To celebrate the release of my first book Blissful Wedding Planning: Becoming a Stoic Bride I’m giving you a WHOLE chapter of the book, absolutely free.
The book itself is less about how to plan a wedding and much more about how to enjoy the wedding planning process. It will give you a simple and easy-to-understand mindset towards both your planning and to every day life.
This chapter is entitled “Understanding Control”.
If you enjoy this chapter the full book can purchased on Amazon here – https://goo.gl/vgisGP
CHAPTER 2 – Understanding control
The last time you were worried or anxious about something, I can 99% guarantee it was due to your lack of understanding of control.
That’s a bold statement, and one that might sound unfairly critical.
Allow me to explain.
Stoics believe that each and every person has their own “sphere of influence”. Essentially, your own sphere of influence encompasses all the things in your life over which you have any control. Stoics maintain that ANYTHING outside your sphere of influence should be regarded as an external source of discomfort, which must be ignored and not allowed to affect your tranquillity.
In “What the hell is Stoicism?”, I explained how being Stoic is less about not letting any emotions affect you and more about the removal of negative emotions. By learning about your sphere of influence and about what you actually control, you will first begin to understand and then put into practice the idea of not letting things outside of your control affect you.
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,20th Century Christian Serenity Prayer
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
This is used by Alcoholics Anonymous, and by other 12-step recovery programmes. Regardless of any religious beliefs, the Serenity Prayer forms a solid foundation for the Stoic interpretation of control. If the religious connotation doesn’t sit right with you, simply omit the word “God” and address the prayer as a statement to yourself.
The Trichotomy of Control
As I’m sure you know, “trichotomy” refers to something split into three parts. Control falls into three categories, namely:
1. Things we can control
2. Things we can’t control
3. Things that we have some control over
Things we can control
Believe it or not, there are only two things that we can control – our thoughts and our actions. That’s it – nothing else whatsoever.
Things we can’t control
This list is endless, but I’m going to pick out a few things that I feel are pertinent in relation to your wedding:
• The weather
• People’s opinions of you
• What people think
• What people do
• The past
With the exception of the weather, these are all very general things, which I will expand on a little later.
Things we have some control over
This is often the hardest category to grasp, so I always like to use an analogy or two, to give better understanding.
Analogy 1 – A tennis match
Imagine you and I are playing a lovely game of tennis. A crowd of spectators, munching on strawberries and cream, are questioning why I’m wearing a tennis skirt.
But hey, at least they agree I have the legs for it.
Do you have control over whether you win this tennis match against me?
You can’t answer “yes” to this, and you also can’t answer “no”. Even if you have a hitman sitting amongst the spectators, hired to take me out for humiliating you by wearing a tennis skirt, there is still the chance he will miss his target. Otherwise, you have some influence over the outcome of the match, but you can’t control it completely. A tennis match could therefore be categorised as something over which we have some control.
Now you can divide this situation into the first two categories – things we can control and things that we can’t control.
Sticking with the tennis match analogy, here are some examples of things you can control:
• Your training regime
• Your choice of coach
• The equipment you use
• The clothes you wear (it’s harder to play tennis in a duffle coat)
• How much effort you put in
• How distracted you are by me wearing a tennis skirt.
Put simply, these are the things that you do. In the purest sense, no one else but us controls our actions. It could be argued that, for example, you are expected at work to behave a certain way and are told to do things.
Even if you don’t really want to do any of those things, you might feel you have to, as if you have no control. I would, however, argue that you always actually have a choice and control over everything you do. Even if you are certain you will jeopardise your position by not behaving a certain way or following orders, your actions are still ultimately up to you.
For example, if you know you’d be fired if you finally cracked and threw a stapler at Barbara in Accounts Receivable because you’re fed up of hearing her cocky progress reports every single hour – we all know a Barbara – your actions are still governed by you, according to your awareness of the consequences.
Let’s get back now to your actions and how this chapter relates specifically to your wedding day.
What you as a couple control in terms of actions:
• Your selection of venue
• The types of supplier you use
• Which suppliers you choose
• What you and your partner wear
• How you arrange the format of your day
• Your food and drink choices
• Your choice of wedding theme
• How you organise the seating plan
• How much you spend
• Who you invite
I’m sure you’re getting the idea now and will be able to add more to that list.
