How to Overcome a Situation That’s Out Of Your Control

Personal Development
Worried Girl

This is a follow up to my last article Release Your Fear of Scarcity. I had so many positive reactions to this article and had so much feedback from people, who felt this article had touched their lives just at the right time, that in this article I want to tell you a personal story of mine, that taught me one of the biggest lessons of life – when I was in a situation, that was out of my control, full of rage and fighting against a situation that I didn’t wanted to accept, life taught me the power of letting go my wants and accepting my responsibilities.

A Story of Victimhood, Anger, Rage and Lawyers

Several years ago, my then girlfriend and I made a decision to move into a nice apartement. Since we both were singles, we had a lot of stuff that came together. Actually, I was the one with the massive amount of stuff. So I made a decision to move into a big apartment. We were looking for more than 8 weeks and were pretty tired that weekend after seeing at least 6 apartments that wouldn’t fit our expectations.

So we came late evening to a house, where the last apartment of that day’s schedule was. We went into it, and it was good. 2 floors left enough space for living and my business. The lighting was great, it looked perfect and the owner was very friendly. My girlfriend was so tired of the search, that she wanted me to sign the papers that day, and so I did.

Just one week after signing the contract, we returned to the apartment and were shocked. It was the first time we saw the apartment at daylight, and we realized, we made a terrible mistake. We looked behind some furniture that the owner had positioned and saw rotten wood and rundown windows, the carpet was ruined at several places. And in some places we could smell it – mold. My girlfriend cried and said she absolutely don’t wants to move into this house.

I immediately went to the owner and attacked him for tricking us with lightning and not showing us the poor quality of the apartment. I told him, that I want to rescind the contract and am not willing to move into the apartment. He of course referred to the validity of the contract and told me, that I had to pay at least the security and the minimum of 3-month rent. Since we needed to reverse the abrogation for our other apartments, we were talking about 3 months of double rent for each of us. We were talking about $12,000 in total.

At that time, that was a huge amount of money to me, I had no backup cash, and I wasn’t sure of how to come up with it. So I went to a lawyer, because I wanted to fight the bastard who tricked me. My lawyer told me, that my chances were few, because the law was on his side, and I had no proof of being tricked. This was about 4 weeks before I had to pay. Another 2 weeks went by with harsh letters from my lawyer and the lawyers of the owner of the apartment.

I couldn’t sleep at that time and I was in constant rage, until I finally made a decision. I saw that this was a situation, that wasn’t under my control anymore. I felt like a victim, tricked and abused, but it seemed like there was nothing I could do about it. I lost my appetite, my sleep and my mood was very depressed. My relationship wasn’t that great either.

How I Changed My Experience

One Sunday night 2 weeks before the payment, I was alone, and I made a decision. I would stop worrying. I would stop being a victim. And I would stop putting my focus on this bad situation. What did I do?

On the outer world:

  • I faxed a letter to my lawyer, to stop any further attempts and don’t do any further thing in this affair.
  • I faxed another letter to my banker, describing the situation and asking to increase my credit line for 6 months, so I could do the payments.

But more importantly on the inner world:

  • I sat down and prayed (now I am a Christian, but whatever religion you have or even if you’re an atheist, you could adopt this to your God or beliefs)
  • I prayed: “Lord, I am in a situation, that I can’t control. I don’t want this to happen, but it is not about what I want. Thy will be done. Whatever will happen, I will accept it, and I will accept my responsibilities.
  • I put all the anger and worry I had in a ball of white light and let it dissolve into the universe.
  • I repeated: “Thy will be done. Whatever will be, I will accept.
  • I then stood up and turned my mind totally away from the situation. Being okay with whatever would happen.

What happened then?

  • The next day, my banker told me, that my credit limit was extended.
  • Two days after it, I had a call from someone I hadn’t spoken for years. He offered me a very profitable project, that would give me much more money than I would need to regain my financial stability. I needed to start working on it immediately.
  • From that on, I was so busy working, that I never checked my bank account for 6 weeks straight.
  • When I looked at it, I was flabbergasted. The money for the apartment & security wasn’t drawn. It was all there.
  • I watched the account the next weeks, but the money was never touched by the owner of the apartment. I never found out why he didn’t do it. Maybe he found another person that took the apartment, but I don’t know.

