Controlling the Uncontrollable

by Megan Sy, M.S. 

There are a variety of ways through which we trick ourselves into believing that we are exerting control over our circumstances. Demandingness is one of those. Demands are beliefs that include the idea that something or someone should or must be a certain way. Examples include, “She shouldn’t act this way” or “This must turn out how I want it to.” Demands are irrational by virtue of their illogicality and impossibility. There is no reason why something must happen just because we want it to. There is no law of the universe that states that others should act the way we want them to. In addition to being irrational, demands are also dysfunctional. Rigidly demanding that something absolutely must be so often results in unhealthy negative emotions, such as unhealthy anger.

As an example, several days ago I found myself very annoyed at the fact that Daylight Savings Time (DST) was coming. In fact, I was angry that we (in the United States at least) follow this practice in general. In reality, what was upsetting me was the thought that things shouldn’t be this way and that we shouldn’t have to go through the hassle of collectively changing our clocks twice a year. The silliness of this thought is strikingly apparent. Obviously, I cannot change how a country manages its daylight, so demanding that things change is doing exactly nothing.

While this example is simple and light-hearted, the underlying principle remains. In the same way that I cannot control things like time and age-old practices like DST, we cannot control the world or anyone around us. On the other hand, we can choose to not disturb ourselves by thinking flexibly instead of rigidly making demands. We may not be able to control the uncontrollable, but we are able to choose how we think and respond to whatever comes our way.

Megan Sy

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