Most crucial is that the things that are often some of the most stressful things about wedding planning cannot be placed on that list, because they don’t fall within your sphere of influence. Let’s consider some of the biggest wedding stressors and think about them in terms of your own control.
I fully acknowledge that me saying “This isn’t under your control” doesn’t automatically make something any better or any easier. In the final three chapters, I will cover specific techniques on how to let go of even the most emotionally charged aspects of your life, once you have recognised them to be outside your sphere of influence. First, I only need to make you completely aware of how few factors you control in relation to your wedding.
By the end of this chapter, you will understand how that knowledge can be extremely beneficial to you and your potential stress levels.
A list of the top wedding stressors and your levels of control over them
Your bridesmaids liking their dresses
Typically, the style and colour of bridesmaids’ dresses are chosen to fit in with the wedding theme and the bride’s personal preferences, not to make the bridesmaids look frumpy.
In this respect, your control begins and ends with choosing the dress. You do not have control over the thoughts and feelings of your bridesmaids (or of anyone else, for that matter).
If you are happy with your choice of dresses, it is then up to the bridesmaids to respect that choice, just as they would expect you to respect their choices for their weddings.
By all means, listen to their concerns and try to find dresses that you think your bridesmaids will like. But remember always that their thoughts and feelings are not in your sphere of influence.
Guests not liking your choices
Your wedding day is about you and your partner coming together and celebrating your love, together with the people you love and respect the most. I personally feel that your wedding is the perfect opportunity for you and your partner to stamp your personalities onto a single day, to show everyone exactly who you are and what you cherish most.
This point, about guests potentially not liking your choices, is very similar to the previous one about the bridesmaids’ dresses – you’ve made your choices for your wedding day for good reasons. You are not in control of other people’s thoughts or feelings, meaning that they are outside your sphere of influence.
You’ve probably heard the quote “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”. While I agree with that, I would take it one step further: if you try and please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one.
Think of your guests and by all means arrange things at your wedding that you hope they will like, but please always remember that what they like is not under your control. And this is your day.
It might well be that you have a fairy-tale family, where everyone gets along fine and no one has ever remarried (though, having said that, evil step-mothers are pretty standard to fairy tales too).
Or it might well be that both of your sets of parents have suffered less than amiable divorces and haven’t laid eyes on each other since.
Plus, Cousin Joe fell out with Auntie Jane over something that happened five years ago, and they’re both too stubborn to apologise.
No families are perfect but, while I’ve heard about some brides-to-be feeling worried about family politics in the run-up to their weddings, please rest assured that I have yet to notice uncomfortable situations on the day.
Thankfully, people do manage to bury the hatchet, if only temporarily, for the sake of the happy couple. And above all, please always remember that any bad feeling between other people is most certainly out of your control.
For your wedding day, however much people resolve to bury the hatchet depends entirely on their own thoughts and actions, and peace levels will depend in part on how much interaction certain people have with each other.
The only part of family politics in your control is the seating plan. Clearly, it is your responsibility to decide who sits with whom, but once you’ve separated Joe and Jane and anyone else who is likely to bicker, you’re done. Whether all those people then do get on is not within your control.
The dreaded mother(-in-law) trying to take control
Mothers will almost always have envisaged how their son or daughter’s wedding day will be and, depending on their own personality, they will sometimes try to exert some form of pressure, in order to make the day live up to their own expectations. If their designs conflict with your wedding plans, clearly this could be a source of anxiety or stress.
Let’s look at the control here.
Do you have control over your mother(-in-law)’s personality?
Do you have control over what your mother(-in-law) wants?
Do you have control over her thoughts and actions?
What do you have control over?
Your thoughts and your actions – nothing else.
Resisting the interference of a close family member can lead to a diplomatically challenging situation, especially if that person has strong opinions and an assertive personality. But it is paramount to your own tranquillity to always stay in touch with the fact that you can only control your thoughts and your actions.
If one of your mother(-in-law)’s suggestions is abhorrent to you and you can’t imagine it being a part of your day at all, then it is simply down to you to use every ounce of diplomacy within yourself to control what you say and how you say it.
