Letting go of control

voices of your village Jun 24, 2021


0:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village, this is episode 178. This is a rebroadcast of episode 113. If this past year, 15 months has taught us anything. It's how little we are actually in control. Yet we often are trying to assert control to feel safe when we feel out of control, we feel unsafe, and most of us live with this illusion that we can control all the things. When I originally recorded this episode, it was pre-Covid. And I think it's more important now than ever. As we've all had a light shine on how little we do control and what we can and cannot control and what it means to relinquish that desire for control and allow for the unknown and get comfortable not knowing what the answer might be. That fear is so real and we're going to talk in this episode about what to do with it. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:30    Alyssa

Welcome to Voices of Your Village, a place where parents, caregivers, teachers and experts come to support one another on this wild ride of raising tiny humans. We combined decades of experience with the latest research to create the modern parenting village. Let's dive into honest conversation about real parenting challenges, so it doesn't have to be this hard. I'm your host, Alyssa Blask Campbell. 


00:02:00    Alyssa

I've been sharing on social media about my journey in learning to let go of control. And I've been getting so many questions. So, here we are. Now we get to hang out and I put a call out for your questions, specifically on this and got a bunch of responses from you. So, I'm jazzed to get to dive in. The thing with control is that it can come up in a bunch of different ways, but it gives us this false sense of security. When we think that we have control, it can make us feel safe. And for me, a lot of control work was similar to anxiety work, because the sense of feeling like I'm in control, could help me feel less afraid. And we know that anxiety is when you're stuck in fear. So a lot of this work overlaps and we have a full episode on anxiety, coming out in about a month. So we're gonna go deeper into anxiety but you might hear a little bit of overlap there. The thing about control is that what we're trying to do is have concrete information, trusting the unknown and acknowledging the uncertainty is one of the keys to emotional freedom and it's really stinking hard. I, for me, I've had a lot of opportunity to practice this in the last couple of years. I think, especially as we navigated pregnancy and miscarriage, it has been a constant practice in letting go of this idea of control that you can control when you get pregnant, right? I thought for so many years I was preventing it with birth control and went off of birth control and was like wait no. Now it's supposed to happen and then with miscarriage right this idea that like there's something I could do to help my body stay pregnant and that feeling of responsibility which also though was like comforting if like, oh, if there's something I can do then I can make this happen and then accepting that uncertainty is so hard to say like, yeah, I don't know, I don't know when we'll get pregnant. I don't know how we will become parents. I don't know when so often we want these concrete things. We want things to be on a certain timeline. We want to know the when, the how, we want it to be black and white of a yes, or a no and accepting the space of, I don't know, is really hard and makes a lot of people feel really uncomfortable and can spike fear. We know what we can do, or what we are capable of, right? So one of the questions that we got was like, oh, I just feel like things will crumble if I'm not in control, but I also hate feeling responsible for all the things and this totally resonates with me. I'm really good at being in control of all the thing,  is a story I used to tell myself, but like everything down to like what type of milk, we're buying. Nope, not just the type, the brand as well, right? Like I don't just want milk, I want milk with this brand and I want this type within that brand, like goodness gracious, Alyssa. Or asking, trying to like hand stuff off to Zach. But then when it doesn't happen the way that you, actually just this morning, I pulled out smoothie stuff and I had to rewash the container because it hadn't been washed enough or correctly. And I found myself like angrily washing it cause I'm like oh like if I just it, maybe I'm just gonna have to wash this myself every time I want it done right. And then I'd be like, well maybe there's another way to communicate about this. But had like, that it, I understand that pattern, this idea that if you just do it yourself, it'll be done, right? And we also have an episode on the mother mental load that there's research about how much society places on moms and then how moms especially in a hetero relationship will take on the mental load of the family, the like scheduling, when's the next pediatric appointment, what childcare are they going to, how are they going to get to and from, what are we doing for after-school care, what lunchbox do they have, do they have all their diapers stocked at school, what diapers are they wearing? All the things, right? All these things that we end up checking and it can feel like you're just in control of all of it and then you are the designator who hands things off. Part of this we're doing to ourselves because we're afraid that if we don't do it, it won't get done. 


