When friends and family members are going through a rough time, often our immediate reaction is to try to resolve the situation for them. To ease their pain. To make life better. If a romantic relationship isn’t going the way we want, a common reaction is to cling harder, trying to convince the other person to stay. However, by easing our grip on relationships and circumstances that feel out of control, we paradoxically gain the control we were missing. We renew the power to be in charge of our own lives in a beneficial way that produces joy, and inspires others to live their own greatness.
The Drawbacks of Being Everyone’s Traffic Cop
When the traffic signals at an intersection go on the fritz, and a white-gloved policeman shows up to direct traffic, we’re relieved someone took charge of the chaos. On the other hand, when we helpfully take the reins in someone else’s life because we can see where they are going wrong, their initial gratitude reinforces our caretaking behavior, rewarding it and inspiring us to keep going on that path, doing more and more for others, and less and less for our own dreams.
A rooky cop might get so wrapped up in stopping that lane, waving on others, blowing the whistle, watching all four corners of the intersection, that he might not notice immediately when the signals are working again. Imagine the drivers are eager to go when the light turns green, but the traffic cop is oblivious. What if he keeps blowing that whistle, waving his arms, insisting everyone obey his will? That is a trap people with a caretaking tendency can easily fall into. When we try to manage the lives of others, we do both them and ourselves a disservice.
In essence, we disempower them and interfere with their own opportunity to grow. Instead of being hypervigilant about what others are doing or might do, relinquish the job of being the unofficial “traffic cop” of your family, and at the same time let go of the unwelcome offshoots of your good intentions.
When you’ve signed up to be that helpful traffic controller, you get paid a salary, too, but in a different currency:
• Resentments on the part of others
• Feeling unappreciated and disrespected
• Rapid aging
• Chronic worry about when the other shoe will drop
• A frantic sense of running as fast as you can, and never being able to do “enough” to solve all the problems you feel responsible for
If you don’t do anything to stop the belief that it is your job to coordinate everyone else’s happiness and wellbeing, that belief grows stronger by default. Stronger not only in your own mind, but in the assumptions others make about you and your willingness to keep giving up pieces of yourself to try to make them feel good.
The behavioral roots grow deeper and wider, and every aspect of your life is affected. You feel the burden to make sure that everything goes smoothly. That sense of responsibility, and holding on to the outcome you’ve decided is best for all concerned, can become so strong that other parts of your life—those soul-wishes for happiness and fulfillment—begin to wither from lack of attention.
How to Balance Love of Others with Love of Self
Balancing your love for others with love for yourself is the key to finding that essential calmness everyone craves. When you are steadily on course with your own dreams, and living on purpose to create a life that is joyful and expansive, it becomes much simpler to allow others to live their own lives, too, even if they do it in ways you would never choose.
Enjoy spending time with them, and when someone has a problem, step back from it—don’t take on the yoke, and avoid commiserating with them about all that is wrong. Encourage them to look at possible solutions. Reassure them that you have every faith in their innate ability to make the right decisions for themselves and to enjoy positive outcomes. And declare your love and affection for them.
Without firm control on our own minds, we fall easily into the trap of default living, which the majority of people experience. Default living means that you live in a reactive way, bouncing from one crisis to the next, feeling controlled by what you see or hear around you. The news. What the neighbors are doing. A problem being faced by a family member.
Reap Your Rewards
The “secret power” of letting go contains a power in itself that will blossom and flourish if you pay attention to it. Like the Matryoshka doll–Russian nesting dolls that fit one inside the other–you will be gifted with:
• Peace of mind
• Ability to intuitively support others in their own growth while ceasing to micro-manage their every move
• Energy to pursue your own vision
As you practice letting go, instead of clinging even tighter out of fear the situation will get worse, you’ll discover that events and relationships actually become smoother, more easygoing, and more harmonious.
Try it: I believe you’ll enjoy your new sense of freedom to live your own life, on your terms. The power of letting go is a secret because so few people are using it. It’s a lost art that millions seek, not understanding they are looking for it somewhere out there, when it resides inside, ready to access at will.
About the Author:
Evelyn Roberts Brooks is a best-selling author, speaker and transformational life coach. Go to evelynbrooks.com to enjoy over 400 free articles, free webinar invitations and to receive your free 3-Way Guilt & Stress Busters gift collection. To learn more about W.A.I.T. and other tools for working in harmony with the universal laws, see her book, “You Were Born to Triumph: Create a Five-Star Life in Your Quantum Kitchen.” For your free parenting workshop video gift, “The Secret to Family Harmony, ” and articles about raising great children and enjoying a happy family life, click here.