By Trina O’Quinn for the NABBW

“Life Is What Happens While You’re Busy Making Other Plans” – John Lennon

Trina O’Quinn

As I began pondering this month’s blog, this quote continued to run through my mind. I am one of many people in the world who has music in the background of my brain all the time. Along with the quote came the music and lyrics to the song Let It Be, also by John Lennon: “Singing Words of Wisdom, Let It Be, Let It be.”

So, I asked myself: What do either of these quotes have to do with my current Blog? What do they have to do with my theme of Grief?

The answer was the theme of Control and Anxiety. I decided my working title for this post would be “How Trying To Control Everything Leads To Anxiety.”

Control is to hold in check, restrain, constrain, master, and repress.

So how do I know if I am trying to control things?

The first sign is that I start “shoulding” on myself. As examples, I might start telling myself things like: “I should be doing more,” or “I should be cleaning the house,” or “I should be writing,” and on it goes.

My new habit is to argue with feelings or tell myself I shouldn’t feel that way and try to replace the feeling with an acceptable (positive) feeling. In doing this I create my own internal anxiety, becoming my own Critical Parent.

Anxiety is another name for fear of the future. Sometimes it is hidden in the following words: concern, apprehension, dread, or misgiving.

When I try to control external events or the feeling that I am experiencing, my anxiety grows exponentially. The fear that I cannot control what is happening becomes the problem. Lack of control creates anxiety.

Then I try to repress my anxiety until it goes out of my conscious mind and later explodes as a panic attack or a temper fit at the most inopportune time.

So how do I work my way through this circular problem? I once again quiet myself by Breathing In and Breathing Out three times and say the following prayer that I have said for 40 years:

“Please Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The Courage to change the things I can and the Wisdom to know the difference.”

Then I sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen.
  • I take three more deep breaths, taking them in and letting them out slowly, and draw a line down the center of the paper.
  • I label the left side of the line What I Control and the right side of the line What I Cannot Control. Then I begin adding items to each list…
  • I next take a pair of scissors and cut the list down the centerline.
  • I then take a box with a lid and place the What I Cannot Control list in the box (I call it my God Box; you can call it what you want.) and shut the lid.
  • Finally, I take the list of What I Control and use it to create my new “To Do” list.
  • Next, I take action on the items of this list and cross off each item as I complete it.

After completing each item on my to do list, I take a few minutes to check in with myself. What do I hear within? I discover that my anxiety has started to disappear. As I quit trying to control things that are out of my control my anxiety starts to dissipate. I have experienced the Words of Wisdom, I Let It Be, I Let It Be.

Trina O’Quinn is an actively licensed (California License # LMFT27407) Marriage and Family Therapist. Entering the profession as an older adult, Trina was in private practice for 30 years. During her career she was a lecturer at California University Dominguez Hills in the Marital and Family Therapy Program, where she supervised many students and mentored many associates.

Now retired, Trina keeps busy enjoying needle arts, reading, journaling and writing, as well as singing with a women’s chorus, peer networking, volunteering at a senior living center and reconnecting with old friends. 

 

NABBW Contributing Author