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The Difference Between What You Can and Cannot Control

Posted on May 21, 2014

“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept responsibility for changing them.” Denis Waitley

Conscious, deliberate, purposeful control works well in the external world, outside your body, where the following rule often applies: if you don’t like it, get rid of it. For example, if you don’t like the song on the radio, you can change stations. Or if you no longer like some of your clothes, you can simply throw them out or pass them on to someone else who may wear them. Changing things in the world around you is often possible and works well, so it makes sense that you would want to apply it to manage your physical and emotional pain too. The problem is, however, that what works well in the external world just doesn’t work as well in the world inside your body. You may try to deal with your thoughts and feelings in the same way you deal with clothes you don’t like, but can you actually give away or throw out your unpleasant thoughts and feelings? Has that ever worked for you? Can you replace an old painful memory with a new one? As much as you may want to throw out these thoughts and feelings, there’s simply no way to take them in your hands and out of the room to the garbage bin.

At Creating Connection, we believe that refocusing your energy and attention on the areas where you do have control is a more workable solution. That is, by recognising that you control your choices and your actions. You cannot choose what thoughts and feelings you have, but you can decide what to do with those thoughts and feelings when they show up. It’s your choice whether you stay with them, acknowledge their presence, let them be, and observe them with a sense of curiousity and kind acceptance, or whether you do as they say and give in to the impulses to act by choosing to avoid, escape, suppress or try to get rid of or control them in some other old unworkable way. You can also control your actions – what you do with your hands, feet, and mouth. How you respond to the unpleasant thoughts and feelings in your body and mind is very much within your control, and learning to respond differently than you’ve done in the past is the key to getting unstuck. Brisbane Psychologist Felicity Farmer can help you with this by assisting you to develop the skills to make effective, values-based choices and actions, because the cumulative effect of your choices and actions will ultimately determine what your life will become. Whilst this doesn’t mean that the outcome of your choices and actions will always be what you want, as many events in life happen outside of your control, what most people hope for is that the cumulative effect of their choices and actions will yield a sense that their life was well lived – a valued life.

Letting go of the struggle for control isn’t as hard as it may seem. It begins with you making a decision to do so. The hardest part is putting your decision into consistent action, and you may need guidance to assist you with this. If you would like help getting unstuck, and to learn how to determine where control is and isn’t possible in your life, then take action and contact your local Brisbane Psychologist Felicity Farmer today by phoning 1300 484 711 or email

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“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”

- Viktor Frankl

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