For example, simply let your mother know that you have no obligation to wear a pink bonnet down the aisle just as she and her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother did. If she doesn’t like what you say or how you say it, then that once again is out of your control. As long as you feel you’ve been true to yourself and your wedding, you can be happy with what you’ve said and done – you can’t control how your mother(-in-law) feels about it.
There’s always the option of compromising on something that is not particularly important to you, or sacrificing one thing for the greater good of keeping her happy. But please always remember that you are NOT in control of any other person’s thoughts or actions.
This is really simple – you have control over where people sit, and that’s all.
It is very likely you already have a feeling of who is going to get on well together, and it’s almost inevitable that you will want to spend some time working out how best to seat everyone.
You’ve probably already heard stories about this part of wedding planning being a nightmare, but why not simply take control and decide to disprove that idea?
Get together with a few close friends or family members, lay on a load of nibbles and drinks, throw on some good music and hunker down to enjoy working through this conundrum. Write down the guests’ names on separate pieces of paper, then have a laugh as you recount stories of who does/doesn’t get on with whom and why. Keep shifting the pieces of paper around until you have found some way to keep arch enemies at opposite ends of the room and BFFs together.
If your seating-plan aides have any doubts about your preferences, that’s fine – this is your wedding and your seating plan – you are in control, so the final choice is yours.
If it turns out on the day that someone doesn’t like where they have been seated, you simply need to remember two things:
1. You’re dealing with other people’s thoughts and feelings, over which you have no control. This isn’t your problem, especially if they can’t be bothered to pretend they’re having a nice time
2. It’s one bloody mealtime they have to get on for – you or your partner would be perfectly justified in telling them, “Suck it up, cupcake!”
Having to do it by yourself
A lot of brides feel that they’re very much on their own when it comes to planning their big day and aren’t getting enough support from partners, family members, bridesmaids, etc. That can, understandably, be an additional source of stress.
Remember (as if you could forget because I keep banging on about it) that you control ONLY your thoughts and your actions and nothing else.
Have you asked for help from people?
Have you let people know that you’re finding it stressful?
People aren’t mind readers (unless they’re me) and, although your future partner should know that all this could become super-stressful and that planning a wedding can be very challenging, that doesn’t mean that they actually do know.
Use what you’re in control of to try and address the situation.
– Tell people you’re finding it hard.
– Ask for help.
– Ask for recommendations.
– Assign jobs to people.
If you generally don’t like asking other people for help, please change your thoughts and feelings – you’re in control of those. It’s not unusual to feel too proud to ask for help, or to hate feeling as if you’re bothering people.
But weddings have two very strong arguments for making you act differently: this will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done – you’d have to be superhuman not to need some help. And weddings are exciting for everyone involved – anyone who cares about you will love to be given at least a small role and will thoroughly enjoy anything you ask them to do. It really is okay to ask for help.
If you do this and you still don’t get help, then perhaps you need to be having a deeper discussion about the support you’re receiving in your relationship and from friends and family. Still, though, you have to keep in mind that your own thoughts and actions are all that you control.
Facebook tagging and photos
Social media can be a blessing and a curse when it comes to your wedding day. Many people want their day to be kept exclusive to the select few who have been invited and want the photos of the day to be kept strictly to the professional ones that they’ve spent thousands on.
If you’re one of these people and you don’t want everyone to be constantly staring at their smartphones, with no risk of a crappy, blurry selfie of you and your drunk cousin on Instagram before you’ve even cut your cake, then I don’t particularly blame you.
If you’re planning a church wedding, it’s pretty likely that the vicar will ask for all phones and cameras to be turned off during the ceremony. You might well demand the same if yours is a civil ceremony.
This is an especially profound and personal time, when you and your partner will be exchanging emotionally charged life vows. Surely you’d prefer to feel that your guests are all with you in that moment, rather than poised glaring at their phones, trying to catch a killer shot? You’ve paid a photographer for that . . . and you only need to Google “wedding photos ruined by phones” to see why your photographer will be on your side in banning mobiles.
