A Coaching Power Tool By Ana Kardonski, Conscious Living Coach, EL SALVADOR
Control vs. Release Definition
To direct the behavior of (a person or animal): to cause (a person or animal) to do what you want.
To allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free, or to allow (something) to move, act, or flow freely.
Control vs. Release Uncover and Deepen Your Client’s Awareness
When my 3 sons were younger, I lived in fear. Fear of not being a good enough mother, not stimulating them enough, fear of them hurting themselves, and the list went on. As I embodied this fear, I would remain in a permanent reactive state, trying to control situations hoping that this would prevent my worst fears. I would be quite self-critical, prevent my kids from doing activities in which they could hurt themselves, and try to be hyper-present so they would be stimulated and active. This permanent reactive state made me emotionally volatile. I would get angry or frustrated with my kids, I would want to run away from my life, and I felt overwhelmed and unable to see a way out. As I began working on myself and discovering why I felt the need to control, I learned the art of release.
Releasing was trusting that my kids would be fine, that I was an imperfect, loving mom doing the best job I could and letting go of my self-judgment. This allowed me to release fear from my body and enter a state of acceptance and presence. I discovered that releasing is one of the most powerful actions that one can take as it is an act of faith in something greater than us, and a decision to remove the “what ifs” and replace them with the NOW; with the “thisIS”.
The purpose of this power tool is to uncover and deepen your client’s awareness of the level of control versus release in their daily life, whether it be as a parent, as a spouse, as a citizen, or as an employee. It is the art of finding peace within a world in which few things are under our control.
Control vs. Release 3 Types of Business
When you “direct the behavior of another” or “try to cause them to do what you want”, you will be disappointed and will unnecessarily suffer. As neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris explains in The Logic of Practice, in his Waking Up app: “rather than try to change the world at each moment, there’s another game to play. You can look more closely at what you’re doing with your mind, and seize to respond to life in ways that produce more suffering for yourself and those around you.” When your response to life centers around the need to get people to behave in the way you want them to behave, the need to protect yourself and your loved ones from being sick or getting injured, or the need for the government to be a certain way, you will continue experiencing fear, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. To move beyond your need to control, you can “seize to respond to life” in the habitual controlling way by releasing your previous ways of engaging with the world and finding new ones. Byron Katie, the creator of The School for the Work, proposes a new way of responding to life.
She explains in her workshops, “there are 3 types of business: mine, yours, and God’s.”This theory explains how we have the power to control what we think, say, and do, yet we can not control what others think, say, and do or what God does (she refers to God’s business as anything related to earthquakes, war, or death). Byron Katie contends that being in others’ business creates separation and suffering because trying to change something that cannot be changed is painful. To remove ourselves from other people’s business, she suggests that we focus on our thoughts and emotions and understand them deeply so that we find new, more positive ways of engaging with our world.
Moving from control to release requires that we shift our focus from an outward (I need to change him or the world)focus to an inward (I can understand me) focus. If we take responsibility for our thoughts and interpretations, we change the way we are perceiving the world and those around us, then we begin our process of releasing. Understanding the reasons for our need to control and understanding that it is impossible to control others, will allow us the space to release that need and embrace the situation as it is presenting itself to us. For example, when a person thinks of thoughts such as: “my spouse should listen to me”, they immediately suffer because they feel distressed and anxious; they are wanting their spouse to act differently than they are currently acting. Wanting reality to be different than it is, is painful. A person shifting into a state of release would set free their need for their spouse to act a certain way. This release of expectation would allow them to experience their spouse’s actions without being attached to an outcome. Releasing themselves from the expectation would allow a person to observe their spouse’s current behaviors, accept the fact that they exist, and then find a way to move forward, without being in a state of distress. They would surrender to what is and then determine their next steps without the need to control the person or the outcome.
As Byron Katie states, “I am a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. We can know that reality is good just as it is because when we argue with it, we experience tension and frustration. We don’t feel natural or balanced. When we stop opposing reality, the action becomes simple, fluid, kind, and fearless.” Allowing yourself to accept people and situations as they are, will allow you to remove the filters of your perception to observe what is, without denying it. So, if I realize that the reality is that my spouse did not listen to me, my acceptance of his behavior as reality will allow me to remain at peace and find ways to move forward by responding without the fear that comes with not wanting reality to be what it is. Releasing is allowing yourself to trust in the perfection and wisdom of what is. It is the beauty of accepting reality as it is, to leave room for creativity for your path forward. Fighting with reality makes us waste energy and contract while accepting and releasing will be expansive and will allow for a response filled with creativity, patience, and/or love.
Control vs. Release in Parenting
In a recent coaching session, my coachee was in an intense state of anxiety and desperation because her son was not taking the steps necessary to apply to college. She could not control her son and his decisions, and she was in a profound state of suffering over it. As the session progressed, she noticed that she was so worried about what he was not doing, that she was busy trying to live his life instead of living her own. He had already voiced to her that her fear transferred over to him and that he needed space from her pressures and demands. During the session, she discovered that the anxiety over her son’s college application process was all-consuming, damaging her relationship with him, ignoring her wellbeing, her marriage, and her other children. She needed to refocus her energies. Allowing herself to “escape from the confinement” of her worried mind and her need to control the actions of her son and allowing herself to “act and flow freely” to release back into her life.
