We are too busy trying to control the things we have no business controlling and relinquishing control where we have absolute domination.
As an admitted control freak myself, I feel fully qualified to expound on the trials and tribulations of life's greatest paradox...
The more controlling we are, the less we trust and feel at peace!
Come to think of it, I don't believe I know anyone who isn't somewhat controlling. Consider the agitated freeway driver who adamantly refuses to let you in to his lane from the on-ramp, or the nervous blind date companion who repeatedly calls the maître d' to confirm his reservation in the back patio, by the twinkly lights, but not too close to the noisy street!
How about your movie buddy who always orders the tickets ahead to save from selling out, only for you to realize that you never manage to get to see the movies you like! (Ok, that one was me)
Then there's the landlord who only accepts cashier's checks to his PO Box, the neighbor who incessantly vacuums the living room or that know-it-all friend who exhausts you with thesaurus-like bragging!
What's important to understand is that control and trust are polar opposites!
The more controlling we are just reveals the extent of our mistrust and fear of letting go. Here's a classic example of how I first discovered my battle with trust versus control...
I was 23 and in the peak of my research on the ultimate elusive woman (See the post on Curse of the Unavailable Man for further insights on that conundrum). Remember that early phase of dating where the endorphins flow freely through our system, we can metabolize an entire pizza in 10 minutes without the hindrance of any unwanted bloating and we have the energy to leap tall buildings in a single bound?
She was an actress-model-marine biologist, we had gone out several times and there seemed to be a mutual admiration and excitement building between us. So much so that I boldly left one of those sweet, exuberant 1988 answer phone messages and may have let it slip how much I liked her. You know that movie moment after you hang up the phone and wish you could go back to the future to erase the message and pretend it never happened... Too late!
I proceeded to endure the next 4 or 5 hours anxiously obsessing on her returning my call. And yet... nothing. Fine, I'll get her to call me... (CONTROL WARNING!!)
Here begins our 1st phase of control; obsessive vigils and psychological surveillance running wild in our heads!
It's the moment where we come up with an assortment of explanations as to why they don't call; No cellular reception in Laurel Canyon, busy day of auditions and call-backs, beginning a new week of Vipassana silence and meditation. You name it, we rationalize it!
Frantic attempts to get a response is our 2nd phase of control.
This is where we pull out all the stops to justify some kind of response from the object of our affection/obsession immediately. We become ingeniously creative in this stage... emergency breakthroughs in collusion with the Operator, extravagant flower arrangements delivered at work, in the hope of collaborative approval from their co-workers. Maybe even another voice mail message claiming there's something crucially important you have to speak to them about.
My controlling specialty was the art of the mixed tape. This was the late 80's, after all, (see "Say Anything") and we were not yet savvy about recording on to a CD. I would spend hours choosing my favorite power ballads that would tell 'our story' with the help of a few trusted friends like Bryan Ferry, Morrissey, Paul Young and Til Tuesday. Surely, once she realized the care and thought behind the music, she would HAVE to call!
The idea here is the 3rd phase of Control which is that as much as you might dupe others into partnering with you through your controlling, convincing and coercing, it is merely a reflection of the likelihood that they just may not want you!
As a good friend of mine once taught me: Women do what they want to do... if she wants to reach you, she'll call you! TRUST that, if nothing else.
That brings us to the 4th and final phase of Control: Surrender
There is nothing scarier to a control freak than letting go... It's the equivalent of asking a shopaholic to give away her Prada collection to Goodwill!
But, remembering that our goal is to learn how to trust, we must forfeit our obsession with control and there is just no way around that other than the nuisance of surrender.
Picture a see-saw with TRUST seated on one side and CONTROL on the other.
The more we attempt to micro-manage our employees, enable our spouses or spoil our kids, the weight on the CONTROL side descends like an anchor, causing the side of TRUST to careen wildly skyward... smashing our egos barbarously against the ceiling of limitation!
Equally, as we learn to delegate, designate and deputize, we loosen the grip and TRUST soars composedly to the top, while our displaced need for CONTROL stays securely grounded.
So, you want to really be freaky?
Try letting go of the reactions of those around you. Control yourself and see how the world responds.
TRUST ME!! (I am a shrink, after all)
The Nuisance of Surrender by Jamie Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.