All I knew was that I send a big “Thank you” to the universal force (that I call God).

Key points

  • I didn’t bargain with the universe (or God). I was really willing to accept anything that would happen.
  • I was really willing to accept my full responsibility for anything that I had done.
  • I used it in a situation, where I couldn’t change anything. I followed the quote of Reinhold Niebuhr: “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.”
  • I really turned my mind away from the negative thinking about the situation. I was alright with whatever happened. I really let go of the fear.

Although I was okay with the situation after the prayer, it is still something that puts me in awe even after all of these years. I have seen this work so well in other situations as well.

The hard part (and the one that makes it so effective) is, that you really only gain that level of peace within (that would allow the universe to work its wonders) once you are really willing to accept anything that happens and stop trying to bargain with the universe.

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43 comments… add one
  • Patrick, this is a great story. Thank you for sharing. I really appreciate you illustrating the process of how you released yourself from this tormenting situation. Sometimes, we need discernment skills to acknowledge when there is simply nothing we can do in a situation and that we must first surrender before we can allow ourselves to move on.

    • Patrick

      @Belinda: Yes, although I still sometimes don’t like the thought of surrendering (I’ve been a doer most of my life), I’ve found that Niebuhr was right, you need to change things, that you can change, but first you need to be wise enough (or beaten by the universe enough) to recognize a situation, that you cannot (and I guess shouldn’t) change. Then surrender (I prefer letting go, since it doesn’t sound that passive to me) is the only option. Another great quote is. Change it, leave it or love it. These are the only 3 reactions possible. And if you cannot change or leave a situation, then accepting it is the first step for love to enter your life.

  • The order in this universe (G-d) has yet to let me down yet. While I’ve never been 12,000 in debt I have had days where I would have had nothing to eat, so I prayed that I had done everything I could and that I was just going to trust the Almighty to deal with it. You are absolutely right in it coming through every time, and the situation you came through is really incredible. It really is a testament to the power of just letting go and trusting.

    • Patrick

      @Justin: Wow. Being in a situation, where I had nothing to eat for my definition is even more scary than $12,000 debt (after all we’ve seen these days, that for some people creating billions of debt means becoming significant). Thank you for sharing another great insight in the power of the universe.

  • Nobody of Consequence

    Yes… situations that are out of one’s control… in the last 3 months the following has happened:
    * 3 uncles have come down with cancer, one survived, two look to die soon.
    * Grandma has a no-resuscitate order after so many attempts, grandpa looks to die soon (looks like 4 funerals in the next year).
    * Got laid off, won’t be able to go back to old employer until November 23rd, who knows about where I might end up… but looking for work… (technical writers don’t appear to be in high demand at the moment, even with 10 years of experience).
    * Wife left me. A loveless marriage, yes, but she took my 3.5 year old son with her.
    * Due to stressed finances, and the fact that I no longer need a 2 bedroom apt. I will need to move…

    So, looking at no job, 4 funerals in the next year, a divorce, loss of my son, and a need to move. No control, live is crazy, and yet, maybe it is because of so many layers of bad stuff happening, but I just stopped caring.

    And yet, people I know seem almost disturbed by how at peace I am. Part of this is because I am also a Christian, and I accept that it is not my will that will be done. Part of this is because I have a friend in my life that is a uniquely amazing individual, and makes me want to be a better person (and reasonably able to deal with all the craziness that is happening), and part of it is just because… what good would shouting, swearing, or getting angry be? None.

    So, whatever comes will come, whatever happens will happen, and I have no control over any of it. The divorce will happen, people who will die will die (and I will miss them, terribly), but newfound friends may find staying worthwhile, and I will hopefully find another position for an IT technical writer. In the meantime, I just have to wait, to hope, and to seek… and to accept that, whatever happens, I don’t take the blame for whatever happens, and I don’t necessarily take the credit either.

