How to Stop Suffering and Feeling Like Crap


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Spiritual Teachings, Thought | Posted on 02-05-2016

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]
Where We Control The World!
It’s becoming clearer to me that much of–if not all–our suffering is caused by our desire to control ourselves, our surroundings and others. Yet in reality, it’s impossible.

Let’s start with our surroundings.

While we can sort of control where we live and how we keep our home, if anyone else lives with us, then that’s out the window. We know we can’t control the weather, even though we might keep checking our phones to see if there’s a better forecast in the making. Traffic? Not a chance. Yet some people seem to drive as if they can. (Crawl up that slowpoke’s butt…yeah, that’ll help!) Our work? Depending on what we do, we may have some control there, but how many of our days actually end up going the way we originally thought they would, i.e., getting done the stuff we had planned? Yet we keep on making those plans for the next day!

How about ourselves?

While it seems as if we can control ourselves, when we look closely, is it true? Most of us can barely stop ourselves from eating a cookie let alone exercise as much as we should. And we certainly can’t control our minds and the thoughts that come into our heads. Try to NOT think of a purple bear and let me know how it goes.

As to controlling others–fuggetaboutit!

Most of us do have a list of friends and family that we try to control one way or another, and we may even think it works. But that’s just an illusion. Just like we can’t control the weather or traffic or our thoughts, we can’t make others bend to our will, regardless of how much it’s “for their own good.”

So what should we do about it?

We could keep on trying to control things and hope that one day we become the true master of our universe. But given all of the above, it’s probably not in the cards.

Perhaps it’s time to try something radical…

What if we simply surrendered?

Whhhaaaat?  If you’re like me, you probably hate that word surrender. It may conjure up images of waving the white flag and eventually walking the plank! But given that the control we think we have is mostly illusionary, what’s the point in holding onto it?

When we think we’re in control and things don’t work out as planned, what happens? In most cases, we feel like crap. We get angry or depressed, or start blaming ourselves for not trying hard enough. Or worse, we blame those who wouldn’t do our bidding, and chalk it up to them purposefully being jerks.

All because something out of hands didn’t go the way we thought it should.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like feeling like crap. And these days, I do everything in my power to avoid it. Feeling good is the most underrated and unappreciated way of being we have. But did you know it’s actually our default state of mind? For many, it’s hard to remember this because it’s such a rare occurrence. There’s so much stuff happening that the only times we feel good are when we’re doing something special, or when we’re lost in our addictive habit of choice. Unfortunately, we can’t spend our entire lives doing special stuff, and the addictive things have their own negative consequences.

So here’s the secret.

If unsuccessfully trying to control things makes us feel like crap, our only choice then is to either try to control them better (won’t work) or to surrender to what is. We sort of know this when it comes to really big things that feel outside of our control, e.g., the government, our work situation, etc., but most of us haven’t figured out it’s the same with everything.

But it is.

Just as we have very little control over what happens in politics, we have very little control with people and situations that seem to be more within our sphere of influence. Therefore, if we simply stopped trying to manage them all like some sort of crazed cruise director, we’d feel better. It’s our not getting our own way that makes us feel crappy. Therefore, if we just let things happen and didn’t try to bend them to our will, we’d have very little to feel bad about.

Before you get up in arms emailing and commenting that this sounds too passive and means we should never do anything about anything–that’s not what I’m saying. Nor am I saying we should let people walk all over us or bury our heads in the sand. Dealing with whatever arises is a good and positive thing. But that’s not the same as trying to control an outcome where we don’t actually have any control in the first place.

The beauty of surrendering is that we can start to see people and situations more for what they are rather than what we want them to be. And when we stop trying to control them and just enjoy them as they are, we are often able to see the good parts that we previously missed.

The illusion of control is one of the greatest mind tricks out there. How much longer are you going to allow yourself to be fooled by it? Is there one thing or person in your life right now where surrendering to what is, might make you feel better? I bet if you are honest with yourself you’ll find one…or two…or three..or…

Let me know how it goes!