Please be aware that some people will think the phone ban won’t apply to them, so don’t be afraid of putting up a large sign, getting your MC or best man to make an announcement, and/or arranging a box at the door for guests to place their phones into as they arrive.
Their phone isn’t their pacemaker – being away from it for 30 minutes isn’t going to be fatal – and it’ll ensure that your guests are a lot more present and focused on your day.
However you decide to demand no phone pics, I’m afraid I’ll have to remind you that this is where your control ceases. From there, it is down to people’s respect for your wishes, which unfortunately is not within your control.
If you realise later that some people still insisted on taking photos, you can only accept that there was nothing else you could do about it (and at least 97% of the guests listened).
Pressure to look great and how you look in photos
I think it’s safe to say that every bride wants to look at her absolute best on her wedding day. Let’s look at what is in your control here.
• The dress you choose
• Your diet – this will affect how much weight you gain or lose, as well as affecting the condition and appearance of your skin (or so make-up artist friends tell me)
• Whether you use a make-up artist
• Whether you use a hair stylist
• Any exercise regime you choose to do and your level of commitment
You don’t control what your face looks like or your bone structure or your height. Genetics plays the biggest part in how you look, which is again not in your control.
There are three other aspects to all this, which override the discussion above about which parts of your appearance you can control:
1. Beauty is subjective – how many times have you and your friends disagreed over whether a certain celebrity is hot?
2. Beauty is nothing more than an opinion held by a person. That opinion is another person’s thoughts, which you can’t control. If anyone still doesn’t think you’re beautiful, after any changes you’ve made to the things you can control, then that’s their issue, not yours
3. Attitude is as important as beauty. If you tell yourself and believe that you’re a 10, then you will be a 10 – if you know that you look your best, it will shine out of you like a lighthouse on steroids. You might not be a 10 to everyone, but who cares – you are a 10 to the one you love
No matter which photographer you hire – the cheapest or the most expensive, the photography student or the top London wedding photographer – they will catch a few photos on the day of you looking, er, less than beautiful.
Not because you are less than beautiful but because you will at some point be snapped mid-word or mid-yawn, or halfway through a raucous, less-than-attractive laugh. But here’s the great news – you’ll NEVER see these photos.
Whereas the paparazzi will publish the worst possible photo of a celebrity leaving a nightclub at 2 am, your wedding photographer will only be trying to make you happy and showcase their skills.
While creating the story of your day, they will take thousands of photos of you and pick only the very best of them to show you, which you will no doubt round down even further.
Bad weather is possibly a bride’s worst nightmare. But seriously – you already know what I’m going to say about this – you have no control over the weather. I’ve performed in glorious sunshine at December weddings, I’ve performed in snowy weather in March and the worst wedding weather I’ve experienced was on a Saturday in July.
Brides plan, the weather laughs. All you can do is play the odds.
Let’s get on to what you can control. Towards the end of Chapter 1, I said that, as a Stoic Bride, you will be prepared for failure and ready for success. And you certainly do have control over whether you build a contingency plan for the weather and how well you can put that plan together.
Here are some examples:
1. How would rain affect your day?
Does it mean that your drinks reception would have to be moved inside? Are there outside areas not under cover that you and your guests wouldn’t be able to avoid? If so, could you have umbrellas ready to hand out to everyone? Would these really need to be top-of-the-range white parasols, or would your guests be just as happy to choose from a colourful selection of borrowed umbrellas?
2. Where would you take your photos if the weather is terrible?
Speak to your photographer about this – they will have faced this question any number of times and provided or experienced a range of different solutions. Here’s some reassurance: I’ve seen some absolutely stunning and unusual wedding photos that have taken advantage of rainy conditions.
3. What else can you do to prepare yourself and your wedding day as much as possible for the worst-case weather scenario?
Walk yourself through the different parts of your day, imagining how you and your guests would be affected by rain, and think of any possible solutions. You will then have done all that is under your control.
If it does rain, you can either be annoyed or you can choose to embrace it. If you get annoyed, the weather isn’t going to change – you’ll only be in the same situation but feeling stressed. If you embrace the rain and put your contingency plans into place, you’ll feel prepared and be able to live happily in the moment.
