One of the biggest lessons on any journey of deep psychological or spiritual growth is letting go. We let go not just once, but over and over again, in hundreds of ways.
Letting go feels dangerous to the ego. In many ways the ego is built of our strategies for being in control, and some of these are quite helpful. To be able to execute a plan, control impulses, or make a graceful movement requires some control. Yet too much control often means there is no flexibility or aliveness. Plans becomes rigid, as do our bodies.
In my practice as a therapist I see more problems from over-control than from lack of control. Even a problem like addiction may involve a desperate attempt to control one’s feelings. It is not control of feelings that is needed as much as the ability to tolerate uncomfortable emotions.
This need to control creates problems in relationships, pain syndromes and tensions in the body, mental rigidity, and likely impairs our ability to fall asleep, which itself is an exercise in surrender.
Too often, control is erroneously credited for all of our successes, and we carry deep imprints that lack of control is dangerous. In trauma, something very bad happened which we had no control over. Unless we can challenge the idea that control is necessary for safety, we stay locked in it.
When I went to my therapy session last week I felt like something big was about to happen. The most life-changing things I could remember coming up in therapy were really “bad,” so I was a bit nervous. There was a sense of flailing, like a baby, and my therapist remarked on how flailing is like no container, which was coming up as I expanded beyond the usual container of my personality. We made room for the sense of boundarlylessness and talked about how not being in control is also associated with good things—like relaxation, orgasm, being carried by grace and serendipity. Certainly I knew from many years of spiritual work this letting go had led to all the best things, but my system needed to be reminded.
What came of my letting go in that session was encountering what I could only describe as an ocean of love. There was so much love it stopped my mind. Actually before that experience more fully opened up, I was aware that mind had no way to grasp or understand what was happening, so it may as well give up trying. (If you haven’t dropped your mind lately, I want to remind you how wonderful that can feel.)
Two days later I was fortunate enough to receive bodywork from a Rosen practitioner. Rosen method bodywork is very interesting stuff. Whereas massage seems like physically wringing out muscles, Rosen bodywork brings awareness to how muscle groups are holding and, through the gentlest support, tells them something else is possible. I left the session marveling at how something so subtle could have such profound effects. My body had taken another step in this lesson of learning to let go.
To recap, it’s not that control is bad, but too much of it gets in the way. Being caught in the need to control is generally the result of fear. We must learn, again and again, that letting go of control is not necessarily dangerous but rather brings some of the greatest riches in life.
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