Do you favour predictability over variety? Is it hard for you to maintain your mental or emotional flexibility when a situation suddenly changes? Does your mind tend to loop in order to find the right way out of a perceived problem? Does it make you feel uneasy when you don’t have a lot of say in a certain situation or does it even trigger you to become angry? Do you hold immense expectations for others as well as for yourself?
Most traumatic experiences we might have had in our lives have their share of lacking control over the situation, which in response triggers our need for certainty. Certainty is a big part of our survival mechanism and shows up as the need to avoid pain and gain pleasure and comfort. We need certainty in order to function in our daily lives. When we have experienced trauma we can react with a heightened need for control and start behaving accordingly.
Unfortunately life is full of uncertainty. You can loose your job. Your partner can leave you. A loved one can become seriously ill. You might have to move to a different city where you don’t know anybody. Currently we are in a situation worldwide where uncertainty is a huge part of our every day life. We ask ourselves things such as: How do I have to behave today in order to comply with current restrictions? Will we get sick and if so how sick will we get? What will my professional life look like in a week, a month or a year? How will this ongoing situation impact my children and their physical and mental health?
Nevertheless building your life on a stiffened sense of certainty or a constant need to control it is not a long-term solution that allows you to be happy and relaxed. Instead it creates higher levels of stress and anxiety. Rather than becoming depressed you can ask yourself what are steps you can take to loosen your tensed grip on life.
Here are a few ideas:
- You can start by understanding and accepting where your personal heightened need for continuity and certainty comes from. Understanding your history helps you have sympathy with your automated responses and is a good starting point to change them. Just make sure not to get stuck there.
- There is a multitude of methods you can use to release the emotional charge around the experiences that created your control issue as well as your mental and emotional reactions to it. They can support you in making the change happen.
- Notice that by stifling the natural movement of life via controlling and expecting you don’t create more joy and peace but rather a lack of freedom and flow.
- Develop and strengthen your sense of trust in yourself and life. Know that you are presented only the challenges you are capable of overcoming, even if it occasionally feels quite different. The problems you face are meant to make you stronger over time, not crush you.
- Create routines and rituals that are depended on yourself, not the world around you. What do you need to feel comfortable with the level of uncertainty you currently have to face?
- Take note of the happenings, which show how much you are supported; by life, your loved ones and yourself. You can let that feed your trust and let it ground you in the awareness that you are cared for.
Once you’ll stop stressing over things you cannot control and instead focus on what you can make happen you will see how powerful you really are. Maybe you’ll even end up agreeing with Søren Kierkegaard:
“Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.”