Comparison with other weddings
The more competitive people out there will long for their wedding day to be the best wedding that their guests have ever been to. Fair enough, if you’re dropping tens of thousands of pounds on a single day, it’s understandable that you’re going to want it to be extra-special.
Comparing ourselves with others is, to a certain extent, part of human nature. But Stoic philosophy will give you ways to counter the negative effects, bringing together the two pillars of Stoicism; gratitude and control.
Do you really want to allow yourself to get into the mood or mindset where on the day you’re comparing your own wedding with others or wondering whether other people are making that comparison?
The only thing that will achieve is spoiling your day for yourself by making you feel discontented, while not being fully present and living in the moment.
The wedding you have organised is definitely a thing that “you once desired”. Now that you’re actually experiencing, it, don’t spoil the wedding for yourself by thinking about someone else’s.
In terms of control, it always comes back to the same thing – comparisons that any of your guests make are their thoughts. As you well know by now, you are not in control of their thoughts or feelings.
All you are in control of is the wedding that you create; if you’ve created a wedding that you are happy with, that is all you can do.
There’s no doubt that you want your guests to have an enjoyable time at your wedding and remember it for the right reasons. The prospect of guests being bored is to brides as kryptonite is to Superman.
There are three main times at a wedding with a traditional format where guests are most likely to experience boredom:
1. Between the end of the ceremony and the start of the wedding breakfast
2. During the photos
3. Between the end of the wedding breakfast and the start of the evening reception
These are typically long periods where there’s not a lot going on, other than standing around waiting for the next part of the day, when your guests might well be feeling hungry and fed up, making small talk and watching the clock.
Now, whilst you’re not in control of your guests’ thoughts and feelings, you are in control of planning ahead to avoid boring situations. Organising entertainment, garden games, treasure hunts, quizzes and photo booths are just a few of the plethora of boredom-busting options.
In my experience of performing at hundreds of weddings, they provide sure-fire ways of turning the quieter times of the day into some of the most memorable ones.
Whilst you still can’t 100% guarantee guests won’t be bored, you’ll be swinging the odds massively in your favour if you organise some entertainment. Remember, though, that providing entertainment is all you control. You might still be unlucky with a few guests who’d rather not be watching the magician being completely awesome – there’s just no pleasing some people!
Your control starts and stops at choosing the food.
If people have dietary requirements, then of course you have to cater for them. Then there will be a certain number of people who are simply naturally picky eaters. You have no control over that, and it is extremely unlikely you will ever find a meal that suits everyone.
If you know that your family or friends have very different tastes and preferences, and you know you will feel uncomfortable watching people not eating, you could opt for a varied buffet. If one person still feels they can only eat the breadsticks, they will simply have to eat lots of them and start planning their next meal at home.
If you are lucky enough to have mostly adventurous eaters amongst your guests, why not look for an audaciously unusual meal? Giving people new taste experiences is a great way to add a layer of unforgettability (this is not a word) to your day.
Whatever you choose, just keep in mind that you cannot control other people’s tastes and you can’t please everyone, so you simply don’t need to feel stressed about this.
The best man’s speech
Is the best man at your wedding an utter douchebag? Would you really prefer it was someone else? Unfortunately, this is likely to be an action and choice that is made by your partner, giving you no control over that choice. You can by all means voice your opinion, but this is all you can do.
Often one of the funniest and most heart-warming parts of the day is the best man’s speech. Your partner is almost inevitably going to get a good ribbing and there are likely to be some slightly unsavoury stories told, which will get everyone in the room laughing.
Once again, you have no control at all over this. The most you can do is to suggest some guidelines of what’s appropriate – your great-grandmother probably really doesn’t need to hear the story about how your partner necked a bottle of whisky on his stag do and then threw up all over a stripper in Vegas.
However, providing guidelines gives zero guarantee of them actually being followed – what the best man says is out of your control.
If the best man does say something that upsets you, remind yourself again that this was never in your control – it is your response to this external event which will determine whether your tranquillity is affected.
Let’s have a proper think about this – everyone at your wedding is close to you and backing you all the way. If the best man says something to embarrass you and your partner, your guests will recognise how uncomfortable you might be feeling and feel critical only of the best man for what he has said, not of you or your partner.
