Uplift your Night Episode #1: The Limits of Control Strategies

Here is the transcript of Uplift your Night Episode #1 on June 26th, 2020 with Nerice Gietel, Certified Executive Coach and Online Learning Facilitator

Camille: Hi everyone. Thank you for joining me tonight. Uplifters is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enroll. This is the eleventh episode of our Antivirus series and we are very happy to be here with you tonight. 

Our objective with this Antivirus Facebook Live is first to reply to your questions if we can or collect them and consult with professionals afterward so we can answer them later. Secondly, we just want to be there with you. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult times with you. 

We are very happy to have Nerice Gietel as our special guest for tonight. Nerice is a Certified Executive Coach and an Online Learning Facilitator with international HR experience and a passion for supporting individuals to successfully combine life and work. 

Nerice, welcome to our live broadcast. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. 

Nerice: Hello! Good evening everyone! I’m really happy to be here and I hope I’ll be able to share some of my knowledge which will be useful to you. 

It can be difficult to determine what are the things we can control and what are the things we cannot control, especially now that we are all dealing with uncertainty. Are there techniques that can help us make a distinction between the two? What is the most important thing to keep in mind to identify what we can control and what we cannot?

Nerice: I think when you start thinking about different things you can control and the things that you cannot control, in reality the only thing that you can really control are the things that has to do with yourself. So your mind, like how you respond to situations, your actions. So when a situation involves somebody else, the behavior of somebody else, we already have no control over that, the most you can have is influence. And then there’s a whole range of things out there that you cannot control, for example the weather, traffic, Covid-19 situations, that we have a global pandemic, the list is endless. I think sometimes we can spend so much time worrying about all these things that we really have no control over that we don’t spend enough time doing all the things we can do and that we do have control over. We don’t focus on the actions we can take to make ourselves feel better because we are so busy dealing with the things out there which makes us feel helpless and more upset.  You feel hurt and actually can lead you feeling hurt, tired, exhausted and you don’t have energy left to take the actions that you need and do things that you have control over. 

So it’s a question of where you wanna put your energy.

Nerice: Yes, that’s a huge thing.  

What are examples of things in our lives that we can have control over in general? For these specific examples, what does it really mean to be in control of things? 

Nerice: The things that you can’t control, let’s just say you had a busy day at work and you are exhausted. And you may also have had some encounters with your boss or a friend, something that really was upsetting to you, now, you cannot go back in the past and change the situation, you cannot change what happened during the day but what you can control, let’s say you’re tired and you’re upset, you can spend the night just thinking about this and talking about this or you can think “What can I do right that can help calm myself down?” or “What can I do physically to make myself feel better? Is it to shower, go and listen to music that I find relaxing and puts me in a good mood or meditate, do some stretches, all those actions you can take to influence how you’re feeling about the situation. You can’t change the past but often we find ourselves ruminating about that.  These things take so much practice, it took myself a while and still can’t fully control this. I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, thinking about and worrying about things. The brain is very powerful, and if you have that habit, undoing it will take time. One of the things people can do perhaps is to create a tool kit of all these habits and practices that you know would make you feel better and you might feel too tired or to even switch on meditation, so maybe have reminders on your space of all the things that can make you feel better so it’s easy to access them. 

Sometimes control strategies are useless and can even be harmful, taking a lot of our time and energy, making us feel weak when we realize we can not change things, etc. How can we move away from “bad control strategies” to acceptance? 

Nerice: Control strategies can sometimes occur in the form of various addiction, so when you’re in a bad position, feeling hurt, you may not be able to stop your mind thinking about it, so you try to take control and take away the power of the situation by drinking and using that as a form of escaping or gambling, overeating or eating too little, all these things that you can feel that you have a sense of control. I’m no expert when it comes to dealing with addictions in which you’ll need a specialist for. But I think sometimes we do this to a lesser extent, so it may not be an actual addiction but we do things to sort of numb or take away the feeling or the power of a  bad situation. One of the big steps is to realize this might be happening, or being aware of it. Knowing things like, “I’m drinking more than I should be” or the fact that we go out on the weekends three times if i can and getting ourselves so drunk that we feel sick the next day and do it all over again. This might be because not just we are enjoying it or having fun but it’s because we are trying to stop something from happening. Being aware of the negative impact, feeling tired, exhausted and all of that. It’s really difficult, this is the kind of thing where it’s much harder to do if you are trapped in the situation. I think one of the things is if you find yourself in a painful situation try to find things that you can do when you are feeling good about yourself or focus on the daily basis or the three things that you are grateful for, those daily habits to help you focus and take more control of your brain, your feelings and your actions. 

