I have been on a writing hiatus for the last while, though my mind has been cranking, trying to make sense of all sorts of things that are going on in my life. I have found that a way to release myself from these thoughts is to write about them, put them on ‘paper’. I find that as I write, everything that I’ve been contemplating comes together, the puzzle pieces join to make a lovely picture. Essentially, I reach a point of clarity about the situation.
What has been grappling for me lately is one’s need for ‘control’ – the need to control situations, people and things. What is behind all of this? What brings a person to feel that they must control another? Dictionary.com defined control as the situation of being under the regulation, domination or command of another. And Merriam-Webster.com defines it as to exercise restraining or directing influence over another thing.
I have found that fear and uncertainty are married and is a breeding ground for one’s need for control. People are afraid of uncertainty; of not knowing what will happen next, and things unfamiliar. We are all afraid to make decisions or act on our own free will for fear of making a mistake, and especially what other people will think about us or how they will react towards what we do. The moment we decide to take a chance, to act fully on our own desires, we fear to face the repercussions of a decision made which was not ideal. We expect guarantees with whatever we do will turn out ok; we want to be able to go through life without struggles. And when the situation doesn’t turn out as we planned, or something is out of our means of control, we do not understand, and try desperately to rein in the ropes. We feel like we’re going crazy.
Of course we feel like we’re going crazy because society teaches us that we need to control everything. Fear is pounded into us right from the start – when we are born. We are taught at an early age to follow rules if we want to be safe, happy and accepted. We’re taught to fear things that we know nothing of, have not experienced or seen, such as ‘the bad guys out there.’ We must behave or act in a certain way or we will be shunned from the community, and people will ‘talk’ because we are doing things differently from everyone else. And so at an early age we already fear about how our own future will turn out, and this is paralyzing in itself. We need to start controlling our life’s outcome at an early age. Children are asked what they want to be when they grow up, high school students are told to think carefully of what career path they want to take in order not to waste four or five years worth of university, we need to plan for retirement while we’re still young or else we’ll live in poverty. How can we not feel the need to control our future? But when this sometimes spills into the need to control others, that’s when things get really messy.
But we can’t control others. This isn’t possible and yet we try and try and try. We become angry because we cannot make others be what we want them to be, or do what we want them to do. I believe that the anger isn’t because the other person isn’t doing as we said; the anger is the result of us being discontent with our own life. We are not the person we want to be and because of the other person’s reaction to our needs isn’t what we expect, it forces us to reflect inward and that scares the crap out of us. This is too painful, and so we project our feelings onto others, as it’s much ‘safer’ to do so and as a result we up our antes when they don’t do what we say. The end result is a vicious cycle is born. Being the person who has the need to control is an awful place to be in. The expectation placed on others is so unrealistic that any chance of them being met is impossible. Extreme disappointment and mistrust is then experienced.
However, no matter what the other person does, the person needing to control will never be able to trust. Trust is the fruit of a loving relationship, and it cannot be produced by the person being controlled. Trust is only possible from the person needing control. They relationship either has it or it doesn’t. I’m not saying that the person controlling doesn’t love the other. Sometimes when you love someone so much you feel that you need to control them, to protect them. This, however, cuts off their life force, and prevents them from living their own life, and experiencing all that they need to experience. In the end, resentment is felt towards the person wanting to control.
When I decided to make changes in my life, to become happy, a lot of people became angry with me. I created ripples in the delicate waters of their life, which they did not want. It was almost like the changes I was making became radical when in fact they weren’t. The fact that I decided to make for myself the life I wanted, the way I wanted was a foreign concept to some. I can still see the confusion on their faces. It frightened a lot of people. Everything known to them was challenged, almost as if a chaos bomb was dropped. What was real became unreal; things that were impossible became tangible. Any means to control the situation became impossible and when this was attempted, their attempts seemed silly. People were miserable, depressed, angry and in pain -including me.
Relationships became strained. Not just the relationship with my ex, but the relationships with many people. Many dissolved altogether, not by my choice, as I wasn’t even given one in most cases. I was hurt, tried to make sense of it, and even reached out. But soon enough I gave up any need for control in those cases, and accepted the outcomes willingly. But in many other cases I fought to have the relationships continue, and in the way I wanted them to. The relationships had become painful to be in. I forced love to take place in them, and to have the other person accept my views, my life all on my terms. It didn’t matter how much I loved the person, I still wanted to have my own way. I think this holds true for many people, especially when we want nothing but the best for the other person. But it’s not in the nature of love to force a relationship. That is contradictory to what love is. It is in the nature of love to open the way for the relationship to blossom. I decided to make changes. I took the pain which I was feeling and decided to use it towards good. I used the energy from the pain and channeled it towards positive reactions to the situations I once tried to control. I no longer tried to control the situation or the people in it, because I learned the hard way that this was not possible. I took control of my life by controlling my reaction to the situations. Life became brighter and less stressful when I let things flow the way they were meant to flow.
I found that control gives you a false sense of power. It is illusory and therefore you feel that you have the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe that you know better, and your standard of living is higher and therefore you judge, enforcing rules and expectations, in an attempt to create certainty out of uncertainty. But we don’t call the shots. We cannot make sense in this world based on a small and incomplete picture of reality. We don’t know what someone else’s reality is. Yet we dictate the terms and judge their actions and find them guilty of things untrue.
There will always be situations which I find unsatisfactory, things that I want done a certain way or people who I want to behave or do things differently. I don’t have control over that. I can only change what people know by speaking with them, and lending my opinion, but they are ultimately in charge of what they do with it and in charge of how they want to live their life. The fear of the unknown will always be there and the decision lies in whether or not the fear of the unknown will hinder life from taking place. A life filled with happiness could be waiting around the corner but the uncertainty and living in that fear can kill it, can prevent it from entering our world. Babies take this chance all the time. Imagine what the world would be like if every baby was afraid to take that first step. Or give up after they fell the first time. They would never know what it would be like to walk, to run, jump or dance. All that freedom would have been taken away. Those who are afraid of freedom are those who are unable to trust others to live in it.
And so I learned to forgive – myself. I needed to release myself from something that was preventing joy from coming into my life, which affected my ability to love. It was eating me alive. Many people are sick, miserable and extremely stressed because of their unhealthy attachments to things that they cannot control. Incredible things can happen in life when we make the decision to control what we do have power over – our reactions, instead of craving the need to control what we can’t. If you want to control things in your life so badly, you need to start working on your mind. It’s the only thing that you should try to control. If you can’t, then you’re in big, big trouble. The more you try to control everything else in life, the more out of control you will be. You will be basing your personal happiness on things entirely out of your control. Good luck to you if this is what you choose.