00:06:59    Alyssa

I have some questions that I ask myself when I feel like I'm stuck in the space of control. Or the fear of letting go of it, that fear of the unknown, or the uncertainty getting to a place where I could say, yeah, I don't know how we will become parents, or when and truly feeling comfortable with that and not feeling scared or panicky about it. If like, okay, but like getting older, what's happening to my eggs and all these like that's where I used to go. And I've just realized man you can plan all day and things are going to unfold in ways that I don't have control over and learning to accept that radically changed how I live my life and now I get to recognize it in other areas and continue to do this work. Here are some of the questions that I like to ask myself when I feel like I'm holding onto control. 


00:08:00    Alyssa

What am I afraid is going to happen? So I had a mom reach out and she was talking about how her kid really needs sensory input, needs to like, be going upside down and needs a place where she can really move her body in a way that feels good for her body. And mom was like, but I'm so afraid she's going to get hurt. Like, how does she learn how to flip upside down and not break her neck? Like letting her climb up and know there's just a gymnastics mat beneath her? It scares the crap out of me. She's like how does she know when it's too high or when she's not safe or whatever. So first and foremost is what are you afraid is going to happen? And then what's the likelihood? I asked her what are the odds that she is going to fall and break her neck? And she was like, well I don't know but like it could happen. I was like sure, of course it could. What could we do instead of saying, you can't climb here or that's too high. When her body is really looking for it. How could we support her in risk management and us letting go of managing her risk here and teaching her how to manage it? Because there's always something that's happening when we are unable to be flexible. When we can't let go of control, there is another thing that's happening. Sometimes it's that we are then stressed. So then there's cortisol mirroring between us and whoever we're interacting with sometimes for me it could be resentment that I am taking on all these things and Zack isn't, even though I haven't communicated about them or feel like you can't hand them off because he wouldn't do them my way. It sounds so absurd when I say it out loud, but it's true, like and then I would get annoyed with him and that's on me, right? So there are, so the other thing here with this little girl, if she wants to climb and Mom is saying that's too high and not letting her go upside down and get the input that her body needs. Some other things that might be happening. This little girls not getting the input she needs from a sensory perspective, then it's going to be really hard for her to regulate emotionally. So you might be seeing more tantrums or emotional expressions. You may then be having a really hard time in relationship with each other because the days might feel really hard, if she isn't regulated. And I wonder what being able to go upside upside down, and take those risks would do for her regulation. And for your relationship for you saying, like, I trust you to take this risk and I'll teach you how to do it. Like, oh wow. Yeah, you are up there, really high. You're so strong. You climbed all the way up there. I've never seen you do that before. I've never seen you up that high and I wonder if you went upside down right there. What could happen. What do you think could happen? Asking her. Bring it back onto the tiny human and helping them learn to look around to say like oh yeah if I fell from here what might happen or if I went upside down here what might happen versus hmm if I want to go upside down where could I do that in a way that I feel comfortable? Then my body knows how to do it. It takes some regulation for us to not just jump in and control the situation. And instead to place trust and respect and responsibility into the hands of these tiny humans, so that they can learn how to manage their own risk. 


00:11:51    Alyssa

I was getting so many questions from you all on how to do this, how to put it into practice. What are the steps that you follow in emotion coaching a kid for emotion processing. So I created of totally free for you guide on how to emotion coach these tiny humans. It also has a bunch of visuals in there that can be helpful for you. Like the difference between a coping mechanism and a coping strategy, helpful visuals that a lot of you have said, like, oh you made this is an Instagram post and I wish I could hang it in my house. So we threw it in there for you. If you are one of those humans who wants to print that off and use it as a reminder for yourself, but head on over to seedandsew.org/emotions to snag the free emotion coaching guide. If you want some more support on this journey, 


