Letting Go of Control: How I Stopped Trying to Force Solutions

15 August 2019

Originally Published:
June 6, 2019

When I was a little girl, I remember becoming so overwhelmed with feelings that I would send myself to my room until I could cry through enough of them to clear my vision. If I got in a fight with someone, I would write an apology note and beg them to take it off my hands. I didn’t seek to understand who was at fault, I only wanted to ease the uncomfortable tension. I was sorry it happened and I wanted to undo it. I needed to erase it, but I could rarely get the resolution I was so desperate for. Adults told me: “Not everyone is ready to resolve a conflict as quickly as you.”

No one told me: “It’s not your responsibility; you cannot fix it.”

I respond too strongly to my perception of others’ reactions. I always wonder if I read physical and social cues too strongly. I consider the presence, the look, and the tone of voice more important than the content of what they’re saying. Maybe I’m right in my assumption, maybe I’m wrong, but if someone doesn’t want to tell me how they’re feeling, I can’t make them.

I have lived the majority of my 32 years on earth in this way: A conflict arises and all I want is for the issue to go away and be resolved immediately. If it isn’t fixed, I feel my world is collapsing and I freak out. I cry and panic and become desperate for resolution. My mother recalls that I was predisposed to such behavior in my very early years. She told me that even as a toddler I had these panicky freak-outs.

I hate the idea of causing hurt feelings, and particularly disappointed feelings, in others. But other people are often more well-adjusted and can handle the blows of disappointment as easily as a ship rises over a large swell. It’s not comfortable, but it’s a normal part of the ups and downs of life. Yet I’ve always handled it like my ship is about to wreck. I know I’ve had feelings of being over-sensitive and disappointed from a very young age. I didn’t want anyone to be mad at me, ever. It’s a part of how I’ve always understood or misunderstood the world.

I never knew any other existence. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to force a solution. I didn’t know how to balance emotions—I didn’t see it as a possibility.

My feelings run deep and the current is disproportionately strong. I am headstrong and emotionally reactive. I struggle with the tendency to overreact, but life is not as dramatic as I make it out to be. There are times when I need to be reminded of the true proportions of what is happening, so I can weigh them against my feelings and try to cut some of the excess heft. I’m not exaggerating my feelings; I feel so intensely and so deeply that learning to balance myself in a world that does not feel this way has been a lifelong challenge.

Imagine a life full of dramatic conflicts, and you can never control the level of your emotions; they always overflow or break the dam. Joy is out of this world happiness and sorrow is the deepest despair. But the ups and downs are consistent and the rocking from one to the other is comforting because it’s familiar. Then, after decades of this you begin to feel different. It’s not overnight and it isn’t that the pendulum has stopped the perpetual swinging. But you feel different, as if now there’s more light than dark. You realize you can feel angry or anxious or sad without flooding or sinking.

That’s me, right now. I feel generally content and I don’t know what to do with it. The mellow ups and downs of a content – even happy — life feel too safe. Part of me is waiting for the next massive swell. Of course, something will happen, that’s life, but this normalcy that feels so good can sometimes feel so strange. It’s like waking up in a new home and forgetting, for a moment, that you moved there.

Continue reading this article on The Fix.

Kristance Harlow

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