Why Mindfulness Isn’t About Control

Ubiquitous though it is, the effort to always control the situations and people in our lives doesn’t serve us. Here’s why you may want to lose it.

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At this time of the pandemic, I hear many psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health practitioners recommending that people “focus on what they can control.” “We need to control this virus.” “Doctors are working hard to control the coronavirus.”

This advice irks me, and the word “control” rubs me the wrong way. Has anyone ever controlled a virus? No. While we do our best to prevent infection, illness and death, to treat infection, and to prevent spread of the virus, we cannot control it, any more than we can control birth or death or falling in love.

It’s not about control. Life is better without it, on the individual and collective levels. Let’s retire the word “control.” As the late Maya Angelou said: “Words are things. You must be careful about the words you use. They get into your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes, and finally into you.”

Control is a Popular Illusion

The word “control” means the power to restrain something, especially one’s own emotions or action. Respecting, accepting, and relating with our emotions is crucial for health and relationships; control is not. Control also means the restriction of an activity, tendency, or…