Obsessed with Control

Obsessed with Control

It’s been almost a month since I last published anything, and while a lot of it has to do with writer’s block, it’s also related to my obsession with control and perfection. I feel like ideas need to be perfectly formed in my head before I can put them to paper, or else I feel an overwhelming sense of inferiority and incompetence. The longer I go without writing, the more anxiety it brings me, and the more avoidant I become. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and just throw this out there, and try to regain access to my creativity.

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I am completely obsessed with control. When I was 18 years old, I made a 7 year plan for how I wanted my life to look when I was 25. I was going to be living in London, a journalist for Al Jazeera, and with a partner that shared my passion for travel and adventure. It’s safe to say that as I now approach 23, my vision for life looks completely different to that, save wanting an adventurous partner. But my obsession with control has not lessened.

I live with anxiety over the need to control the passing of time.

Most mornings I wake up with a pit of anxiety in my stomach because I feel like my life is spiralling out of control.

Everything is moving too quickly, and I worry that as I get older, I need to pull myself together and formulate a life that will bring me success, purpose, recognition, and keep me passionate about the way I live. I stress that if I don’t do productive things every single day, then I will end up dead and alone in a gutter with no one that loves me (not even an exaggeration).

I have expressed several times to my psychologist that I feel like my youth is slipping away from me and that I am running out of time to become the person that I want to be. Somewhere along the line, I have swallowed the lie that you need to be successful at a young age to be worth something, and that I somehow need to ‘fix’ everything that’s wrong with me. I can see the inaccuracies in what I believe, but still feel deep-seated anxiety that time is running out.

This view of my youth running out is deeply harmful because it also prompts me to engage in self-destructive behaviour involving drugs and alcohol. I’m torn between wanting to enjoy my youth and ‘get my shit together’, so to speak.

Street art in Santiago

Surrendering control in a relationship terrifies me.

I’m not the kind of person who trusts easily. It may seem that I do on the surface, because I freely and easily share intimate details of my life, thoughts, and dreams. However, I never lose the all-consuming fear that my partner will leave me at the drop of a hat. My abandonment issues raise their ugly heads, and I panic that with one wrong move I will be left alone.

I have spoken to my psychologist about trust in a relationship, and she has told me that it’s a choice that you have to make. There truly is no way to make sure that another person won’t ever hurt you, let you down, or leave you. You choose to trust them because you care about them deeply, and because relationships struggle without trust.

I have made some headway in choosing to trust my partner, but I can assure you that it does not come naturally for me. To me, it means completely surrendering control to another person, and increasing the possibility that you will be hurt. My paranoid borderline brain would like to keep everyone at an arm’s length and remain mostly self-sufficient for the rest of my life, if only to avoid pain and suffering.

Control is an illusion.

The problem with control is that it doesn’t really exist. There are so many random factors that come from the environment, other people, and random events. You can plan as much as you want, but things constantly change. Other people have their own agenda all the time, and it doesn’t always align with yours. Your priorities and dreams will change as you are exposed to new information and experiences. In my case, mental illness regularly knocks me flat on my back just as I am starting to regain motivation and control in my life.

You can only really control your own actions. You can’t control your emotions, thoughts, or anything that anyone around you does or feels. Constantly stressing about needing to control everything leaves you like me, waking up with a pit of anxiety that everything is slowly going wrong.

Abandoned factory

How can we learn to surrender control?

I’ve been working at trying to accept the present moment as it exists. Mindfulness is a big part of this. By focusing on the sensations and the reality of the present moment, you can let go of anxiety surrounding mistakes of the past and uncontrolled elements of the future.

I think that tolerating distressing circumstances is also important for learning to let go of control. If you realise that you are capable of living through stressful and upsetting events, then future possibilities become less anxiety-inducing. Recognising your resilience and capabilities is essential to realise that even though you can’t always control the outcome, you will be able to cope with what happens.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to let go of control. It makes me feel more secure to feel like I can micromanage things and especially the outcomes of events. It protects me from pain and in a way puts me in control of my misery. Every day I feel the desperate drive to control every element of my life, and try to micromanage all external factors. I think that only time and gradual acceptance that most things lie outside of my control will give me peace of mind.

Do you obsess about controlling certain elements of your life?

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By | 2018-01-11T22:58:53+00:00 September 28th, 2017|mental health|11 Comments


  1. Kasia Mikolajczak (@KasiaMikola) October 5, 2017 at 3:01 am - Reply

    This is so true. We can’t control everything in our lives even though we want. There are so many things out of our control. We need to make peace with that.

    • Her Travel Therapy October 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      I think ultimately we need to focus our energy on the tiny amount of things that we can actually control, and hope that everything else falls into place as a result.

  2. Muhammad Ameen Sheikh October 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    At times, I myself feel the need of control but after a couple of days I just forget about it

    • Her Travel Therapy October 5, 2017 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      How do you let go of it?

  3. thatkenyanwanderer October 5, 2017 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I completely understand you, I can be the same at times. That feeling can be such a killer!

  4. sj October 5, 2017 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    This is so so true, WE all are like this, always wanted to control everything in life but obviously we can’t .

  5. Officially Chic October 5, 2017 at 9:48 pm - Reply

    I definitely have my moments where I want everything to be perfect! It can be very overwhelming though so I’m learning to obsess less and just go with the flow (as much as I can of course).


    • Her Travel Therapy October 6, 2017 at 11:31 am - Reply

      Is this a conscious choice you’ve made to go with the flow more or has it come more naturally?

  6. kellyjiverson October 8, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    Letting go of control is especially important while traveling, as I have slowly realized from my two years abroad.

  7. Lisa K October 8, 2017 at 10:08 pm - Reply

    I used to be more concerned with control in my life. If I was late for an appointment, it would be the most anxiety ridden transit to that appointment in fear that being just a minute or two late would make me seem like an idiot. Over time and also by having my kids, I have been forced to change my priorities. Now, if I am going to be late, even by only a few minutes for something, I’ll just call to say so I feel so much better.

    • Her Travel Therapy October 10, 2017 at 11:49 am - Reply

      I’m so glad that you’ve been able to let go of some of that anxiety. Calling ahead definitely alleviates some of the stress 🙂

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