Out of Control

When we have weird or scary thoughts or body sensations, it’s common to believe, “I’m out of control.”

In a sense, “I’m out of control” is accurate, but not in the usual way we understand this phrase. It’s accurate in the sense that we don’t have control over our automatic thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. It’s nice to believe we can gain full control over these things, but it’s not possible.

“I’m out of control” is inaccurate in the sense that weird, bizarre, scary thoughts and emotions are NOT signs that you’re “going crazy.” It’s a sign that you’re human.

What we DO NOT have control over:

  • automatic thoughts
  • automatic emotions
  • automatic body sensations
  • automatic behaviors (e.g., when the brain mistakes a twig for a snake and you jump back)

What we DO have control over:

  • non-automatic behaviors
  • choosing to engage with automatic thoughts or not
  • choosing the meaning behind the automatic thoughts, emotions, body sensations
  • choosing how to react to the aspects of us we don’t have control over

The trick is to accept and ride the wave of the parts of us we don’t have control over. The more we try to gain full control, the more we will feel out of control. The less we try to gain full control, the more we will feel and actually be in control. The paradox of anxiety.