00:12:42    Alyssa

This trust and respect and responsibility, it goes in so many different ways once Zach and I had plans and it was a Saturday and we had evening plans and daytime plans. And the daytime plans got cancelled, the people, we were meeting up with couldn't join anymore. So all of a sudden we have this free Saturday and I'm like jazzed and I'm in my head, I'm like, great, we can get the laundry done. We can get the dishes done. Like I'm planning, all the things that can be knocked off our to-do list. I'm controlling now what our midday is going to look like in my head. Zach's not a part of this conversation, it's all happening my head, and he's sitting there scrolling on his phone and then I, as it continues and I realize he's still sitting there, he's still sitting there, I was like hey babe like what do you want to do today then? And he was like oh I dont know. And had like just just chilling. He was just chilling and I got so angry with him and I was like oh he's just assuming that I'm going to do all these things and he isn't even thinking of the laundry, the dishes or whatever. And I then recognize he asked me a question. I like, snapped back at him and I was like, oh, yikes, I've been having a whole conversation in my head that he doesn't know about. And so I was like, all right, I had to work to regulate and then I told him, hey bud, I feel like today's a good opportunity now that we're free to knock off dishes and laundry, etc, which of those would you like to do? He chose dishes and I was like cool, cool. So I went and threw in laundry and I'm like moving and grooving and he's still sitting there on his phone and I'm like, oh my gosh is he really not going to do the dishes? Like I am fuming inside of me and had to recognize oh no my instinct is to do it right away. Check it off the to-do list and then hang out. He's going about this a different way. He's still planning to do the dishes but it's not going to be done on my timeline and I had to trust that he would get them done before we left the house. And sure enough dishes were done before we left the house. They were just done a little later than I would have done them. I get to practice this all the time where I get to recognize like, oh I had a certain way. I would do this. And if I choose to do all the things myself, I will be grumpy. I will be stretched too thin. I will be resentful. I am not a lovely person to be around when I'm stretched too thin and doing all the things myself because I want them done a certain way, man. Is it worth it? Is it? What does it mean really matter? Alyssa, at the end of the day, how the towels are folded? I've had so many people also in business who, I'd be sitting around these tables, we're talking about business and all this jazz. And they would say like, Alyssa, how are you doing all these things? I was teaching full-time and starting Seed, and running a podcast and doing research and writing a book and consulting. And people like, how are you doing all this? It was like, oh, I'm not doing it by myself, Zach edit's the podcast and someone on my team writes the blog, then here are things that Erica helps with and Tara and Rachel and all these people that come in to like, take things off my plate and still to this day, all the time, when I'm around a table of women in business, they'll be like, oh, well, I couldn't hand that off, like, I have to do that. No one else could interact with my client base or no one else could post on Instagram, the way that I post, or no one else could edit this picture the way that I do. And what I see is just like so much burnout among women in business, and then I was recently around this table and it was just me and dudes, and I got the same question like, how are you doing all these things? And I started to share the systems that I have in place that help me operate and all the people that come in, all the village members behind the scenes here at Seed that help us run and grow so that I can show up and do things that I love. 


