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Letting Go of Uncontrollables

Chapter 7 Letting Go of the Uncontrollables

and Unchangeables

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.

What is letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables?

Letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in life is the:

  • Admitting that you are not responsible to affect a change or correct a problem which is beyond your competency, power, authority or responsibility.
  • Releasing of yourself from an overresponsible sense of obligation, duty, or requirement to make everything perfect in your life and the life of others.
  • Allowing yourself to rid yourself of the perfectionistic need to control every aspect of your life so that nothing goes wrong in it.
  • Getting rational and realistic about what is and is not your obligation or duty to correct, change, or control.
  • Freeing up of yourself to be able to say no or I can't when faced with insurmountable problems out of your reach.
  • Accepting of a Higher Power who is stronger and a great source of power to whom you can hand over these things out of your control.
  • Accepting of your powerlessness over things and handing these things over to your Higher Power.
  • No longer taking a direct action to effect a change but handing the situation over to the goodness and mercy of your Higher Power in hope that the solution will rest in the Higher Power's authority and wisdom.
  • Admitting that you can only do so much and after that it is up to your Higher Power to take over.
  • Realistic acceptance after fully grieving a loss that there is nothing left to be done but to accept the loss and hand the loss from this point on over to your Higher Power's care and love.
  • Culmination of extensive problem solving, brainstorming, and testing alternatives with the final conclusion that you can do nothing to change the circumstances of the issue out of your reach and control and that it would be saner and more realistic to free your energy up by letting go of the issue and handing it over to your Higher Power.

What are the negative effects of not letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life?

If you are unable to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life, you could:

  • Become so obsessed with the need to solve everything on your own that you run the risk of physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • Never attain personal serenity and peace by accepting the human condition at work in your life.
  • Never establish an effective means of handing over to your Higher Power the too big to solve issues in your life and thus become bogged down in chasing your tail in these issues.
  • Find that you are never at rest, always having these issues stirring up your emotional resources and energy.
  • Become so anxious, stressed, insecure, and depressed over these issues that your personal effectiveness lessens at home, work, school, or in the community.
  • Become so obsessed with these issues that they are the only topic of conversation or focus of attention you have in your life.
  • Be driven by the sense of failure, not being good enough,or guilt for not fixing the issues and become depressed and very hard in your self-assessments until you believe that you are the failure who is out of control and needing to be changed into a perfect, all powerful, infallible being.
  • Become competitive with your Higher Power as the source of wisdom and light in the lives of those whom you are so desperately trying to control, fix, and change.
  • Begin to refer to yourself in terms only appropriate in describing your Higher Power because of your belief that you have the power to solve the unsolvable situations in your life. Because of this inflated ego and incapability of solving the unsolvable, your self-esteem and self-worth take a beating.
  • Become so obsessed with the sense of shame, guilt, failure, incompetence in solving the unsolvable problems that your low self-esteem becomes more exacerbated.
  • Make such great sacrifices to save the things beyond your control that you lose everything in your life which gave it meaning including marriage, money, success, business, jobs, children, relationships, and even your life.

 

How is letting go of the uncontrollables a control issue?

Letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life is a control issue because:

  • It depowers the external locus of control issues in your life and helps strengthen your internal locus of control.
  • Unless you let go of those things over which you are powerless, you run the risk of burning out your emotional and physical energy, enthusiasm, spirit, resources, and reserves.
  • Letting go is an act by which you release your need to control every situation, person, place, or thing in order to ensure that your sanity is not threatened.
  • It is an open admission that you do not need to exercise power and control over people, places, things, or situations which are not amenable to such efforts.
  • It frees you up to gain self-control over your own life without guilt or fear of reprisals by those people, places, or things which you have let go of.
  • You have not let others' intimidations, manipulation, overdependency, or helplessness hook you into being a fixer, caretaker, or rescuer of that which is not amenable to being fixed or helped.
  • It is often due to your idealism and irrational belief system about how perfect things should be that you get trapped into unhealthy efforts to solve things which are not solvable and by letting go you gain the ability to free up and focus on yourself, the one thing you can control and change.
  • It involves detaching from persons, places, or things which have had emotional hooks on you and threatened your overall well-being.
  • It allows you to cease controlling by fixing those unfixables in your life.
  • It allows you to release those for whom you are a caretaker who are not improving from the care you are offering them.
  • Recognizing that there is a Higher Power to whom you can let go of those things which you are powerless to control or change is an act of self-control and a step towards self-healing.
  • By admitting that you are not omnipotent, infallible, omniscient or superhuman, you can allow yourself to take control over yourself once you let go of those things holding you down in a quicksand of non-coping, self-pity, and sick behaviors.

What is some irrational and unhealthy thinking which leads you to not let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life?

