I regularly run Stress Management groups at work and one thing I’ve noticed is the people who tend towards anxiety are those who like to be in control of as much as possible in their lives. So when life proves to be unpredictable and uncontrollable, it’s terrifying for them.
I should know – I’m one of them.
We anxious and controlling people are inclined towards detailed planning because it makes us feel secure to have all the pieces in place, to know what to expect. We even plan for things that might happen, usually disasters, telling ourselves we will cope with them better if we’re prepared.
We also gravitate towards perfectionism. By that I mean that we have a beautiful ideal of the world, our lives and other people in our heads at all times. When something happens to mar that picture it is at best disappointing and at worst devastating to us. Frustration constantly haunts us. Mistakes jump out at us like spellchecker highlights on a page. And we feel great personal responsibility for maintaining a perfect world in all its nitty-gritty. It’s exhausting.
So what’s the answer?
It is of course to realise we are not responsible for the whole world, not even our nearest and dearests’ actions. We can do our best to control our own reactions – but even that may not be possible as I found out leaning over a toilet bowl every twenty minutes as hyperemesis took over both my pregnancies.
We have to go one step further. We have to be a little kinder to ourselves, recognise that we are not the conductor even of the orchestra that is our own universe, and find safety in that because we can turn to the One who is. We need to breathe out, sink back into the Everlasting Arms, and cuddle up, as we remember that He loves us, that He has our best interests at heart, that His plans for us are ‘to prosper [us] and give [us] hope,’ and that His timing may well be much better than ours.
It’s a sobering thought that we are not in charge of everything. But it’s also a reassuring thought when we are able to trust the One who is.