage to keep going through it all, feeling as though your emotions are passengers on a runaway train.
Maybe it’s not that bad. Perhaps, like me, you simply feel that the rhythm of your life’s dance has somehow become chaotic, your body disjointed and unable to keep up with the relentless staccato beat. And you’re asking: Who chose this music and made me dance?
The answer, of course, is that you did and I did, and though it’s true that we don’t have control over life’s events and others’ behaviors, we do have choices about how we respond — control over the music we choose and whether and how we dance.
The following journaling prompts about control can help us understand and explore the choices we have made, as well as support us in composing a different kind of music to dance to — if we so choose.
- Perform a word association beginning with the words “control” and “choice.” When you’re done, gaze at the words you wrote. What patterns emerge? What is the emotional tone? What do your word lists reveal about you?
- What images and emotions come to mind when you think of being “in control”? Write these down. Then look up and write down the dictionary definition of “control.”
- What images and emotions, what people or events come to mind when you think of being “out of control”?
- Make a list of ten things in your life that seem outside your control. For each item in your list, write down how you have been responding to it. Then brainstorm ways you could respond that would feel better to you. For example, a person might write “time” as something outside her control. Ways she has been responding include: sense of urgency, resistance, tension, sleeping less in order to get more done. How could she respond in ways that would feel better? Breathe, slow down, embrace each moment, accept “what is,” let go of the unimportant.
- How does writing down the different responses change your sense of what is and is not under your control?
- If choice were an object, how large would it be? What color or colors? What would it feel like to the touch? What would it smell and taste like? And where would you keep it?
- Finally, freewrite for ten minutes about life as a dance. What kind of music do you choose? How do you see yourself dancing? What do you need to learn in order to dance skillfully?
I would love to hear from you. Keeping with the life as a dance metaphor, what music do you choose to dance to?