People want control. We’re all desperate for it. What we wouldn’t give to have more of it in our relationships, our work, and our lives.
Not that we come right out and say so. Instead, we hedge a bit, asking mentors, coaches, therapists, and friends how to better manage our careers and other people. How we can change this or that aspect of ourselves or our circumstances… how we might better deal with specific situations and relationships.
Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting growth and development. Yet that’s not what most of us are really after. Subtle as we try to be, the proof is in the pudding of our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions; in spite of all our questioning and questing, many of us feel pretty stuck. No matter the energy we exert, we remain in a standstill.
In singing, this dance is more obviously defeatist, as the results—and the language of intent—really do speak for themselves. Singers come for coaching wanting to learn how to master the tension to create agility, to understand the force that will allow flexibility, and to learn to control their range of dynamic expression.
Even if you’re not a singer, you can imagine that the success rates are close to nil. It’s just not possible to release tension by creating it. You can’t force flexibility, and you simply can’t control freedom.
That doesn’t stop singers—or the rest of us—from trying though.
Why is this? Why do we as a culture persist in attempting to control our way to personal, creative, and professional freedom?
The answer, I’ve found, is pretty interesting.
And that is that most of us don’t actually want freedom.
Before you disagree, take a look at your own life. Look at the areas in which you wish you had a greater level of freedom, peace, and aliveness. If you’ve yet to achieve these things, I’d gamble that what you’re really after is control. Or said another way, freedom your way.
Yes, you want a great marriage, if that means that the other person is like this, this, and this. Yes, you want a fulfilling career, on the condition that it entails such and such. And yes you want children so long as blah, blah, blah.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t have standards, hopes, and goals. We all do.
But if you’re struggling… if you’re feeling out of, or the need for, control, it’s less likely that something’s wrong with the object of your desires and more likely that there’s something you’ve been unwilling to give up in order get what it is you say you want. Including what might be impossible standards. Or, perhaps, a standard that shifts every time what you claim to yearn for gets a bit too close for comfort…
When we long for things to be the way we want them to be, rather than the way they are, that’s not a quest for freedom. That’s resistance. Especially if what we want flies in the face of reality… including the reality of our own resistance...
What exactly is it that we are resisting?
The circumstances of life.
How we and other people are.
What might be.
We resist life and other people. We resist the past and our future. We resist our feelings, our thoughts, and ourselves. We resist the truth. And then we delude ourselves into thinking that if we resist long enough, if we try to control hard enough, we’ll eventually be free.
Reality check: you cannot change a situation or circumstance when you’re in the process of resisting it. Just as you can’t catch a beach ball if you’re holding another one in your hands, you can’t embrace something new until you let go of the old, stale, and painful reasons for and arguments about why things are the way they are.
To be clear, I’m not saying that we should release everything to the wind, watching passively as the world and other people pass us by. Not at all. The opposite of control is not laziness or apathy.
The opposite of control is acceptance.
When you accept, when you give up the illusion of control, you not only discover the peace and freedom that come with it. You become—perhaps for the first time—empowered to handle any and everything that comes your way.
Why? Because there’s no energy being dedicated to holding yourself back any longer. The emergency break you’ve had on yourself and your life comes off, and you’re finally able to cruise forward with power, freedom, and the ability to express yourself fully and create in the world… a world—you now realize—that is filled with opportunity and love.
So make peace with life. Accept yourself and the world the way it is. Surrender to riding the waves instead of standing stubborn and still as they crash down upon you. When you do, the urge to control dissipates and freedom emerges. And along with it, the sense and eventually knowledge, that anything, and everything, is possible.
Jennifer Hamady is a voice coach and counselor specializing in emotional issues that interfere with self-expression. Click here to learn more about her book: The Art of Singing: Discovering and Developing Your True Voice, heralded as a breakthrough in the psychology of personal and musical performance.