00:17:08    Alyssa

Like hanging out in my DMs and chatting with you, or creating Instagram content, because I love it or creating online classes for you and tools and resources in this podcast, all these things that I love to do. I want to have the energy and the capacity to do. And so when I'm sharing the things that I don't love to do or that just take up so much of my time that somebody else could do these dudes were just like taking notes and asking questions like oh yeah I could do that here. I do that. Not one dude around the table said oh but like only I can do that part of this business. Every single one was like oh yeah cool like I could apply that here or there and I started to realize it's coming back to this idea of control still. So I think I you guys this might trigger a feeling in you and I'm okay with that but I think this is also a gender issue. I think that as women, letting go of control is even harder. I think it goes hand-in-hand with that mental mother lode, which we have a podcast on, of like I need to do all the things. Here's the thing, you can't and a huge part of this is communication. So I had like a come to Jesus chat with Zach, just a couple years into our relationship when I realized like, oh he's never once cleaned the bathtub or I was the one who drove the car to work and so I was doing all the things like if there was an oil change, if we ever needed work on the car, grabbing groceries, planning dinner and making dinner, he was working full-time and in school full-time. But I was working full-time. And have always, always, always always had a second or third job, literally, since I was 14 or actually, probably 12. I've had multiple jobs so that I could afford to live. And yet I still was carrying all these things and I remember being on vacation and he was in his master's full-time and he was working full-time and I just felt like ooh, but while we're on vacation is like a time where we can find a spot where we're both calm and I can have this conversation. These conversations are never fun. They're always uncomfortable and I will often start them saying like hey I'm not looking forward to talking about this and I feel uncomfortable or nervous. But I think it's really important that we talk about it because I am like holding on to some feelings that I need to chat through, and I was just like, babe, I'm feeling like I'm doing most of the things to run the household and I'm sure there are stuff that you're doing that. I don't notice either. And so I just feel like we need to chat like a need to break down. What are the things that are necessary to run our household and have a conversation about them? Even if you're not in a season where you can take on more, I think I'd just like the acknowledgement to of like, oh, thanks so much for cleaning the tubs. I've never thought to do that. Yeah, it's so we had this chat and what I realized in this was it. He said, he was like, I didn't realize like all he truly didn't realize all the things that it took to run the household. I had just taken them on. And we start, this was again, early on, but we started this conversation and he was like, oh yeah, I can take on this, I can take on that and then came that practice of me, first was letting go of control of like, oh, I don't have to do all this, so conversation, number one, then when he said, oh, I could take on X Y and Z. Then it was me letting go of when or how it would happen. I might let him know. Like, okay, babe like thanks so much for doing the laundry. I need something that's in there by Thursday. Does it work for you to have it done by Thursday, or by Wednesday, or whatever, I put, like, communicating what timeline I needed it to be on, truly needed, not wanted but truly needed it to be on, and then trusting that he would meet that expectation. That's the part that for me is the hardest in the letting go of control, it's the trust it's the trust that he's going to do it and that and in knowing it's not going to be perfect right? 


00:21:32    Alyssa

There are times he won't do it. There are times that I'm not perfect and when we aren't perfect and we don't meet those needs, when I have asked him to do something and he forgot about it, then me saying like, hey babe, have you been able to get that letter in the mail and he's like aww shoot, I totally forgot. That's okay. Like, is there something that I can do to be helpful at this point? Or can you get it in the mail today? And typically that point he's like I can get in the mail today and in that moment I'm not usually calm enough to talk about like what could we do differently next time but then later, we'll come back together and I'll just be like, hey, is there a system that we could put into place like reminders on our phones? Or is there something like shared, Google Calendar thing? What would be helpful for us, moving forward. So that we just don't have the same mistakes over and over. And sometimes this is me sometimes it's him asking me these questions or me coming to him and saying like, man, I'm really sorry. I dropped the ball on that earlier. I am trying to figure out how I could have a system that runs more smoothly, so that I'm not trying to keep track of it. All in my head, do you have any thoughts? Like, what's helpful for you? And we'll just have these conversations like once were calm and it's later. 


