I am currently co-writing a book with a mentor of mine. We meet weekly, and for a couple of hours, we talk, and I write down what we talk about.
This evening the topic of “control” came up, as we were reviewing some of the themes we want to share about in this book. We both agree that being a “control freak”, or being someone who relies on the attempt to, and illusion of control is an important issue to address.
For many of us, the desire, belief, and attempt in controlling, runs so deeply, we don’t even realize we are a control freak. It doesn’t help that American culture is also a control freak culture, and thus, at risk of sounding too cliche, we are truly like fish swimming in water. So much about the culture of America and the ways in which we work, date, love, eat, live, and entertain ourselves, involves a game of control. And, in our capitalist system, we have come to believe that money will help us gain ever greater control, and with that we can make sure to control all areas of our life, if only we acquire the funds to throw at it.
In fact, this control freak approach to life, has built within it an important spiritual opportunity, if we are open to it. Otherwise, if we are not open to the spiritual opportunity, we end up creating more and more binds for our self to attempt to control, and work through.
Let’s paint a picture of a control freak.
A control freak is someone who expects every part of life to go as they would like it to go, and when life doesn’t turn out this way, or others do not act according to what they want, they get anxious, fearful, and/or upset. Then the control freak, in response to this disturbance, will attempt to make the outcome be more in alignment with what they wanted, by using force, manipulation, playing the victim, saving others, or completely abandoning who or what is uncontrollable. Instead of relaxing, accepting, and learning from the experience of not getting what one wanted, the control freak believes the whole point is to find the right lifestyle, education, connections, level of skill, influence, resources, and power to finally attain the control they believe is possible. So, when they feel out of control, they double down on asserting control in any way they know how, even if this means causing harm to themselves or others in some way. Their fear of failure, not belonging, being unworthy, lacking purpose, and not being or having enough, is so great, they absolutely must prioritize control, over all else, even if they cause harm. In fact, it is usually only when we have repeatedly caused harm, and there have been many painful consequences to attempting to control everything, are we willing to consider addressing our issues with control, and if we might need to find another way to orient to life.
No one learns about surrender and trust, or what is referred to as equanimity, non-attachment and acceptance, without first having the contrast of being someone who attempts to control everything. So, here is the inherent spiritual opportunity in being a control freak. No one starts at automatically letting go, as to “let go” means there was some way of being that you need to have the experience of overcoming. We must first have to travel through this attempt to control, before we learn what it is to surrender and trust.
So, before you get down on yourself for how controlling you are, realize that you are being given a gift of learning to overcome this tendency, day in and day out, so that you can truly learn peace, acceptance, and trust.