Thank you and in one of the Uplifters’ online courses “Dare to Dream”, we do have these rituals that can help in thinking positively. Something that I’ve been trying myself, the first step is to realize what they are, you can think of something that is upsetting you that’s been bothering you for a long time now, trying to list down all these things you’ve been trying to get rid of and then think about if it helps you in the long term or short term, and at the end of day we may said or did something or thought in a certain way because of wanting to get rid of these things. Did it work? And then realizing that 80 percent of the things you’ve been trying to establish to control didn’t work. So this is the time you start identifying what are the bad controls. 

Nerice: Correct. I think some of us do and that might make us think that we’re doing something about the situation is talking about it. I know that this is something that I myself used to do a lot, especially in certain work situations where I was working with a colleague who’s not particularly nice and I would always have a trusted friend or sometimes my husband when I go home and we talk about the situation over and over. Somehow this might feel like a release but actually when I think about it now, all I was doing was sort of replaying the hurt over and over again. Since it kinda feels like a release, I didn’t think about what I was doing that might be causing the situation or what can i do differently, what actions can i take? Sometimes people would just agree with us and we get reassurance that can feel OK but ultimately you’re not necessarily doing anything to change that. 

What does acceptance really mean? How does it feel when we reach that state of mind?

Nerice: The state of mind is when you feel calm. When you reach acceptance, eventually it will lead to calmness. Acceptance is just being aware and knowing the difference between the things you can and cannot control or knowing that you’ve done everything within your power to influence the situation and being at peace with that. I think once we accept the things that we cannot control, it can take such a huge burden away from us. We carry so much responsibility we will never feel any sense of achievement because if it’s out of our control that’s just the way it is. 

We all want to reach that state of mind but it does require a lot of practice. Back to the thoughts in our mind that’s been bothering us, instead of thinking about something else or something more positive, one technique can be to observe what’s happening with your mind. Acknowledging that you’re in control of your thoughts and accept or talk to it even. it may be weird at the beginning but through practice, then slowly you will disconnect with those bad thoughts. Another thing that I’m doing is when I happen to get thoughts is humming. I will try to sing it, I will sing it my mind, I will think of a song that I like and the thought would start playing along so it takes away all the seriousness out. It’s like knowing that the thoughts are there but you are choosing not to acknowledge it. 

Nerice: I just want to make sure that I made this completely clear, so if i could talk about a specific example where people taking control, is this thing about your employer relationship and I have a lot of personal experience of finding myself working with someone where at some point things didn’t feel right anymore, at one point and I was speaking to our domestic worker about this the other night and she strongly agrees with this, is for example, when you’re going to your first job to HK or Singapore, sometimes you may feel like you have no choice in terms of who your employer is. You have no negotiating power, you’re just going with it, This may or may not be true. But once you have experience working and you’re thinking that the working environment is not working for you for whatever reason,  there will be an opportunity for you to terminate a contract after a certain period of time, so what you have control is how much effort you put into finding an alternative. So this may not necessarily transpire but how much effort do you put in finding other agencies that are available? What do you tell your friends that might know somebody who could be interested in hiring a new domestic worker? All of these things, how much do you know about your rights? To what extent do you inform yourself about organizations that are there to support you who would extend you access to the support that’s available for you? There are so many different things that you can do that will help you feel less helpless other than just talking about the situation. The specific actions that you can take. And then if the situation presents itself, where your employer terminates your contract because they’re leaving, again at this point, this is where you have a little bit more negotiating influence. So when you go with your interview, how well do you prepare yourself, if you find it scary and intimidating then practice with a friend. Do you think about the things that are important for you to know from your employer’s point of view. So an example is, from someone who shared with me, was that at the interview she asked, what’s the situation with food, for me it’s really important that I’m fed properly. At that point you can ask that question. It depends on how much effort you put in terms of having another interview where you have the ability to negotiate. So realize the moment where you can change things.  

It’s very true and I’m not minimizing how complicated those situations like trying to talk to your employer or even your family, that step can sometimes feel like a big step to take. 

Nerice – Yes, and you can practice it. If you want to take action, maybe you don’t have a group of friends that will help you practice, expand your network and find friends that can help you. 

From the comments, Ody said that she is trying to control her daughter to finish college, but her daughter wasn’t able to finish it. 

Nerice – As a parent I think I can feel that is so hard to accept, but unfortunately sometimes we need to let people walk their own journey. All we can do is talk to her, rather than forcing her, try to let her understand  how you feel or what you have been doing and why it’s good for her. 

Do you have any advice for domestic workers so they become better at focusing on what really matters to them?

Nerice:  I think with everything, it’s about what we can actually do about it, focusing on actions. And this element of “Am I in this situation because of somebody else? Then probably I cannot control it.” The most one can do is influence it and take action and do something about it. 

Yes. And again it all depends on the situation, sometimes it’s harder  to speak up but if you feel like you could and you should then it’s better to try it. 

Nerice – Absolutely. 

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