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How do I let go of the need for certainty and wanting to control all aspects of life?

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How do you let go of the need for certainty in a world where we live with wanting to control all aspects of life?

This question was submitted by 'Lisel'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hi Lisel, that's a good question.

One way to let go of the need to control all aspects of life and to have certainty where it doesn't apply is to understand the difference between control and possible influence. I can control some things, but potentially influence many things. For example, you can't control whether someone is relaxed or likes you, but you may be able to influence whether they do. Or you may not. You can't be certain your partner won't leave you, that you won't get sick, or that the weather will be fine, but you may be able to influence these things. (Okay, not the weather.)

Control 'freakery' - feeling that life and other people should conform to what you imagine it or they must and should be like - doesn't even really work for political dictators in the end. That is not how life works. Wanting too much certainty leads to emotional insecurity: "I must know whether they really love me!" or "I must know 100% they will never leave me!" This is an awful lot of pressure to place upon your own psychology.

It's better to learn to relax with life's uncertainties. And when this happens, you become much less likely to be conned by people who seem to promise certainty where it doesn't apply (sub-prime mortgages, anyone?).

"Whatever happens, I'll probably manage okay" is much healthier and more useful than "I must know everything will be exactly as I imagine it should be!" Seeing life in simplistic all-or-nothing ways (success/failure, good/bad, right/wrong) springs from too much uncontrolled emotion, but also causes it. Learning to relax regularly and see the shades of grey is vital for self-development.

So often, what seems like bad luck in the short-term leads to good outcomes and vice versa, which is why not requiring short-sighted harsh conditions from life and relaxing with or at least tolerating uncertainty is so important. People who are said to be 'cool' (above and beyond the superficialities of their dress, appearance, or mannerisms) are said to have sang-froid, composure, self-possession, calmness, open-mindedness, and/or 'grace under fire'. Being open to what might be or is there rather than demanding what we imagine must or should be there helps us connect with reality better. I suggest you read 'How to Overcome Perfectionism in Everyday Ways'.

None of what I've written here means you have to be a passive consumer of life or just accept what happens to you. The best kind of person, I think, will be proactive in trying to shape the life they want, but also be able to roll with the waves and swim rather than be drowned when calm waters get choppy. In this way, they are much more likely to get to their destination - which may be very different from what they'd imagined, but they can adapt to that, as well. : )

All best wishes,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - August 1st, 2014 in

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