Step 4: Relax into lack of control

Do you get irritated when you can’t sleep? Angry? Pissed off? Raging mad?

Join the club.

Anger is a terrible lullaby—no surprise. Instead of getting the rest you want, you spend the night noticing everything that’s wrong.

Think about this: Anger comes from wanting things to be different. For instance, when you’re ticked off during insomnia you may want:

  • Your partner to stop snoring
  • The neighbors to be quiet
  • To know that your 5-year-old daughter won’t crawl into bed with you at 4 a.m.
  • To be asleep already, damn it

None of those irritations are soothing in the middle of the night.What can you do to get rid of the anger? Fix the problem, right? Kick your partner out of bed, scream at your neighbors on the phone till they’re too scared to make a peep, and lock your bedroom door. If you got everything under control, you could sleep… you think?

But no matter how hard you try, you can’t control or fix everything you think is wrong. At night, during the day. Or, need I say, in life itself.

What’s the alternative, then? Relax into the fact that you can’t sleep? Relax into what you can’t control? Surprisingly, those are the most relaxing alternatives there are.

I don’t mean resigning yourself to fate and then, resentfully, getting up to do something. Instead you can learn how to rest into your actual experience in the moment: your bed, your sheets, your breath, and especially the tension of your anger.

It’s a paradox. As you learn to be at peace with exactly where you are—even the exacerbating tension of wanting your night to be different—you can relax, renew, and perhaps even sleep.

That’s the aim of Restful Insomnia: to help you to let go of your conscious mind (which is thinking and staying awake) and move into letting your unconscious mind take the lead. Because it will lead you into rest, relaxing, and perhaps even sleep.

Why would your unconscious mind do this? It is naturally aligned with the body, which naturally renews at night.

Of course, when you let go of your conscious mind’s annoying behavior, it doesn’t fix every problem that causes insomnia. But when you change your relationship to insomnia, the problem of not sleeping doesn’t become a spiral of anger that keeps you awake.

You can also bring this gift of relaxing with “what is” into your day. It’s a chance to explore places in your life where you’re perpetually angry or irritated at what you can’t control: slow drivers, crowded busses, nagging sisters, persnickety bosses, saggy jowls, or messy teens. You can change your relationship to them as well, over time.

The wisdom of resting into insomnia can teach you life’s balance. It’s all said well through the Serenity Prayer:

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

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Relaxing with this underlying cause of anger is part 4 of the five-step Restful Insomnia program: 1. Soothe your night environment 2. Befriend the body 3. Diminish the thinking mind 4. Release the hold of emotion 5. Tap into the natural or spiritual selfLet me know if bringing serenity to your insomnia shifts anything–just comment on this post.

Enjoy your nights,


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