00:22:51    Alyssa

I think a huge part of this, when you're letting go of control and you're handing it off to a partner. Is that compassion piece of it doesn't have to be perfect. I won't be perfect either. And I trust that your intentions are good. Like, I don't think he was like, oh, I'm just going to not mail that letter, right? Like he wasn't coming from a place of trying to like sabotage my thing, he just forgot. And so I'm more interested in and we do this on our team for Seed all the time. All the time as we've grown, I'm going to get so many emails every day. We get so many messages. There's so much content that we're working on creating and putting out and whatever. So, a lot of moving parts, a lot of people, we don't have a home office, everybody works remotely. And so it's a lot of communication about systems, like, okay, if it, what could we create, that would be helpful so that you don't have to keep track of all this information in your head so that there's a spreadsheet for it or there's a reminder system or what could we create. That we can let go of that control of keeping track of it, all in your head, from an information stand point. And accepting there will be unknowns, always, always, always always there will be unknowns. It was so interesting when I had gotten pregnant, I went from the unknown of. When will we get pregnant? How's it going to happen? Will we have to go through fertility treatments? Like we've done so many things, acupuncture, all this the unknowns, like when will this happen? How will it happen? To...peed on a stick. Now, I have a known but then went through the unknowns of when will morning sickness start? And then when will morning sickness stop, will I be able to stand up today without throwing up? Wonder what I'll be able to eat today. Who's this kid going to be? What's our childcare going to look like? I wonder how the birth is going to go like the unknowns didn't stop. They just changed. There will always be unknowns in this idea that you can control yourself, control the situation enough that there wont be unknowns is not true, they just change. Okay? Now let's talk about unknowns in kids because this was another thing that we got a lot of questions about, like, how do we let kids have options and choice while we're still in control of their safety holding boundaries etc. So I like to operate under choice theory under choice theory, we're going to give kids two choices. I think it's really important for kids to have choices, but I think we often give them too many choices or we offer up the two choices and then we don't stick to that. So for instance, you can turn off the TV or I will turn it off when I reach 5, when I say five, I'm going to turn it off. Even if they say, they want to do it themselves. Because I've given them the choice of you turn it off. Or when I say five, I'll turn it off. And now if they say no, I'm gonna do it myself and I let them and I say okay go ahead and then what if they don't do it, now their sitting there just like looking at me and then I end up in this battle, like, okay, then I'm going to go do it and then they start screaming and we end up going back and forth. Instead, I just want to let them know very clearly in concretely, here are the two choices. You can climb into your car seat or I can pick you up and put you in your car seat. Then I need to pick them up and put them in their car seat. Whenever the time limit is up, right? Like I was saying part of the expectation, part of the letting go for adults, is knowing like what the timeline is going to be. So like if I say exact said he's going to do the dishes and my expectation is that he does them before we leave for our evening activity. But he doesn't know that, then we could leave and I would be annoyed and upset and I come home and there's so dishes in the sink and then he does them the next day. And in his mind like yeah, I did the dishes and then and I was annoyed, right? So a huge part of this is making sure that kids have the time frame. I love visual timers here because they, if they can tell time on a clock, great, if not like giving them some sort of visual. So a clock could be the visual or it could be a sand timer, it could be a timer on your phone. It could be setting the microwave timer. Could be counting, but letting them know by when, right, if I say, you can climb into your car seat, or I can pick you up and put you in your car seat, their timeline for climbing into, their car seat, could be different than the timeline for me, picking them up and putting them in. I don't think it's fair or respectful to not use visual aids and timers. In the same way that I don't think it's fair for me to be annoyed with Zach about not doing the dishes on my timeline. If I didn't communicate the timeline, if I need the laundry done by Thursday, but I didn't tell him like, oh, I need a shirt that's in that laundry by Thursday and so he doesn't have the laundry ready. And now I'm annoyed that he didn't do what he said he would do by my timeline that I didn't communicate. That's not fair. It's not kind and respectful communication. And so for kids, I think one of the huge things for the like letting go of control and giving them control is giving them control with concrete boundaries you can turn off that TV or I will turn it off when I reach 5, lets them know, okay? If I really want to turn it off I can do it or when they say five they're going to turn it off and then you have to follow through it that when when they are now. Saying that they want to do it themselves. I'm going to let, I'm going to turn it off and let them know you really want to do it yourself. How can I help you feel calm so we can talk about this. I'm not right now going into like well you should have turned it off then before I said five like no, that's not helpful or kind. I'm