Control Vs Trust

Imagine that you are to cross a wooden bridge over a tiny creek somewhere in the forest. The bridge is not very wide, two-three planks, but wide enough for you to just cross without thinking too much about it. Now imagine you have to cross the same bridge, only this time, it’s not a tiny creek, but a deep gorge right under it. Suddenly, the bridge is way too narrow and you feel your legs shake if you look down… When the stakes are high and something truly important is on the line (career prospects, marriage, child’s future), our need to feel in control is stronger than ever, whereas trust in own resources may be weakened. At these times, we may feel paralyzed by the uncertainty, standing there, staring at that bridge over the abyss, unable to move.

According to researchers who study resilience, the capacity to quickly recover from adversity, one thing that helps people stay afloat and not drown in anxiety in the face of uncertainty is trust in something bigger than oneself. This is not exactly the same as being religious. It’s the belief that there is certain order and logic to events and circumstances you don’t have control over. That there are external and internal forces that are working for you, and that those forces will take care of things that you can’t take care of. For some people, it’s a belief in supernatural powers (a god). For others, it’s a belief in the powers of interpersonal connection. It can also be trust in your own intuition and wisdom, as well as your luck.

People who are used to being in charge, the responsible and reliable ones (also sometimes affectionately called control freaks – and I am only allowing myself this comment because I am one of those) often underestimate the power of these external and internal resources. If you are one of us, control freaks, here is a little exercise. Try to count all the near misses, unexpected offers, unlikely coincidences and other events in your life where you thought, “What were the chances!”.  Then, count all those times when you were obsessing over a solution to your problem, only to discover that as soon as you give up trying to find it, the solution reveals itself to you.

If you are on that tiny bridge over an abyss right now and wondering if you can keep the balance, imagine that there is an invisible belay rope and an invisible safety net under the bridge. The rope is what is beyond your control but is working for you. The net is made up of everyone who cares about you. They are there to catch you. So just take a deep breath and keep walking until you make it to safer grounds.

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