    And, in the end, there is peace, even where it seems that everyone thinks there should be none.

    • Patrick

      @Nobody of Consequence: Thank you for sharing your story. I must admit, there is a lot coming at you right in this moment. This being at peace in times of turmoil reminds me of a similar situation, where my only client I had several years ago (I was a freelancer spending 60-70 hours per week for one client only for years). And suddenly they filed bankruptcy. I received no money for 3.5 months, all my financial reserves went down, yet still I remember being at total peace. Strangely though. I prayed a lot and came out of this situation better than before, but it took a while. I hope your financial and job situation will also turn to the better for you. I hope that all your situations will turn out good in the end. People you love may leave you (through death or divorce) and these are surely situations that are out of your control. These are times where letting go and leaving them with love in your heart and a memory of how valuable the time spent was (even though you describe the marriage as loveless). And I hope that you can settle with your wife a good agreement and you can see your son and still be his lovely dad.

  • Emotions often get the best of us Patrick. And it’s totally understandable given the situation you are in. And I agree completely that sometimes, when we no longer have control over the situation, the next best thing is to let go of the pain and hatred. Life is a lesson, and I’m glad you share the story with us.

    • Patrick

      @Karlil: Thank you. Yeah life is a (series of) lessons. I might not enjoy every lesson it presented, but very often in hindsight I found those that I didn’t enjoy going through to be the most valuable for my growth.

  • Although I take no issue with your approach, or the reality of your experience, at those times when life seems to crumble around us, reflecting on our own belief systems will likely yield different conclusions for each of us who experience such life changing events. These conclusions about what led to the destruction of our comfortable existences and the actions (or lack thereof) they inform, will likely be different for each person. So I’d advise caution regarding following in another person’s footsteps without doing the personal self reflection that most likely led to your conclusions and actions. Hope that clears up my twitter comments. 🙂

    • Patrick

      @Creative Evolution: That made it clear. What hooked me (and what I highly advise anyone to do – hence the name unwrap your mind) is to come up to your own conclusions with anything. Especially with this post I presented one way of how I learned how to deal with a situation. And I am far from wanting to present myself as a know-it-all-guru. Whatever I write in this blog, should not be seen as the ultimate truth (because I doubt this could exist), but as something you should try and evaluate for yourself. Normally that is why I present my reflections that have lead me to a specific procedure.

      But I have also seen a lot of people who had experiences like I had, where they were in a position, when they felt there was nothing they could do. Whatever conclusions lead to that position might be different for each person. But once they came to that position it always felt much healthier for each persons spirit, if they could (at least) accept a situation that the could not (or would not) change or leave.

      I hope this makes my position also a bit more clear.

      Thank you very much for your comment. I think listening to each others viewpoints can only help each other find our own reality.

  • Thanks, Patrick. Your comment to me and to Karlil indicate to me that we are very much in agreement on how the process of learning from our experiences is best accomplished. See you back on Twitter. 🙂

    • Patrick

      @Creative Evolution: I agree, that the it is more valuable to learn to understand ones own process of learning, than it is to get predefined, standard solutions by someone else. That’s why I love questions more than answers. They allow me to come up with my own solutions and allow me to grow myself.

      Thank you for giving me a chance to make this clear.

  • You’re very lucky Patrick, you have gained a powerful wisdom few people are able to realize. I have had a situation in my life where I was helpless. But just when I want to give up something inside of me tells me to release myself and the burden in my mind. It was a powerful experience that fear dissipated entirely from my being. 🙂

    • Patrick

      @Walter: Thank you for sharing your story. I have the notion that maybe sometimes life needs to bring us into moments, where we are just about to surrender just to experience this peace. Where it is about giving up all fear in the moment of our greatest fear.

  • Thanks for sharing your story, Patrick. It contains a lot of wisdom.

    Something similar happened to me recently. I was trying to get a work permit in another country. They lost my application along with many other roadblocks. I finally let go and truly stopped wanting to work there. I made other plans. A few months later, I ended up meeting a high ranking official through a friend who is now paving the way for my work permit. Letting go of the pressured energy to make something happen is truly transformative.