“Stress is the gap between our reality and expectation. More the gap, more the stress. So expect nothing, accept everything” is a timeless, anonymous quote. Expecting nothing and accepting everything does not lead to inaction and lack of care. Instead, it means that your releasing of your expectations, your stressful, controlling thoughts, allows you to be in a neutral emotional state, a state which allows you to let your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain in charge of your critical thinking and creativity, work at its best. When under stress, this part of your mind works less efficiently as it enters the fight or flight response. When my coachee released herself from her expectations for her son, she began to find new opportunities for connecting with him and serving him in the best way she could as his mother. She was also able to step back into her life, appreciate her son for who he was at that moment, and observe his current situation. She could allow herself to be present with him fully, be an active listener, and be open to new ways of being there for him during his college applications process. Without control, she could serve as a loving presence that was there for him instead of a fear-filled presence interacting with her son in a fight reactive state.
Control vs. Release With Institutions
When we want specific outcomes for the institutions that directly affect our lives, we can also become very frustrated, hopeless, and even aggressive when their actions go against what we want or believe. We fill ourselves with ideas of how they should operate and waste large amounts of energy trying to control them. For example, my kids’ school is currently implementing large-scale changes to its curriculum and teaching methodologies. Some parents disagree with the changes and have approached the school with anger and fear, complaining about the new system, collecting signatures to ask for a return to the status quo, and boycotting certain school initiatives. These parents feel an intense need to control the administration’s decisions. For them, releasing would imply accepting the current measures first before they could take any steps towards beginning a productive conversation with the administration. This acceptance would allow them to shift from a state of stress to one of peace, to then be able to engage the school in productive conversation. Releasing their need to be right and for outcomes to be a certain way would allow them to open to new possibilities or to realize that the school is no longer the best space for their children.
Control vs. Release With the Self
As I stated earlier, when I became a mother, I had very clear, rigid expectations of myself. This made me quite controlling, and this controlled me to feel overwhelmed, angry, and frustrated. These expectations consumed too much of my energy. The saying that “what consumes your mind, controls your life” was directly applicable to my state of mind. Through several coaching sessions, I began uncovering how to release. I deep-dived into and questioned my beliefs about motherhood, how perfectionism played a role in my life, my fears, and my beliefs about self-care. This allowed me to release my expectations of myself, my ideas of the worst-case scenario, and my need to be perfect as a mother. As I shifted into a state of release, my household and I began to flow, and my kids began to experience a more at peace mother. My ability to release mindsets, beliefs and expectations for myself allowed me to create what I wanted to create all along; well-balanced, happy, and independent children.
Control vs. Release in Coaching
As coaches, we focus on creating space for our clients, on listening intently without judgment, and we have faith that our clients have the answers they need within them. Our goal is to take them on a journey of self-discovery by asking powerful questions. In a coaching process, clients might identify their need to control people, situations, or institutions. They could uncover how it makes their breathing shallow, their muscles contract, how it fills them with fear and uncomfortable emotions, and how it keeps them in a state that prevents them from being at peace. If this is the case, the coach’s role will be to ask powerful questions to move them from their current state to their desired future state.
The coach’s line of questioning will be key in helping the client to uncover ways of releasing their need control. It is very important to note that at no time should the coach ask questions that might be leading for the client. Clients must make discoveries on their own through the coach’s thought-provoking, open questions. Some of these questions might include:
- What might you need to move beyond your current situation?
- What is the real issue behind your problem?
- What is keeping you stuck?
- What do you need to accept?
- What do you currently feel when (insert problem)?
- What do you want to feel?
- What steps do you need to take to feel those feelings that you want?
- What will be true in six months, if you don’t let go of _____? If you do?
- If you let go of that idea, how would you feel? How would that affect your behavior?
The Coach will need to challenge their client by serving as a mirror, by allowing them to see aspects of themselves that might be hidden from them, and by helping them enter and feel their desired state during the session. The coach’s goal will be to help his/her clients identify the toxic thoughts and beliefs that keep them back so that they can observe them, uncover their falsity, their effect on them, and possibly eliminate or reframe them. The coach will guide them in finding new paths, making discoveries, and uncovering new ways of seeing that which they could not see before. The power tool of Control versus Release could guide coaching questions so that the client can navigate his/her way from a reactive state to one in which they see options and in which they have the creativity to find solutions.
Find New Ways of Approaching Life
In a 1977 lecture in Ojai, California, Indian speaker, philosopher, and writer J. Krishnamurti said: “You see, I don’t mind what happens. That is the essence of inner freedom. It is a timeless spiritual truth: release attachment to outcomes, deep inside yourself, you’ll feel good no matter what.” As human beings, we are surrounded by culture, by expectations and labels of what is success and what is a failure, what our ego minds see as the better path, and in our need to feel successful and happy, we try to control what cannot be controlled. We try to control our situations, our partners, our kids, our institutions, and future outcomes. The very act of control is one of fear, lack of trust, and contraction. Once we allow ourselves to “release our attachment to outcomes”, to release control, and to accept reality as it is, we can begin to expand and grow. This shift begins with our understanding that we can only control what we think and perceive, what we feel, say, and do. As coaches, we help clients evolve their perceptions and thoughts, and, in turn, help shift what our clients feel, say, and do. By walking beside them in their journey into releasing, the coaching experience will allow the client to remove their “what ifs” and replace them with the NOW; with the “this IS”, and in turn, find new ways of approaching their life.
The Byron Katie School for the Work
Sam Harris, Waking Up Theory Section, The Logic of Practice audio
Krishnamurti – Ojai 1977 – Public Talk 2