Any protective feelings of love towards you will thereby only be amplified, and everyone will feel nothing but admiration for you if you laugh it off and move on. You can control your actions, and your feelings will be improved if you force yourself to get over it (which will be easier after you have mentally prepared yourself by reading this chapter). If you hadn’t known anything about the stripper in Vegas, you can also control your feelings about that unfortunate revelation.
Neither you nor your partner has any control over the past and it is a fact of life that people make mistakes; for the sake of your wedding day, it will only help you to enjoy your day more if you can decide to ignore any feelings of hurt.
That doesn’t mean to say that you should put up with any hurtful actions from your partner, though! I’ll talk to you more about this in the final three chapters, but in short for now: practising Stoic philosophy doesn’t mean that all of a sudden you’re immune from upset. You will still always be human and as such you’re allowed to get upset.
SIDE NOTE: This last section, about the best man’s speech, has been particularly difficult to write without sounding sexist and homophobic.
Regardless of your gender or sexuality, please simply mould everything I say to your own situation, to save me having to write “his/her”, “best man/woman” (and so on) a thousand times in this book. I am over the moon that same-sex marriage is (at long last) openly accepted, and women are of course now generally accepted in any role in life, including at weddings.
Regardless of whether you are a male or a female organising a wedding (for your male or female partner), and whether you have a best man or a best woman, a host of “best people”, or if you have done away with speeches altogether, I hope you will accept that every single principle in this book happily applies to any gender, any sexuality, any wedding and to life in general.
Accepting the limitations of control
The bottom line with regards to Stoicism and control is that, as soon as you have recognised that you have zero control over something, it must instantly be disregarded as a source of stress and anxiety, and must not be allowed to affect your tranquillity.
Easier said than done though, right?
Yes, you’re right.
Recognising what you can control and disregarding things outside your control are skills, which, like any other skill, need to be learnt. Once learnt, skills can then be honed by repetition and practice.
There are a few exercises, which are pretty similar yet distinct, which will help you learn this skill and then hone it further. The second of these exercises will be of particular use to you if you often find yourself unable to get to sleep at night, due to things you’re worrying about, which are even more likely if you’re feeling stressed about something like a wedding. The third exercise below is arguably even more useful than the first two.
This is a really simple practice and should be done EVERY time any source of anxiety or stress tries to disrupt your tranquillity. Potentially the only difficult part is remembering to do it every time anxiety or stress presents itself.
Here are the steps you need to take:
1. Define the source of the anxiety, e.g. “The florist has told me that there’s a worldwide petunia shortage and they will now be 100 times more expensive”
2. Define whether this is
a. Something you can control
b. Something you can’t control
c. Something you have some control over
If a.: use whatever thoughts or actions you can to resolve the situation
If b.: state clearly to yourself that you do not have any control over it. You can even do this out loud to yourself in a mirror to make it sink in further
If c.: recognise the part of the situation that you can control and see “If a.” above; for the remainder of the situation, see “If b.”
That’s it – you’re done.
If you have any doubts about how this could ever be effective, please sit back and think very carefully about the following question. Is there ANY benefit to you at all in getting upset, angry and losing your tranquillity over something that you can do absolutely nothing about?
As I mentioned earlier, in the final three chapters I will clarify that you ARE allowed to be upset when bad things happen. But for now, the only relevant point is that getting upset about something you can’t control will get you nowhere.
The best example of this in practice
Have you ever been driving, when you’re running late and having to do your make-up in the car (I know I have), and then you get stuck for ages behind another driver?
They’re driving a grey Fiat Cinquecento and from behind they look as if they’re at least 125 years old. They’re struggling to see over the steering wheel and they’re driving at 16 mph in a 40 mph zone.
There’s a constant stream of traffic from the other direction, removing any possibility of you overtaking. You’re begging the other driver from the deepest part of your soul to follow a different route from yours, but at every roundabout they keep selecting the exit you need to take.
What control do you have of this situation in terms of what you can make the other driver do?
Clearly, causing the maddeningly slow driver to fishtail is an option, as is sideswiping them off the road, but neither of those options bears reasonable consideration, especially if you don’t want to be in jail on your wedding day.