    • Patrick

      @Gail: Thank you. Another great story that shows, that sometimes letting go of our wants and pushy trying brings us further than all hard pressure we put on us and others.

  • I really loved this post Patrick. It’s amazing the amount of wisdom we can learn during times of challenge or trial. Some of the BEST things in my life have come out of hardship and I know that I’ve become a smarter and much more wise person because of those things.

    Letting go and surrender is key. Going with the waves instead of fighting them can help so much in times when we really are not in control.

    Thanks for the great post!

    Cheers,
    Dayne 🙂

    • Patrick

      @Dayne: You are right. Life comes in waves at us, sometimes they bring us forward, sometimes it seems, that they float us away from our goals, dreams and ambition. Yet what they really do is teach us to glide on this stream called life and instead than pushing towards our goals, we sometimes have to adjust our sails and allow whatever wind comes at us to direct our way.

  • sato

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Patrick.

    There is an old proverb in Japan going like this :
    人事を尽くして天命を待つ (jin-ji wo tsukushite ten-mei wo matsu)

    人事 (jin-ji) means human matters (what people can do) and 天命 (ten-mei) means heaven’s orders. The proverb as a whole means “Do all what you can do at your best and wait for heaven’s judgements”, which is just what you did in the situation.

    Although I am familiar with this proverb, I often feel lost and helpless and not know what to do when I am in a situation out of my control. It’s amazing that you were able to put yourself together and let your feelings go and go into the phase of “ten-mei wo matsu”.

    • Patrick

      @Sato: That is a great saying. Thank you for sharing it here. And trust me, for each situation, where I was able to connect with “ten-mei wo matsu”, there are far more, where I wanted to push through, to go my way. And it is still sometimes a struggle. Yet it is not about me being perfect. I am still struggling and learning. But ever since that reference memory, I have a moment, whenever I struggle with something, that I remember that situation and tell me: “Aha, it’s that time again. Now come on, you know what to do.”

  • drprocter

    Thanks for this inspiring, valuable post. I recently had a health crisis — I had a test and had to wait for 2 weeks to find out if the tissue sample they’d taken was cancerous. I did my own version of what you did. I prayed and said to God, “I will take whatever comes and welcome it as your gift.” My life experience is that crises can produce positive results. (For example, I went through a horrible divorce, which led to a wonderful second marriage and a daughter who is the light of my life).

    Thanks again. Greatly appreciated

    • Patrick

      @drproctor: I am so glad, that you came out of this situation with a stronger feeling for yourself. Health crisis mostly hit us at such an existential level, that we will get stripped down from all sorrows, that normally bother us. There we are thrown to the deepest questions we could ask ourselves. Questions like: “Who am I?”, “What is this life all about?”, “What is my calling?”, “Who loves me and whom do I love?”, etc. At those moments, when we are naked on our souls level, we can re-experience, who we really are and find true meaning in life.

      Glad, that you found those great things through these times of troubles.

  • back @Patrick Ghandi Buddha and Jesus all went much longer without food than I would have, I wasn’t in a situation where it was life or death, or anything like that. With my habits though the $12,000 debt would of stolen much more food from me, than my waiting a day or so to eat.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with Eckhart Tolle or “the dark night of the soul” but it just shows that light comes out of darkness.. always!

    • Patrick

      @Anonymous: Yes indeed I am familiar with Eckhart Tolle. The “dark night of the soul” is a term that was coined in the 16th century by the Spanish poet and Roman Catholic mystic Saint John of the Cross. I won’t say that light will come out of darkness, but light is always there and darkness is just our own “not being ready to open the window to let it in”.

  • Patrick, this is a wonderful story. Thanks!

    It brings to mind something I do: I have a little box on my altar which I call the God box. When something has been distressing me and I realize I have to give it over and let it go, I write it on a little slip of paper and put it in the God box. Such a feeling of peace and calm comes from that act.

    I used to give things over before I had the God box, but making those physical moves deepens the experience for me.