  • I must solve every problem that comes my way.
  • Only I can solve these problems.
  • If I don't solve these problems, I will be seen by others as a failure or no good.
  • I need to fix all of these things perfectly and as soon as possible.
  • There is no one else available who is going to help me solve these problems.
  • All those people need to do is to follow what I've told them to do.
  • This place would be ideal if it would only do what I want it to do.
  • These things wouldn't be so bad off if they had been left to me to take care of by myself.
  • They don't know what to do and they need me to tell them.
  • They can't do anything right without me. If they lose or fail, it will reflect badly on me.
  • What would others think if things didn't work out the way they were supposed to?
  • I've only known crisis, chaos, and panic in my life so why should I expect any peace, calmness, or serenity if I leave them to take care of themselves?
  • I must make everything better around here or else I'll go crazy.
  • If I let go too soon, things might change and I'd be sorry for releasing them too prematurely.
  • If I let go of them, I might lose them.
  • If I stop trying to fix and change them, they would no longer need me and leave me.
  • There must be a way to turn them around and I can't give up yet.
  • What if they blame me for not taking care of them if they fail or fall flat on their faces?
  • I'd rather sacrifice myself than have them blame me later for not helping them.
  • They are so irresponsible they would never do it on their own.
What can you do to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life?
In order to let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life, you need to follow the words of the Prayer for Serenity by Reinhold Niebuhr.

 

God grant me the serenity
This requires that you establish a healthy spirituality and relationship with your Higher Power to whom you can let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life.

 

To accept the things I cannot change
You need to be realistic and rational and accept that you can change only your feelings and attitudes about things which you are powerless to change.

 

Courage to change the things I can
You need to accept personal responsibility for your own life, thinking, emotions, and actions. You need to take care of yourself better. You need to stop being a martyr, fixer, rescuer, advice giver, and enabler.

 

Wisdom to know the difference
You need to allow your Higher Power a place in your life along with correcting your unhealthy, irrational and unrealistic thinking so that you can better discern what is uncontrollable and unchangeable in your life.

 

Living one day at a time
You need to be patient and not want total self-change or recovery overnight. You need to let go of the need for immediate gratification.

 

Enjoying one moment at a time
You need to relax and smell the roses. Have fun!  Tune into your inner child and enjoy life for what it is rather than for how you want it to be.

 

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace
You need to recognize that you are a human. It is only by fully accepting and admitting your humanness, imperfection, and inability to control and change every person, place, or thing in your life that you will be able to achieve peace and serenity for yourself.

 

Taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it
You need to accept that life cannot be as perfect as you would like it since every person, place, and thing is imperfect because the human condition is this way. You need to become realistic as to what is really possible in your lifetime if you are to be free of stress, anxiety, and tension.

 

Trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will
In letting go of the uncontrollable and unchangeable people, places and things in your life, you need to hand them over to your Higher Power. You need to have a strong spiritual belief that your Higher Power is strong enough to handle these problems. By handing them over no answers are guaranteed, but at least you have unburdened the crushing weight of these concerns off your shoulders.

 

 So that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
By letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life you have allowed these people, places, and things to be responsible for themselves which takes a tremendous burden off you. By freeing yourself of this huge burden, you will appreciate life more for what it is. You will have the energy and strength to pursue your own interests. You will be able to relax and have fun. You will be free to pursue your spiritual life with your Higher Power now and forever

Amen                

What are the steps to letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life?

 

Step 1: You first need to identify all of the people, places, things, and situations over which you have no control and cannot change. In your journal, identify under each category what or who it is and why it is uncontrollable and/or unchangeable.

Category       Reason why uncontrollable and/or unchangeable

People

Places

Things

Situations

 

Step 2: For each person, place, thing, and situation listed in Step 1, you need to answer the following questions in your journal:

  1. What irrational thinking keeps you hooked at trying to control and/or change them?
  2. What benefit do you gain from holding onto the need to control and/or change them?
  3. What do you lose by holding onto the need to control and/or change them?
  4. What would you lose by letting go of them?
  5. What would you gain by letting go of them?
  6. What keeps you stuck or hooked and prevents your letting go of them?
  7. How would they react to your letting go of the need to control and/or change them?
  8. How would their reaction make you feel?
  9. What do you need different in your life in order to let go of them?
  10. When do you expect you will be ready to let go of the need to control and/or change them?

 

Step 3: Once you have analyzed your relationship with each of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life, you need to address your belief in your Higher Power over to whom you are letting go of them. In your journal answer the following questions.

  1. Who is your Higher Power?
  2. How strong is your trust and belief in your Higher Power?
  3. How will your Higher Power handle each of your uncontrollables and unchangeables?
  4. How do you feel about the outcome of letting your Higher Power have the burden of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life?
  5. What can your Higher Power do differently than you with these people, places, things, and situations?
  6. How will these people, places, and things react to your handing them over to your Higher Power?
  7. What are your plans about following up on your Higher Power and monitoring those that you have let go of?
  8. How will you gain serenity and peace from letting go of your burdens to your Higher Power?
  9. What will your Higher Power do for you once you let go of these pressures, tensions, and burdens?
  10. How ready are you to hand over your uncontrollables and unchangeables to your Higher Power?

 

Step 4: Once you have accepted your Higher Power as the source of strength to whom to let go of your uncontrollables and unchangeables, then actively take each one off your shoulders and hand them over. This includes allowing the people, places, and things to be responsible for their own thinking, emotions, and actions without your interference, help, fixing, rescuing, advice giving, correction, or enabling.

 

Step 5: Keep letting go on a day-to-day basis using Reinhold Niebuhr's Prayer for Serenity as your guide.

God, grant me serenity

to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,

enjoying one moment at a time,

accepting hardships as a pathway to peace

taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is,

not as I would have it,

trusting that You will make all things right

if I surrender to Your will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with You forever

in the next.

Amen

 

Step 6: If you continue to have a problem letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life, return to Step 1 and begin again.