Control is just an illusion. No one ever truly has control of another person or the events that happen in life. Not even over our own minds—our thoughts and feelings are beyond the limits of our control. We can control our behaviors to some extent, but even there we fall short of total control. Try to stop breathing, for example. You can’t, right? The idea that we have control is a seductive one, one which drives so much of our behaviors and interactions in the world. The illusion of control even extends as far as to politics and countries. We just can’t let go.
On this topic, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
“We are so invested in the illusion of control that we rarely step back and see how pervasive and destructive this illusion is. Much of what goes on at an international level between nations is based upon the illusion of control. When we believe we can control everything or we have everything under control, we are appalled by our miscalculations. Miscalculations on a personal level can be just as devastating as miscalculations on an international level. It is not the mis in miscalculating that is the problem; it is the calculating. When we operate out of a belief system that says we should be able to understand everything and that when we do we can control everything, we are in big trouble.”
The false belief in total control makes mistakes absolutely devastating. Because we believe we have total control, we think if only we hadn’t miscalculated, if only we had the foresight to do things differently, maybe things would have worked out differently. Maybe the outcome would have gone our way instead. Crisis could have been averted. This is simply not true though. How could we have known to do any differently? And who can even guarantee that if we had, things would have worked out?
The illusion of control causes much angst and anxiety for people who are struggling to manage disordered behavior. I often get frustrated, because I think I can control my emotions and thoughts, and if I can, then why can’t I just be different? I know my behaviors are destructive, so why can’t I stop doing them? It’s because I’m not really in control, not totally anyway.
When we let go, we are able to live. We stop setting goals, and instead do what excites us. We stop planning, always focused on the future, and instead we do, living in the present moment. Most importantly, we learn to accept the world as it is instead of constantly fighting it and ourselves at every turn with our stress, worry, fear, anger and desire. We accept what comes, for it will come anyway, whether we worry about it or no.