gonna offer to help them feel calm. And let them know that when they're calm, we can talk about it. And then once they're calm and then I'll say, yeah man, you really want to turn it off when I see five, I'm going to turn it off and so next time if If you want to do it by yourself, you can turn it off. Before I say five, we can have that conversation. Once they're calm would you rather put your Lego castle on the table for tomorrow or put the Legos back in the bin? It's also okay for them to express frustration or disappointment for the choices that you offered, they're allowed to feel hard things. It doesn't have to be a choice that they want. Like, maybe the choice they want, is, no, I don't want to go to bed. I want to stay up and keep building my Lego castle, and that's not a choice. Your choices are would you rather put your Lego castle on the table for tomorrow or put the Legos back in the bin? And again, I would then give them a timeline. I'm going to set the timer on the microwave when it goes off. I'm going to put your Lego castle up on the table for tomorrow, unless you decide you want to put them in the bin. And then we're going to go upstairs or whatever for bedtime, whatever's happening next. But I want to give them two choices. I think it's helpful for kids when we identify when they're looking for control and let them know that, oh it feels like you really want to control how we're going to do this. You want to control who's going to sit next to you at the table? I wonder if you were trying to connect to that person. I wonder if sitting next to them makes you feel safe. Helping kids build awareness for this stuff that man, so many of us are trying to build now as adults I think can be so so so helpful you can find where your limits are and set them. So often we'll see kiddos pushing and pushing, and pushing a boundary. Yeah, and we might seem like they're looking for control, but really what they're looking for is where and when are you going to hold the boundary? So be prepared for that as well. And then make sure you are mindful of when you are projecting your fears onto them, it is wild how many times I get DMS of like oh I just understand where my daughter's coming from because she is me like I just get it and I'm like okay yeah. She might have a lot of same patterns that you have or you might have the same temperament, but maybe the traits that you're seeing, or the fears that you're seeing, she's learning from you, right? So being able to take a step back and identify like who I'm projecting this fear onto her. I'm going to regulate so that then I can show up for her in a different way. We had someone ask about controlling, like trusting childcare and other providers like controlling how they interact with your kiddo. I think this is huge, it's so crucial, because if you don't trust the people, you're leaving your kid with your kid won't feel safe there. They won't. They'll know that you don't trust this person and they won't feel safe in that environment. And so a huge part of them feeling safe and comfortable and able to explore and grow and develop in that space is your comfort with them being there. Other care providers, do not have to respond the same way that you do. Every human needs one person they can turn to whose feelings, they don't feel responsible for. You can be that person and other people don't have to if you know that your child is safe. If you feel like all right? Yeah, they're safe here and they just might not be responded to in the exact way. I would want all the time. It's okay. It's okay. If other caregivers aren't that human for your child, it's really powerful for you to be that person. It's okay if your partner or your in-laws or the child care providers aren't filling that space. It's okay if your tiny human doesn't have a relationship of vulnerability with them as long as they have one person just one babe, that's there's research to support this. They need one human who they feel safe and comfortable with whose feelings they don't feel responsible for and that can be you. So, as long as you know, your kiddos safe and that other environment, then it's letting go of the fact that sometimes, they're going to be responded to differently. And that's okay. It's an opportunity for conversation a lot when they're sharing stories with you. And you can ask them like, oh, how did it feel when she said that? Hmm, I wonder what you could say next time. How could you advocate for yourself? It's a fun word to teach young kiddos, how to advocate for themselves. 


00:33:55    Alyssa

If you are leaving this and you're ready to start doing this work of letting go of control first, it's awareness, it's recognizing where you are asserting control or where you're feeling. Like you cannot let go of control. Once you build that awareness and you recognize it then it's pausing to breathe to regulate. Before you then ask yourself those questions. What am I afraid will happen? What's the likelihood? What is happening right now? When I'm asserting control, that is an unintended consequence, because I'm not able to be flexible, and then I would build in some mantras for grounding yourself, some mantras that help you feel calm that remind you in the moment of the source here, this could be, it doesn't all need to be done my way or if I try to do it all. I won't show up as the person I want to be. It's okay for there to be unknowns. There will always be unknowns, that's my go-to because I had convinced myself that if I controlled it then I would, there would be knowns, I would know, but I could take care of it and it's not true. There were always other unknowns, that was the anxiety talking. Practice noticing before you try to change. 


00:35:30    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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