How to Stop Trying to Control Other People and the World

Issue 10. February 3, 2023 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

The reason we try to control the world around us is that we have the mistaken belief that if only things were “right” with the outside world, then we would be okay.

I forget about this all the time. On the mirror in my bathroom there’s been a sticky note for years with the above quote, that’s how important it is for me to remember that.

This reminds me of the Chinese proverb I learned years ago,
“It’s easier to put slippers on your feet than to carpet the world.”
What that means is that the world has jagged edges, but we want it to be soft and smooth. We’d like there to be carpeting on the world so it will be the right kind of soft for us. That’s absurd, of course!

The amount of time and energy it would take to do that would be impossible to harness. But that’s what we’re trying to do when we try to control other people and the world. The fact is, we cannot carpet the world – but we can put slippers on our feet. That is, we can’t control the outside world (i.e., people, places and things), we can only control ourselves.

Here’s an example of something I did in the beginning of 12-step recovery to “carpet the world.” Someone who attended my weekly meeting was very triggering for me. Instead of trying to figure out what *I* needed to do to manage my own reaction, I tried to control HIM.

repeatedly wrote items on the monthly business meeting agenda to try to get the meeting members to make rules so his behaviors that were triggering me would stop. I tried to control the meeting and the people in it.

I eventually learned could do something different (put slippers on my feet) – that *I* have options. I truly didn’t realize that before recovery, I lived as if I didn’t have options. I had black-and-white thinking, but I couldn’t see it (because I was using my black-and-white thinking to look at my thinking!).

I started to understand that making the outside world “right” is not possible. But I could make things right within ME.

Below are some of the options I realized I had for the meeting scenario. I learned all these techniques in recovery. They’ve helped me in many situations where I wanted to control the outside world.

  • I took deep breaths to calm my nervous system  
  • I repeated the phrase “acceptance is the answer to my problem today
  • I thought “bless him, change me”
  • I reached out to my higher power and prayed, “God, please show me your will for me regarding this situation and give me the power to carry it out.”
  • I told myself I’d go to a different meeting if it got to be intolerable

Imagine if you took all of the energy you’ve been putting into “carpeting the world” and harnessed even a fraction of that energy into “making your own slippers” how much more peaceful and calm your life would be!

There’d be no more eternal drain on your energy trying to control that which you cannot control!

When I think about my family of origin, we were trying to carpet the world. We didn’t know that slippers existed. I was taught to lay down carpet – that’s all I knew how to do. If you’re like me, you can unlearn the carpet laying technique that your parents taught you. You can go out and buy slippers  – you don’t even have to make them yourself!

And that’s the beauty of choice – of giving up control! YOU Get to decide how you’re going to live your life. 

Things I don’t want to live without…

My food plan. 

I could not have made it to 5 years at goal weight and almost 7 years of abstinence with a food plan. Which is not a “diet.” It’s a list of foods that trigger me (what some might call my “alcoholic” foods as well as a list of food behaviors that are off limits for me.

The reason I’m able to follow this food plan for years in ways I could never do with diets is because of the 12-step program of recovery and my Higher Power. The obsession and compulsion have been lifted.

If you’re struggling with food issues, whether over or under eating, you are not alone. It IS possible to recover. Drop me a line if you’d like to chat about your food issues.

Find this helpful? Share with a friend:

Posted in

Like what you've read and heard?

Try subscribing to my monthly newsletter, "Happy, Joyous and Free."
It will help you change your dysfunctional patterns of behavior.

Want to chat with me about your boundaries? Hop onto my calendar here for a free 30-minute Better Boundaries call.

* indicates required