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Live Life Fully: Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl and letting go

Two super-charged events back-to-back — Valentine’s Day and the Super Bowl!

Last week there were a lot of expectations around the Super Bowl — who would win, how clever the commercials would be and how entertaining the halftime show would turn out.

No doubt you’ve seen the mixed reviews. Just ask Cam Newton. Or those advertisers who spent $5 million on a commercial that flopped.

Mission control

Let’s face it. We all try to control certain situations in our lives. That’s just human nature. And sometimes it’s a good thing — in terms of productivity and safety, for example.

How do you draw the line, though? For many, that need for control permeates every element of your life. How’s that working out? Just take a look at your relationships and the satisfaction you’re deriving from your life’s work.

Here’s the thing. You can’t change another person. And there are many circumstances you can’t change, either. No matter how hard you try. Or in what manner — bullying your way through, rolling over like a doormat or being passive aggressive.

What you CAN change, however, is the way you react to the circumstances in your life. After you’ve given a scenario your best shot, the best thing to do in a lot of cases is to hold the vision for the most favorable result — and then detach from the outcome.

Yeah, right. Easier said than done — although it’s possible to take steps toward more peace in your life.

Setups for sabotage

Anxiety, depression, marital struggles, anger issues and addictions all have a common thread in the realm of control. Take a look at these “everyday” examples.

n Sherry often feels depressed, but one thing’s for sure. If she keeps a pessimistic attitude — and doesn’t get her hopes up — she won’t be disappointed. While Sherry has likely experienced emotional scarring in the past and is trying to prevent future hurting, she’s shutting off her life.

n Jim and Judy have been married for 15 years. They know how to push each other’s buttons, and they struggle with who gets to be “right.” Sometimes that’s more important than the actual substance of their arguments. No wonder the spark has gone out of their marriage.

n Brian and Cindy’s son has an addiction that is taking over his life — and affecting lots of people around him. Everyone seems to think they have the right answer. If only he would take their advice.

n All of us — that phone call that hasn’t been returned yet, that person who cut you off in traffic or that snarky remark from a coworker can all drain energy.

Did you notice the control issues in each situation? Wanting control — especially when it’s out of your grasp — can lead to great frustration. Hurt feelings are often a result of someone not behaving the way you want. Although this isn’t directly control, it’s related, according to a Psychology Today article by therapist William Berry. After all, you wouldn’t be angry if the offending individual had behaved the way you deemed appropriate. Hmmmmmm.

Addiction is the kingpin of the loss of control. In the beginning a substance or behavior may help to escape feelings and bring relief or pleasure. The substance or behavior is initially used to alter a mood. And, eventually, it controls the mood — and everything else.

Valentine’s Day

Here’s a timely story, shared by writer Tina McIntosh, where desires were expressed and expectations suppressed:

This past Valentine’s Day was one of the best. I had no expectations for how the day would go, and we planned what we wanted to do together. Rather than play some type of game to see if we could “figure each other out” and make the day special, I made it a point to let my husband know I had no expectations.

I started with flowers. I had just walked through a store that was crowded with flowers, teddy bears, chocolates and a bunch of men scurrying around hoping they had bought the right thing. I said, “I enjoy flowers, but I enjoy them most in the most unexpected moments.”

He then asked if there was anything I wanted. Really there wasn’t. The next day he left me little notes expressing all the things he loved about me. It was so meaningful because I honestly wasn’t expecting anything. That evening we decided that, rather than getting a babysitter, we wanted to take our toddler out to eat and celebrate the holiday as a “Family Love Day.”

We had so much fun together, and it was my favorite Valentine’s Day ever. This call came because I had absolutely no expectations for how the day would turn out. We made it our own.

East and West

Letting go of control is a cornerstone in recent psychological treatments to incorporate more Eastern philosophies for stress reduction. We’ve all seen more emphasis on mindfulness and meditation.

A common theme is to become aware — and to bring yourself back to the present moment when you find you’re obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. There’s a sense of humility, according to Berry, that there are greater powers at work in the natural flow of the universe.

When you overwhelmingly want things to be different than they are — and try to control life to exclude everything you don’t like — needless suffering results. A common tenet of Eastern philosophies is to practice non-attachment — letting go of expectations, being in the present, not making judgments and accepting life as it presents itself. A tall order to be sure.

It is what it is

“It is what it is” is a neutral phrase that’s often advocated in these circles. It helps to frame everyday situations — and to remove the negative emotional charges you attach to them.

You can actually make progress toward letting go by simply reminding yourself occasionally that “it is what it is” — and that everything doesn’t have to conform to your expectations.

A closing comment

Back to those Super Bowl commercials. I know my reaction is subjective, and the results will be determined by sales. For the record, though, I could have done with more Clydesdales and less diarrhea. But that’s an expectation.

Talk about letting it go!

©2016 Linda Arnold Living Well, all rights reserved. Linda Arnold, M.A., M.B.A., is a syndicated columnist, psychological counselor, certified wellness instructor and keynote speaker. She’s also the founder of a multistate marketing corporation. Reader comments are welcome at linda@lindaarnold.org.

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