    • Patrick

      @Kye: Thank you. This is a wonderful way of freeing your mind up. Indeed I did something similar earlier in my life. I wrote my sorrows on a piece of paper and burned them. With the flames I gave them to the universe. Thank you for sharing your version.

  • Doesn’t it feel soooooooooooooo good to just let go. I recently had to travel with my family for a musical production. I was a 4 hr ride and we didn’t have time to eat. We got to the show with our new born baby – hungry and tired and they informed us that no babies were allowed under any circumstances. I just stood there and decided to let go of resistance in that moment – I took several deep breath without pleading my case or arguing and within a few moments the production manager came to greet us and offered us a seat on the balcony – center stage and then invited us to the VIP room for food. By letting go, we got everything we wanted and more

    • Patrick

      @Jai Kai: Wow, that is not only a powerful story, but it shows, that letting go can sometimes make room for unexpected help in a very short time frame. Thank you, for sharing this great story with us.

  • Patrick your writing just keeps getting better. That was a great story and a great illustration of letting go to get what you want in life.

    • Patrick

      @Steven Aitchinson: Thank you very much. Enjoying your last article.

  • Kimberly Renee

    Hi Patrick !
    I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story.
    I’m going to try that myself I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Thankyou so much, just what i needed to hear. Blessings!

  • Rich

    Thank you so much for this. I am facing a nasty divorce battle where the downside risk is that I will lose every penny I have and my future earnings as well. It appears so dismal that I had lost hope, became very angry about my ex and was filled with such dread that I was sidelined on the couch for days with anxiety disorder. On top of that my Dad has breast cancer, I am his sole caregiver and he lives 6,0000 miles away meaning I visit him 3-4 times a year at quite some expense. I got so wrapped up in the financial stress of all this. Through this process of letting go I feel lighter and more at peace. Who knows how this will all come out (only the universe does) but now I will accept whatever will happen, accept my responsibilities and move on. To say this process saved my sanity would not be hyperbole. It literally has.

    • Patrick

      Rich,

      thanks for sharing your story, it filled my soul with gratitude.
      I am always amazed about the powerful impact this simple technique can have on peoples live.
      No matter the outcome of your situation (only destiny knows) I am pretty sure by your description that you will come out alright and stronger than you have been before.

      Thanks again for sharing your story. You made my day.

  • Ally

    You have no idea how much this story has helped me. Thank you for sharing. I am in a financial situation at the moment that is out of my control. I sat down here at my computer this afternoon to try and figure out why I have attracted this situation and to fix it once and for all, and I was led to your blog.
    I have had some success being positive but keep getting dragged down when I think about the problem so I know i have an underlying belief that I had to address. I have an issue trusting the universe (or anyone or anything) to figure it out for me but I see now that’s what I have to do. I am not a Christian but I will pray to the universe to sort it out for me. thank you thank you thank you.

  • Ally

    PS. Just after I posted this I did the exercise you described above. I wasn’t totally feeling it, so I ended by asking my guides to help me to trust the universe and I felt them gather around me and love me and tell me they were there to help me. I felt a release and I cried a little. Afterwards I felt really light and spacey and good. Just after that my husband came back from the pub where he went to have a drink and a bit of a break. He had had a $10 flutter on a horse that won at 25/1 and he gave me $100! That was my sign from the universe that it heard me!

    • Patrick

      Hi Ally, what a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it with me. You’ve made my day. I hope that after that initial sign from the universe you’ll continue to trust in the universe as well as your own ability to overcome this (and other) situations. Have an awesome life.

  • Sandy

    Thank you Patrick for your story. It has helped me to understand my situation and help me to let go.

  • Carey

    So happy to hear that you were finally able to let go of a horrible situation. I am in a living situation that started out perfect but after about six months turned into a nightmare involving an addicted neighbor. It has left me frustrated, angry and depressed. I love my new townhome. I have finally devided to give the situation up to the universe. I am so tired of fighting.This is the second living situation where a neighbor had problems with addiction. The first situation happened years after I moved in. I grew up with an addicted father so I believe my lesson in all of this has to do with letting go especially of the anger I have been holding onto since I was a child. I hope that I can finally let go of the anger and the fear underlying it.

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