Slightly more legal (but nevertheless ineffective) options include tailgating them, beeping furiously or using any combination of expletives that you know.
We already know that we are not in control of anyone else’s thoughts or actions. Your real options in this situation boil down to just two outcomes:
1. To arrive late, turning up flustered and angry, with a hoarse voice from screaming at the other driver for the entire duration of the trip
2. Realising that you have no control over this situation and resolving yourself to being late but turning up calm, having used the extra time to prepare yourself mentally for whatever you’re about to be late for
Whichever of the two options above you choose, you will be late, and your anger will not improve anything at all.
I’m sure this driving situation is easy enough to understand. You see you have no control and thus you can then choose to stay calm, right?
Is it actually much of a stretch of the imagination for you to mentally replace that driving situation with one where a bridesmaid doesn’t like her dress, or someone doesn’t like their food, or any other possible stressors at your wedding?
I really don’t think that it is.
It is the ability to quickly recognise the level or control you have in any situation and how to respond accordingly that will be vital to you attaining and keeping your tranquillity and becoming a Stoic Bride.
Insomniacs and worriers – this one is especially for you. It’s an exercise that, during my time as a hypnotherapist, I recommended people did before going to sleep at night. It might feel like a lot to read through and remember, but after a couple of practices you will realise how easy and enjoyable the exercise is.
You might be happy to keep your eyes closed, as suggested below, for this exercise. However, please don’t feel you have to if that is difficult or uncomfortable in any way – you will still gain from the exercise if you follow it with your eyes open.
If you are happy to shut your eyes, you can simply read through the whole exercise a couple of times before starting, to memorise the steps (don’t worry – the steps are logical and easy to remember).
Or, if or when you are somewhere you can listen in peace to an audio recording, go to www.chrispiercymagic.co.uk/bwp-exercises to hear my extended explanation and recording of this exercise, which will be even easier to follow and more effective.
1. Get into bed and make yourself comfortable
2. If your partner is in bed with you, simply make them aware that you’re going to sleep and don’t want to be disturbed
3. Close your eyes, then begin to imagine yourself in the most relaxing, happy place you can think of –
Imagine what your place looks like, taking time to look at some of the things there
Imagine what sounds you would hear, e.g. the sound of sea waves Imagine feelings you would experience, e.g. the warmth of the sun
Imagine any smells there might be, e.g. the aroma of the ocean
Imagine any tastes you might experience, e.g. the refreshing beer you’ve been drinking
You can of course adapt this exercise to any place or situation where you feel most relaxed. If you love Christmas time at home, for example, you could imagine the sound of the log fire, the feeling of sitting in your favourite armchair, the smell of Christmas dinner and the taste of mince pies.
Most importantly, allow yourself to engage fully with all of your senses, really picturing yourself in your place and imagining all the related sensations as if you were really there. It will become such a beautiful place within your mind, it feels almost real
4. Now you’re imagining yourself here in this wonderful place, turn your attention to any thoughts in your mind that are bothering you. Acknowledge that they are JUST thoughts – they don’t actually mean anything.
You’re not there to judge the thoughts but only to be aware of them. I recommend you start off with only two or three thoughts, until you get used to the remaining steps below
5. Imagine now that there are three baskets in front of you, which represent the trichotomy of control: one basket with the label “can control”, one with “can’t control” and one with “some control”.
Now imagine that you are able to take one of the thoughts you’ve noticed from inside your head and examine it, then decide which basket it belongs in.
Then simply put the thought into that basket and then move onto another thought.
Repeat this until you have no new thoughts to imagine
6. Now go back to the thoughts in the “some control basket”. Take them out of the basket and re-examine them.
Imagine splitting each “some control” thought into two parts – the part you control and the part you don’t control – then put those newly divided parts into the appropriate baskets
7. I’d like you now to think of the best way, in your mind, to destroy all the thoughts over which you have no control.
Are you going to set fire to them? Soak them in acid? Throw them in the air and watch them blow away in the wind?
Simply choose the way that symbolises most clearly to you those thoughts being truly removed from your mind, then imagine destroying all the other “can’t control” thoughts in the same way.
