The folly of being in control

Often life can unexpectedly catch us in a high wave and we lose our balance and may even go down.  Not liking this, we try to lasso life’s randomness through structure or control and spare ourselves surprise.  Though this may help some, it doesn’t always work and, oddly, may even work against us when control assumes our identity.

Some of us are more prone to controlling than others, having been forced out of our nest early to look after ourselves.  I think of children of alcoholics, for example, who must not only escape, but prevent betrayal reoccurring.

Control is a ritual to relieve mistrust and smooth out the winkles.  All of us resort to defense modes from time to time to cope with an often aggressive landscape of human ignominy and nature’s caprice. There exists, too, an existential dread in us, or sense of our impotency against life’s vagaries, resonating vulnerability and whispering our mortality.

But to live this way daily filters life’s joy and shrinks life to a prison cell.  While we need to be wary, we should drop the reins when control becomes its own end and we become its prisoner and it hurts more than it helps.  Control, at its extreme, masks a latent masochism or inverted narcissism that feeds upon its wounds.

We cannot know what each day brings, nor always preempt its events, but changing our thoughts can help ransom our freedom in a world where the surety remains that flowers do bloom and there are people worth loving who will love us.  Experience affirms that we find love only when we extend  our hand to grasp the extended warm fingers of those around us.

I can’t say just how we find the switch that turns on life, nor assure its recompense when we do; but I know that abundant living begins with a giving of ourselves, and not withdrawing and yields release from the confines of our fears.

In sum, we become our choices and when we commit we find life gives back.  William James, one of America’s foremost early psychologists, said it very well:  “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings by changing the inner attitudes of their minds can change the outer aspects of their lives.”

How do we do that?  It begins with realizing the futility of our attempts to impose order on life, for life has a way of happening.  What matters is living in the Now, one day at a time, one step at a time, finding joy in each other, delight in the canopy of the stars, and the promise of every new day.

–rj

About RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.
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