The Illusion of Control and Why You Need to Let it Go

Photo courtesy of Elsie Esq

The illusion of control is a very real psychological effect that has been studied and debated by renowned psychologists for years.

The arrival of “super-technology” and phones that are nearly smarter than humans have given us constant access to every aspect of our lives. Information is instantly obtained; gratification is never delayed. Questions are answered in mere moments with text messages, mobile email, and the internet. We are immediately alerted to any and all changes in our friends’ lives, our watched eBay items, and our bank accounts.  It seems there is nothing that can’t be solved, figured out, or Googled.  And, if Google doesn’t know – maybe Siri does.

What many psychologists have debated over the years is whether feeling totally in control of all of life’s situations is a good thing or a bad thing. Originally dubbed a ‘positive illusion’ in 1988, controversy has since arisen. Will our ever-increasing control over certain aspects of our lives lead to higher productivity levels, better pay and more happiness? Some say that positive illusions, like feeling more in control, can motivate people to follow through on tasks they might otherwise have abandoned.  Others have a much different opinion.

The opposing point of view is that the illusion of control is, in most cases, just that: an illusion with no basis in reality.  However, this phenomenon, whether real or not, can lead to a very powerful and very real desire to have control over everything, leading to high levels of anxiety when things don’t go as planned, which quite honestly, is what most of life is about.

For some, the need for control can become quite controlling in itself.

What we must keep in mind about our ability to control our lives is most simply stated in the serenity prayer:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

In other words: Be realistic.  Making positive changes in your life is the greatest and most beneficial form of control you definitely can assert. By letting go in situations you simply can’t control, you’ll be able to be more present, getting the most of everything life has to offer.


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