Trying to control everything leads to suffering

Suffering is inherent in the human conditionIt is something that is part of life and one thing cannot be separated from the other.

Now, you can live suffering less; For this we can apply some of the precepts of a school of philosophy called Stoicism, which has more than 1000 years of history and which has been of great influence for the development of one of the main theoretical frameworks in psychology: the cognitive-behavioral model .

Different forms of pain

We can suffer from multiple causes and, in this sense, it is necessary to make a first distinction between physical pain and emotional pain.

When we refer to emotions it is necessary to point out that all of them are useful and necessary, although some may be more pleasant than others.

We can see emotions as a tool that nature has provided us with to direct our life (without letting our emotions direct it). So anger, well conducted, moves us to defend ourselves or others against something we consider unfair. Fear, when founded on the basis of real danger, protects us from possible harm. Y sadness at the loss of something important moves us to withdraw into ourselves, invites us to analysis and reflection, promoting making necessary changes in our life or in our way of seeing the world, or the way of seeing ourselves.

However, not all the emotional suffering that afflicts us is necessary or useful; A good part of our pain is excessive and sterile, in other words, it does not lead us anywhere, it does not contribute to improving our lives.

This unproductive suffering is explained by the role of thought, which is a human attribute that differentiates us from animals, so las people we grieve over fantasies of a future that hasn’t come yet (and may never come) or we lament for things that happened long ago. These thoughts lead us to escape from the only place in which we can really exist: the present moment.

We can project into the future to make plans or prepare for possible setbacks, and we can review the past to learn from mistakes. The problem lies when this activity becomes excessive or misguided, when we feel the need to advance to everything that may happen or when we wallow in guilt, preventing any option to reflect and grow.

Thinking, like many other activities, can become a habit, and when we get used to thinking in a certain way we get used to suffering, many times without being aware that we are hurting ourselves with that way of thinking. When we speak of thought we can also speak of cognitive processes, here would be language, memory or attention, among others.

What we put the magnifying glass of our attention on is amplified, so that if I decide to focus on opportunities, I will pay less attention to risks, and if I focus on the valuable things in my life, I will pay less attention to losses or to things that I don’t have yet or that I could lose.

The suffering caused by the search for control

Many of the torments we inflict on ourselves correspond to the habit of trying to get everything under control. We often pay too much attention to issues over which we do not have direct control or have no control at all. As our attention span is limited when we focus on what worries us, we neglect what we could occupy ourselves with, that is, we neglect our room for maneuver.

This behavior, sustained over time, causes us a feeling of helplessness, fatigue and defenselessness. By being always alert, we are in tension and this can make us irritable.

Developing the habit of focusing on our real plot of possibilities will bring us greater peaceIt will avoid wasted time on issues that we cannot influence, it will make us more effective, it will free up mental space by giving more fuel to the creativity muscle and all this will have a notable impact on our mood.

To reclaim and strengthen our true power we must ask ourselves the question “and what can I do in this situation?” and thoroughly explore the response, mobilizing all the resources at our disposal. We will no longer torment ourselves for not doing what we could do.

Now, if the answer is “nothing” there is no other option but to accept this reality and cope with the situation. Surrendering to the inevitable provides immediate relief, as you are no longer struggling with something that cannot be changed.


The tendency to be in tension, watching, sometimes makes us live believing that all those unpleasant situations that we imagine do not happen to us because we are controlling what happens, and this makes us believe that if we leave that sickly alert state, terrible things could happen to us . Working like this makes it very difficult for us to stop being alert, because we consider it a threat.

The paradox is that when we allow ourselves to let go of control and relax, our minds expand and our wits improve, so that we can better cope with the possible eventualities that may occur to us. This, in turn, is an opportunity to verify that there is no need to try to control everything.

Lord, grant me serenity to accept all that I cannot change, courage to change what I am capable of changing, and wisdom to understand the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr –


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