You have no control over them, so there is no point at all holding onto them
8. You are now left only with the thoughts that you can control. Pick them up and examine them one by one. With each thought, ask yourself “What can I do about this right now?”
If the answer is nothing, then destroy the thought exactly as you did in the previous step. Repeat until you’re left with the thoughts over which you have control and are able to take action to resolve right now (if any)
9. If you can take action to resolve any remaining thoughts that are bothering you, do that now
10. Scan your brain for any residual sources of anxiety or thoughts and repeat steps 7) to 9) until there are no thoughts left. Then, with your brain completely clear, let yourself drift off to sleep.
If you’re doing this exercise during the day, slowly allow your mind to reconnect with your surroundings and, whenever you’re ready, open your eyes and continue your day. You will feel significantly more relaxed, and stronger in dealing with the day ahead
ACCURATE GOAL SETTING
This exercise goes one step further, removing the need for you even to think about having to eliminate the things you can’t control.
Sound good? I think so!
This is all about the goals you’re going to be setting yourself in relation to your wedding day itself. Your goals can be split into two different categories: external goals and internal goals.
External goals are ones for which you have no, or only some, control over the outcome. For some control, an example would be “I want to compile my wedding guest list without causing any upset”. For no control, an example would be “I want everyone to think my wedding was the best wedding they’ve ever been to”.
Internal goals are ones over which only you have control, for example “I want to drop a dress size before my wedding day” or “I want to create a wedding day that I am happy with”.
There’s not necessarily anything that will prevent your external and internal goals being achievable. However, I’m sure you can already see how much easier and less frustrating it will be to focus primarily on achieving your internal goals, the ones you can control.
You might well, in theory, be able to create a wedding that everyone thinks is the best wedding they’ve ever been to. But, with the levels of control you have over everything needed for that, the amount of stress involved and the lack of tranquillity you will almost certainly experience, there is of course a high chance that your wedding planning will become an unenjoyable experience for you.
It’s worth considering whether you would wish that on any bride-to-be, and why then you should deserve it.
Now let’s look at an internal goal: “I want to create a wedding day that I am happy with”. I am sure you can already sense just how much easier that goal will be to achieve.
Sure, there will still be some ups and downs, but hey – there’s got to be some excitement attached to making decisions and finding solutions. As long as you fully appreciate that you only need to think about your own thoughts and feelings, the things you can control, you will only need to think about your own preferences while considering what is important to you about your wedding. So, from now on, please only set yourself INTERNAL goals!
Conclusion on understanding control
After reading this chapter and practising for just a short time, I am confident that you will find it easy to recognise the level of control you have over any aspect of your life.
It might take you a little longer to fully develop the mindset of putting anything you can’t control out of your mind and banning any associated negative emotions, but that’s okay – you will get there.
After a life of being bombarded with endless pressures around things we can’t control, it’s natural that it can be harder to learn to ignore them. I have, though, aimed to cover all the typical wedding stressors here, explaining why and how you can simply let go of any stress and frustration related to them, to give you a great start in your own wedding planning.
There will be readers thinking I’ve missed something vital. “What about compiling the guest list?” “I’m stuck on even choosing the theme.” “Budgeting is by far the hardest bit!”
Please believe that I’m not now feeling smug when I say, “That’s out of my control”. But, in the same way that you, say, can’t please everyone with your seating plan, I of course can’t predict what is most stressful to you about planning your wedding.
If I’ve missed the one most important stressor for you, you only need to go through the simple steps of determining your level of control, acting only on parts you can control, and deciding not to feel stressed about the rest.
“What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them. It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance.”Epictetus
Stoic thinking around control is fundamental to your journey to becoming a Stoic Bride. Being able to let go of anything you can’t control is one of the most important life lessons and skills that any person can learn, bride or not. Once you get used to thinking about everything in this way, you’ll be a big step further towards Stoic tranquillity and you’ll have a lot more time for things that are truly important.
Being a Stoic Bride will empower you to:
• Understand your sphere of influence
• Focus on anything you can control
• Accept and not worry about what you can’t control
• Set yourself only internal goals