Releasing Control: Consulting, Strength in Tarot, Wesir from Kemet

Once upon a time, I stumbled upon a task in a meditation. I was contemplating Wesir, in his silent, eternal wisdom. I asked what lesson I’d need to complete the next stage of my life. “You need  to let go of control.”

I never realized it before, but the card of Strength speaks to this idea. Strength speaks of control and dominance, but not through aggression, exertion of force, or a utilization (or plundering) or resources. It does not speak of control using overt manipulation, brute strength, or outright command. It speaks of a strength that is rooted in discipline, understanding, patience, and kindness. It is the dominion we gain when we learn to let others be themselves, learn their own lessons, and accept them for all that they are…including how difficult it is to make changes. Being “someone’s rock” doesn’t always mean providing answers. It means listening actively, providing support, and acceptance.

To be clear, I don’t try to control others. However, when it comes to work or goals I want to accomplish, I tend to have a very set idea of what should happen and how…even when it pertains to helping others.

I don’t think this is so novel, however. I think that when many of us hear an explanation of a dilemma from a friend, we form our own ideas of why things are happening, what will happen next, and what should be done. We tend to find solutions, and anything counter to the solution will bring further heartache. We formulate our own interpretations of the situations, and assume that our friend is experiencing difficulty because their interpretation is incorrect. In short, our friend has troubles and we tell them what to do.

In a way, that is the line of work I am pursuing. One of the main objectives of a consultant in my field is to help organizations identify issues in their human capital or their organizational cultures and adjust them so that the well-being (and effectiveness) of the employees and organization are maximized. Other experienced consultants have told me that novice consultants will often approach an organization’s obstacles just as we might approach our friends’ personal problems: we attempt to identify the problem, generate solutions, and tell them to the client. Any objections on the part of the client are considered, but are usually redefined by the consultant, and any conclusions that differ from the consultant’s are explained as either incorrect or as evidence that *actually* supports the consultant’s analysis when properly understood.  In short, we tell them what to do.

Only…humans generally (though not always) resist change, and few people like being told what to do, especially when they feel they have the best understanding of the situation (for they are the ones living in it). Even if we ask for it, change is hard…and not something many people will accept readily. It means more pain than what we are currently experiencing….ugh.  Even if the person *knows* what you say is accurate, but they may not be willing to face it or do what’s necessary to change it.

Breaking the cycle:

So, when a friend asks for our advice but fails to take it, they may make the same mistakes all over again. They may come back and, once again, relay the same issues and frustration to us. And then, we end up frustrated. Why didn’t they listen? Because telling someone what to do does NOT mean they accept that reality, much less that they will act on it. People need to come to their own understanding of a situation. This mean learning to understand the story from their perspective, then gathering objective facts, and helping them to see the objective facts. They may arrive at different conclusions, and you can question those conclusions. But until they arrive at reality on their own and then feel the need to change it, any solution you offer will unlikely be acted upon. People have to feel the need to change.

It can be similar in organizations. The consultant collects data. They analyze it and report what they have found as well as possible implications to the client. And then…many new consultants want to outline a plan of action. But the same issues have been found to arise. Clients often do not wish to look at the data objectively. They often have their own ideas of what is going wrong. It is your job, as the consultant, to challenge those ideas with the data. You are supposed to change their perspective by helping them to understand what is going on, allowing them to disagree, possibly get upset, and speak with you about what is happening. You may have to “dig deep” to get at how people are really and truly feeling. Hopefully, they do find a new understanding of the current situation. And, almost as important, they feel a need to change how things are done. Simply telling the client what is going wrong and how to fix it will not bring that “felt need” about.

What’s more, while we may be the expert in re-visioning, we are not the expert on the organization (or on our friend’s life). They are the one’s living that frustration. They are the ones with an in-depth knowledge of the who, what, when, where, and how. We are merely bystanders. We may have a helpful new perspective, but they have lived the history of that life or organization, and they will continue to live in it long after we have gone. They are the true experts of their lives, and any help we offer serves to support their expertise by providing new tools and information. We cannot “fix it for them” and then leave. It might fall back into disarray, and what have they learned? What really have they gained? You have unfairly trammeled their autonomy, run over their desires and goals, and then swiftly left before actually fixing the root of anything. You’ve done damage, not good.


So how does this relate to control? When we help others, including clients, we have a set plan. We have an image of what will happen, when, how, and why. But it isn’t our organization (or life) that we are fixing…it is someone else’s. It doesn’t matter what you think is the right course of action. You aren’t the one doing it, making changes, and then having to live with them. The one asking for help is the one that must plan and implement the solution.  Therefore, they must must be ready to change, they must arrive at the correct understanding, and they must have a large hand in the solutions that are crafted. In the end, they actually do know the organization best.

Peter Block, a popular “consulting guru” has said, “Commitment may be more important than perfection.” Allowing them (your client or friend) to create their own solutions isn’t only fair and just, it will build their commitment to making these changes (which can be uncomfortable). You provide is new information, some questions that challenge previously held beliefs, and some scaffolding and guidance when crafting that solution (that is a consultant’s job, after all). But they have to help create and then enact that solution.

With how easy it is to become invested in the welfare of a friend or client, letting go of this control is very hard. When we take on this helping role, we may want to identify with the problem, organization, and its resolution. We want them to succeed because it feels as if it is a part of us. But, in the end, it’s their organization (or life). They must also do the work…success and failure and in their hands as much as yours. They are the ones who must continue the work and problem solving when you aren’t around. The outcomes are as much theirs as they are yours. While you are responsible for half of the outcome, they are responsible for the other half.

This means you can’t control if and when they make mistakes…even mistakes you told them how to avoid. You can’t control whether they lose motivation, decide to abort the plan, or take it in a new direction. You can’t control it if they take a new perspective mid-way through the process and, despite your explanations and warnings, that perspective is counter to all the work they have previously done.


In the end, there’s only so much you can do. If you fail, you fail together. But when you succeed, you succeed together…and that’s a beautiful thing.

Why do we help

This all brought about a very interesting question. Why do we seek to help others? Why are we so invested in the outcome? Once you have offered your insights, why do we cringe when others go against them or implement them incorrectly and fail (or come up short of perfect)?

I think, for me at least, because I see it as a reflection of my self and my own success. And this means my helping is less than completely selfless. This doesn’t mean I don’t genuinely care, because I do care. But I also care that my help succeeds…I want to successfully help!

But strength comes in learning to let go of this need to control what fails and what doesn’t. It does not mean that you stop caring about the outcomes of your projects or friends. If does mean that you stop identifying with their success so much.

So does it work?

As I’ve said before, when it comes to goals, I have a road map. And when I seek to help others, I can rattle off a list of to-dos. But recently, I’ve been trying to help others come up with their own to-dos, even if those to-dos are different from my own but seek to solve the same problem with the same (or somewhat similar) approach.

And you know what? It helps people to feel confident, to own their solutions, and to be committed to those uncomfortable changes. These things make the changes easier, and sometimes exciting.

So here’s to a different type of strength. A strength born of listening, of gentle guidance, of questioning, and of support. Here’s to a strength of sharing information and attempting to understand where someone comes from. Here’s to a strength that accepts that only the person within the system can truly solve its hiccups, and when we offer help, we have to remember that they are the experts of the systems in which they live, not us.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Reflection on my Ma’atian Celebration: The End of Lenctene | Cards and Feather

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