I am in Control

March 30 is “National I Am in Control Day,” a phrase declared by Alexander Haig following the assassination attempt on President Regan. This day has been commemorated to remind people to take control of their lives and choose their actions wisely.

To truly be in control, you must first understand the difference between what you can and can’t control. Considering the world and all the people, places, and things in it, it can be overwhelming to count the things you have zero control over.

You can’t control the weather, traffic, politics, or the amount of time in a day—which many of us can recognize, as annoying as it might be. Something humans seem to have a hard time understanding is that we can’t control anyone but ourselves. When reduced to this simple fact, it seems foolish to proclaim, “I am in control.” When Alexander Haig uttered those words, it was to announce he was taking responsibility for the government until the president or vice-president returned to their duties. Taking responsibility is a different thing than being in control.

Mental Freedom® teaches that you are responsible for everything you do, think, and feel. You are responsible for your own happiness and for meeting your basic needs of Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom, and Joy. You are responsible for the solutions to your own problems. You are responsible for your half of all the relationships you engage in. These are the only things you have 100% control over, and just as no one can relieve you of these responsibilities, you are never responsible for taking care of these areas for others. For the purposes of “I Am in Control Day,” professing you are in control translates to claiming full responsibility for your life. After all, you are a result of the sum of the choices you made throughout your life.

Of course, survivors of abuse are not responsible for the trauma they have experienced, but it is common for them to take responsibility as they attempt to make sense of the role they played in it. This is usually to protect themselves from experiencing it again: If they could figure out their part in it, they could avoid it, and the outcome will be different next time. Unfortunately, this is a form of taking responsibility for someone else’s behavior—in this case, the perpetrator’s.

Sometimes, bad things just happen, like a fire, tornado, or flood. You aren’t responsible for those things, either. You can’t control them. All you can control, and what you’re responsible for, is how you respond to the uncontrollable things that happen in your life.

The alternative to “I am in control” is “I am a victim.” Sometimes it’s too hard to be in control and it feels easier to abdicate responsibility for our own lives and live in victimhood. This will bring unhappiness, for sure, but it can also provide attention and assistance from others, further enabling us to avoid our responsibilities. This “I Am in Control Day” is the antithesis of being a victim.

You are not a victim of your past, your emotions, other people, circumstances, or your character. Of course, people can victimize you, but remaining a victim after the initial affront allows your perpetrator to continuously victimize you, even when they aren’t present.

Before you can say, “I am in control,” you need to determine what you can control and maintain your focus on those things. To be in control doesn’t mean things are always going to be the way you want; it means you focus on what you can control in every situation. You’re able to achieve a constant state of self-evaluation, so when you find yourself unhappy, anxious, or angry, you can identify the cause of the problem and address it—if it is within your power. If you can’t control the outcome, then you look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What do I need to do to adjust and respond in this situation?”

Being in control doesn’t mean you bully others to do what you want. It means you take control of the things that are your responsibility: your behavior, thoughts, and feelings; the solutions to your problems; and getting your needs met. You also control your half of all your relationships, allow the other person to control their part, and negotiate differences when they arise.

To help remember this, I like the amended Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that person is me.

Today and every day, be in control of the things that are your responsibility and relinquish your desire to control everything else.

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