Years ago, while I was deep in therapy, and practically begging my therapist to give me a reason why I felt so horrid and insecure, she looked at me quite intently and said, “Ann, you have a desperate need for control.”
I had worked with this brilliant purveyor of human emotion and behavior for a while at that point, and she’d never been more poignant with me. It stuck. I started to read about control. I lifted the lid off of its darkest parts. Like a skilled archeologist, I cut into its very core and began to excavate. And do you know what I discovered?
Control is the ego’s need for self-preservation. Remember, that the ego believes it is always facing imminent death; annihilation. Wouldn’t you want to find ways (and fast) of preserving your ‘self’ if you thought this was the actual case? Well, the ego does think that this is the case. So what does it do? It runs around doing things like hiding all of its money away for when its old. It doesn’t let anyone get too close to it for fear that they will swallow them up. It has chronic insomnia because it can’t even let go in sleep. It eats until its sick and then it starves itself for fear of others’ disgust. It controls it’s wife so she doesn’t a) look at another man; b) sleep with another man, and/or c) leave him for another man. It tells others very little about itself so there can be no judgment (good luck with this one!). It drinks and smokes so it doesn’t feel any pain. It never admits when it’s wrong. It only sees one way. No other way is viable.
These are all examples of control in action. There are countless others. It is our attempt at perfecting a life that feels really quite imperfect. It is the fruits of our biggest illusions about life and ourselves. And it does the opposite of what we intend for it to do.
When we set out to control ourselves, our impulses, our environment, our spouses, our children, what we are really doing is making a grand statement to the Universe that I don’t trust anything. We say, I don’t trust in the natural and inevitable unfolding of this Universe. Do you really think that your clamping down on anything will be a success? Has it worked for you so far?
And what are you left with when you’ve been trying to control yourself, your environment or your loved ones? You’re left with a complete detachment from life. You’ve said, “Life, I don’t want to play on your team anymore. I want my own team; separate from your team. I’ll be the captain of my team and we’ll play over here by ourselves.” Essentially, you drag yourself further away from the fold, otherwise known as the Intelligence that IS this Universe, because you’ve decided that you can do a better job.
So how do we bridge the gap between feeling like our lives are unsafe or untrustable to living in accordance with the Intelligence that weaves through everything that exists?
We step into this moment. Right here. Right now. What is wrong with this present moment? Nothing. Because if something actually was wrong, you would simply respond to it. You wouldn’t be trying to control it, would you? You’d just be acting. And therein lies the difference. When something is actually threatening us or paining us in the moment, we work under an incredible amount of grace. We simply respond. I cut myself. I clean it up, or go to a hospital if I need to and take care of the wound. If I walk into my home one night and my husband actually is having a go with someone on the living room floor, I can respond. If someone is chasing me down an alley, I really have no choice but to either stop and fight or run. In those times of actual threat, the decisions are easy. We respond. That is why you hear so many people exclaim that they’re ‘great in an emergency.’ Of course they are! We’re all great in an emergency. We simply respond.
What we’re not great at is thinking our way into perceived uncontrollable and threatening situations again and again (like a tape on a loop) and trying to figure out how get a grip on your lives in order to avoid it. How exhausting.
I know what some of you are thinking right now. But I really DO have money problems that keep me up at night! My spouse really IS a flight risk! My health really IS in decline! Okay. Let’s assume that you really do have a legitimate issue that is ongoing and scary.
DEAL WITH IT.
Make the decision that you’re not going to be some sitting duck that waits for the worst to happen. Make the decision to stop clutching and clamping and holding and gripping and controlling because you feel like your issue is spinning out of control. Take a step. See a financial adviser. Make a plan. Talk to your spouse about your fears. Give them a voice. Trust until you have actual reason not to anymore. Then make a decision. See a doctor. See a naturopath. Change your diet. Change your lifestyle.
People who feel that they need to control everything are sitters. They stagnate. They’re not action takers. If you were an action taker, there would be no need for control. You’d be taking steps. And any step in any direction will always bring you closer to resolution.
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