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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

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Jill, I appreciate the reminder of our default state of mind. It certainly doesn’t look that way sometimes, does it? I also have come to see the truth about control, which you describe so eloquently here. Thanks for this post.

Thanks, Mary! It definitely *doesn’t* look that way much of the time. Even when you know. We are funny humans!

Isn’t there a quote somewhere about having the wisdom to recognize the difference between things we have control over and things we don’t?

I’m a believer that it’s dangerous to get into a boat and drift without having a destination and the tools we need to get there.

In the workplace, there is a direct correlation between the degree to which an employees feels they have control over their work and their levels of satisfaction.

I believe that holds true for life as well.

At minimum, we should be encouraging people, especially the young, to set goals that inspire them and then do the work it takes to achieve those goals. Not surrender to whatever shit life throws at them.

Hi Beth, Yes, there is that quote…I think it may be part of the AA motto! I’ve sort of always intuitively tried to do that (not try and control the things that were out of my control). But the interesting thing is we often think some things are in our control (like the people around us) when they’re really not!

I get what you’re saying about goal setting, and agree with you. But not really sure where it fits within the context of this post. I wasn’t talking at all about not setting goals. I believe they are very helpful to many people. In terms of control or surrender, however, I would simply say that while setting your goal may be good, creating the entire plan from the very beginning to the end may not be quite so good. To me, that’s where letting the plan/goal unfold in it’s own unique way may be the best way to reach that goal with a minimum of stress and anxiety.

Glad you agree about goal setting which is a form of taking control.

Additionally one can take control in various areas of their lives.

You state:
>>>Dealing with whatever arises is a good and positive thing. But that’s not the same as trying to control an outcome <<<

Why would you not want to control an outcome?

I think what you are describing is the difference between a leader and a follower. A leader takes control and steers things toward the most positive outcome.

There are things like death and taxes which we can't control but in most situations we have the power to create the kind of life that we want.

You would want to control an outcome. The problem comes when the outcome is not within your control. Which is most things in life.

Agree on letting go of the things that are not within your control. But perhaps we differ on the extent of which things are within and outside of your control.

Pretty sure that’s it!

This is great Jill. Oh, I know well the desire to control things that are out of my control. So human and such an illusion.

Thanks, Lana! Human and illusory…yet seemingly so real! 🙂

I’m with Jill, here, less so with Beth (sorry, Beth!).

It seems there is only one way to live life and that is to exert influence. To guide, to persuade, to prepare, to anticipate, to try and understand… Other words for this type of behavioiur, especially when it goes unchecked, are ‘control freakery’ and ‘manipulation’.

Which means the other way of living life – a life that IS about living in the unknown (even the president of the United States, or those that control him/her, appreciate that despite all the control and influence they exert, ‘what comes next’ is still an unknown) – seems a foolhardy pursuit, a form of giving in and letting people push you around, of taking the ‘shit’.

Alas, there are so few practitioners of ‘surrender’ and so many of ‘control’.

Surrender, though, is where it’s at. And no matter how good you get at controlling life, and what shows up, life WILL find a way to break you open, to humble you and the petty control you think you exert. (Tell me that isn’t so, honestly, telll me that isn’t so!)

Surrender is where it’s at.

And I speak as a novice practitioner of surrender, right now. I speak as someone who is practicing ignoring the ‘fight or flight’ stimulations that have previously got me to make a plan, to plot ahead, and – instead- to wait and see. To wait and see what comes next, and how I will respond…

And this 3 Principles understanding helps me to surrender, to let go, it does. And so I find myself returning to a more natural way of being, of being in the moment.

Of course you are free to disagree with this approach, to find fault, to still need to be in control. I wonder, though, who is it that actually wants the control – Your True Self, or someone else?…

Thank you, Jill, for your post on surrender. It seems to have provoked some words from me that I needed to hear today… 🙂


Thank you, Steve. Those were beautiful words, and so true!