Self-Care Tip #169 – When there is negative chaos, remember and say, “I can’t control this.”
Carol had worked there for seven years. The supervisor had just asked her for more hours and Carol felt almost good to be able to say she didn’t have any more to give. Yet when Carol got the email that her job position was closing in a month, she was physically affected. Her autonomics (“fight-or-flight” reactions) were on full alert. If there was an attacking bear, she might have out run him.
Healthy Carol had been to enough 12-Step meetings to remember, “I can’t control this.” She said it a few times and turned it over to her Higher Power. She did not crave or relapse in her addiction’s disease. Her pulse was still fast and her hands were still tingling for the next several hours but she didn’t “use.” She went to her meeting and she pushed on.
When Carol thought about her future and the things she could do to prepare, she inevitably thought about the things she couldn’t do. She said,
I can’t control this.
When Carol imagined what other people would think after hearing about her unemployment, she said,
I can’t control this.
In mental health we struggle with that a lot. The emotions that grow self-loathing, the behaviors that distance us from our support and loved ones, and/or the physical changes that keep us from performing – are all confusing. At what point do we say, “I can’t control this?”
I remember a Seinfeld joke about water faucets in public bathrooms. The ones that you have to hold down to keep the flow going. I’ll spare you the misery of me trying to retell it and get to the point. Why do they have those faucets? It’s as if they think people will have a water party in there or take free sponge baths if they could turn the faucet on long enough actually to wash their hands.
When we say something like “I can’t control this” to the idea of emotions and behaviors, the general fear is that people will take wild liberties, – splashing emotions around and behaving like elephants after the summer Serengeti drought ends. Mayhem will ensue and the staunch healthy-minded with dry pants will have to clean continually after us. Not many people want to be sullied by the emotions and behaviors of others and this, “I can’t control” business is a boundary issue. Maybe stigma is one of the ways we change out the faucet on others.
There are some very primitive characters and severely ill people who might say in fact that they cannot control all feelings and behaviors. This is more than most of us armored with some healthy coping skills would believe or say.
“I can’t control this,” is not a free pass to vandalism, vengeance, volley-ball or any other very vexing behavior. It is not there to hand over like a ticket to other people for their excuse, justification or condolence of our situations. It is there for us to hold up to ourselves for the purpose of honesty, submission to our Higher Power, humility and healing. No one can control the flow out of that. That is free self-care.
Questions: When have you felt like you had to explain to others your behaviors and feelings even when you didn’t have an explanation? How did you bring it back “home” to your own self-care and get past the stigma? Please tell me your story.
- No Matter Why, Where, or What Happens, Self-Care Starts and Ends With Me (friendtoyourself.com)
- The 12 Steps (socyberty.com)