Journaling Prompts For Unpacking Your Relationship To Control, From A Therapist
The past couple of months in world news have been stressful, to say the least. Between the election and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are facing the harsh reality that there's a lot we can't control—and that can be a hard thing to accept.
When we feel afraid or distrusting, particularly when it comes to our governing bodies, it "mirrors what people experience when they're in an unhealthy relationship," psychotherapist Ken Page, LCSW, tells mbg, "in which in some deep way, they feel unsafe."
But accepting that some things are, and will always be, out of our hands, is an important step in releasing what we can't control, so we can focus on what we can. Here, Page offers five journaling prompts to help us explore our relationship to control and navigate these uncertain times:
1. Picture a wise, loving, and more evolved version of you. Not someone else, but the you you're meant to be. Imagine becoming that you. Describe yourself.
First, get into the mindset of your highest self. Page calls this the Inner Mentor Process, explaining that our inner mentor is always available to us to give us the clarity we already hold inside.
2. From that place, get clear about the areas of your life you can control, the areas you're struggling to accept a lack of control, and write them down.
Think about a situation(s) in your life that's out of your control right now (whether that be the election or otherwise), and write it down. How does it make you feel? Know it's OK to feel uncertain, worried, or even afraid.
3. Do you have any less mature, reactive ways to gain control that don't work? Describe your top two.
Think about a time you reacted negatively due to a lack of control. Do you lash out, isolate yourself, or fall back on unhealthy coping mechanisms, for example? Get clear on what your patterns are here.
4. Have there been any times you did not rely on those reactive patterns but tried an approach that was wiser and more effective? Describe what helped you to do that and how it felt inside—before, during, and after.
Now, think about a time you reacted positively (or at least in a healthy way) to a situation that was out of your control. Were you more patient? Understanding? Accepting? How did you reach that point, and how did it feel?
5. How can you apply those wiser and more effective responses in your current situation?
Thinking back to No. 2, how can you apply the principles of No. 4 to your current situation? Are there qualities or approaches you can take now that will help you gain a sense of acceptance around the things you can't control? What does your inner mentor have to say?
The bottom line.
Page recommends checking in with yourself daily, whether through the Inner Mentor Process or another form of self-reflection (such as journaling). Basic stress management isn't a bad idea either! Think things like exercise, meditation, mantras, and so on. And if you need it, talking to a professional, or at the very least, a trusted friend or family member, also goes a long way.
But in times of uncertainty, one of the best things we can offer ourselves is simply grace and compassion—and that's something we absolutely can control.