Control is an Illusion

 In Blog

Wouldn’t you just love it if you could wave your magic wand and make all the world’s problems go away? Of course, we know that it isn’t possible, but many, if not most, of us have fantasies of doing just that.  When the world seems to be “going to hell in a handbasket,” most of us want to find some control in our lives — somewhere. You may want to control your environment, what you do and don’t do, or even control others.

A few years ago, this quote kept coming across my Facebook feed for days: “Control Is an Illusion. Let Go.”   

Control is a theme coming up with so many of my clients right now – and it’s natural! When the world seems to be spiraling, and there is a never-ending stream of heart-breaking and sometimes scary news, our natural response is to try to control. We tell ourselves, “Well at least I can control myself.” Or “At least I can manage ‘x.'”

The statement, “Control is an Illusion. Let Go,” can call to you and offer a place of opening. On the other hand, you may resist it. Or you may have both reactions at that same time! Control comes out of fear and is always a reaction to fear (conscious and/or unconscious). More about that below. 

In the meantime, as a recovering control freak, I appreciate this sentiment, and what it offers to me and to all of us. I appreciate it even more because the world seems to be “out of control.” Control is, after all, the parent of all belief systems. More than that, letting go forms the core of the spiritual path.

Let Go

It probably comes as no surprise to you that we are constantly trying to control our lives, ourselves, and even others. We may actually have been taught that we are supposed to do this. In spite of these attempts at control, many areas exist where we are not, and cannot, be in control. 

One of the analogies that I use in my teaching and my work with clients to help them wrap their hearts and minds around this concept is that of the ocean, a metaphor for universal consciousness.  

Picture yourself standing on the shore, looking out at the water. What if each wave had its own consciousness and will? As you watch, one wave starts building with that familiar bulge and appears as if it’s going to crash over all the others in its rush to the shore. It says to itself: “I’m going to make it all the way to the shore.” But then you notice that behind it is another, even bigger wave that overtakes it, so the first wave recedes back into the ocean about 10 feet from shore. 

Then your attention turns to the waves reaching the shoreline, and one wave boasts, “I’m going to go farther than any of these other waves.” What it doesn’t know, however, is that the tide has shifted and is now receding, so as it approaches the shore, it doesn’t even get as far as the last wave.  

We are like waves in the ocean. We may believe we can control where we go and what we do, but there are other unseen and unknowable forces at work that affect us—and sometimes we have no control at all.

Control Comes out of Fear

This concept trips people up time and time again. Therefore, every religious and spiritual tradition I know addresses this concept.  Regardless of the tradition, one voice is united: Control is an illusion! And at the core of the spiritual path is “Let go and Let God.” (Of course, you may substitute Source, Spirit, Universal Consciousness, the Tao—however you image the Divine—as a replacement for the word “God.”)

Any attempt to control, whether it’s yourself, others, or your situation, comes out of fear. So when you find yourself trying to control something, stop and ask yourself what you’re afraid of—and prepare to be surprised!

The other core spiritual concept that goes hand in hand with letting go of control is the concept of Surrender. In the Wounded Healer Path we talk about personal and spiritual growth as “polishing our surrender.” 


What does that mean? Surrender is another concept that we in Western culture tend to have issues with, partly because for us it carries connotations of defeat and/or weakness. Yet in terms of personal and spiritual growth, surrender is not about either of these things, but rather about turning our hearts toward the Divine, toward Love. It’s acknowledging that we are not Source or Spirit and having the humility to say, “Not my will but Thine be done.” 

Personal and spiritual growth is a process of polishing your surrender because it requires you to surrender and surrender, and then surrender again. The analogy is a mirror.  Ancient mirrors were made of metal.  In order to be able to see yourself in the mirror, you had to polish it to a high sheen. Then you had to keep it polished.  If you didn’t, it would tarnish to the point where you couldn’t see anything. 

In every healing session I do, every class I teach, I begin with a practice that is about polishing your surrender. This very simple practice actually pulls you out of the impulse to control everything. It puts you in right relationship — with yourself, with your clients or those you are connecting with, and with the Divine. Paradoxically, even though you are letting go of control, it also actually pulls you into your sovereignty. 

Since it has transformed not only my own work with individuals and groups, but that of hundreds of my clients and students,  I am offering a free webinar on it. Here is the link for more information

This practice is not only true in healing and educational work but can be applied to any situation or relationship where you are holding onto control.

Practice and Breath

Next time you’re confronted with a difficult circumstance, or next time you find yourself working to manage or control a situation, take a step back.  Take a deep breath, connect with the place in you that wants to jump in and control or manage. If you find that you’re breathing shallowly, take a couple of slow deep breaths. 

Allow, with no resistance, any emotions that are popping up, whether anxiety/worry, fear, anger, something else, or a combination.  There is no need to stop any of them. As the Sufi tradition says, there is love available in each and every emotion you have. 

Now take a minute to surrender.  Ask for help. And then notice what shifts. I’d love to hear your experience with this!

PS: If you are interested in healing what’s underneath your control patterns, and learning the joy and freedom of polishing your surrender, I have a few spots open for individual clients.  Check it out here. And come to my free webinar! I will offer you fun, practical, and spiritual teaching that will help you!

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