A couple months ago many people anxiously awaited the end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar (click here to read a previous post of mine on the topic). Obviously the world, as we know it, did not end, but I wonder how many people yesterday wondered if the Mayans were off by a couple months. In one day, yesterday, a meteorite struck Chelyabinsk, a town in Russia, causing damage to hundreds of buildings and injuring thousands; an asteroid labelled “2012DA14” buzzed the earth at a distance closer than most of our satellites orbit our planet; later in the day there were reports of a fireball over the city of San Francisco. Is the sky truly falling? Were the Mayans off by a few months? Scientists claim that none of these events are related, nor are they indicative of a forthcoming cataclysmic event. But still, the events make one wonder.
In my life’s journey I am slowly coming to the realization that I am not truly in control of many aspects of my life. Not due to a lack of trying, mind you. But the longer I live, the more I study the weather, and the longer I work with people who are suffering along their life’s journey, the deeper I begin to understand there is very little within my (our) control. The thought of not being in control is frightening, actually. As humans, we seem to be programmed with a need for control. And in life, when we feel out of control, we experience stress and anxiety. Take a moment and reflect on your current stress; what is the underlying cause? For most of us it is a lack of control over the situation or the outcome.
During a seminar I recently attended, Dr. Judith Beck, PhD stated “it is not as important what I think as it is what I do with what I think.” Our ability to take action, to do, provides us with a sense of control. This is part of the motivation which calls people to action after natural disasters or in times of social injustice. One may not have control over the event, but one does have control over what one does about the event. This is a lesson I have tried to teach my clients, and myself as well.
Why do bad things happen? Why do people have to suffer? Why is this happening to me? Questions most of us have asked, yet to which very few have found answers. I propose that asking the “why” question is not the proper question in the face of suffering or stress. In 1978 the author Stephen King wrote his novel “The Stand”. The quote below is from that novel, attributed to the character Mother Abigail. Abigail, living in Nebraska following a world-wide flu epidemic, at the age of 108, finds herself as the spiritual leader of a motley band of people trying to fight against evil:
“”Oh Nick,” Mother Abigail said, “I have harbored hate of the Lord in my heart. Every man or woman who loves Him, they hate Him too, because He’s a hard God, a jealous God, He is what He is, and in this world He’s apt to repay service with pain while those who do evil ride over the roads in Cadillac cars. Even the joy of serving Him is bitter joy. I do His will, but the human part o’ me has cursed Him in my heart. `Abby,’ the Lord says to me, `there’s work for you far up ahead. So I’ll let you live an live, until your flesh is bitter on your bones. I’ll let you see all your children die ahead of you and still you’ll walk the earth. I’ll let you see your daddy’s lan taken away piece by piece. And in the end, your reward will be to go away with strangers from all the things you love best and you’ll die in a strange land with the work not yet finished. That’s My will Abby,’ says He, and ‘Yes, Lord,’ says I. ‘Thy will be done,’ and in my heart I curse Him and ask ‘Why, why, why?’ and the only answer I get is ‘Where were you when I made the world?’”
One can feel the emotion, the frustration, the questioning, the stress and anxiety. Abigail, like many of us, feels that her life is out of control. Yet, in the midst of her questioning she recognizes the need to act. She needs to ‘do’. It is truly in our ability to take action where we can find solace from our anxiety.
When your life feels out of control, try this exercise I have prescribed to my clients:
- On a sheet of paper make two columns. One column is a list of those aspects of your life (or a particular situation) for which you have no control.
- The second column is a list of those aspects for which you do have control.
- Focus your attention and energy on those aspects you can control, foregoing the items on your list for which you have no control.
Times when I felt that my life was completely out of control, and my anxiety levels were rising, I would read and reflect on this poem written by Laine Parsons in 1983. I hope it inspires you to take action when life seems out of control.
Official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/lifesjourneyblog
“Don’t ever try to understand everything — some things will just never make sense. Don’t ever be reluctant to show your feelings — when you’re happy, give into it! When you’re not, live with it. Don’t ever be afraid to try to make things better — you might be surprised at the results. Don’t ever take the weight of the world on your shoulders. Don’t ever feel threatened by the future — take life one day at a time. Don’t ever feel guilty about the past — what’s done is done. Learn from any mistakes you might have made. Don’t ever feel that you are alone … there is always somebody there for you to reach out to. Don’t ever forget that you can achieve so many of the things you can imagine — imagine that! It’s not as hard as it seems. Don’t ever stop loving; don’t ever stop believing; don’t ever stop dreaming your dreams.”