Control panel photo by Led Chatfield. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
(This is the first in a series of three excerpts from Losing Control, Finding Serenity.)
“Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for insects as well as for the stars. Human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” — Albert Einstein, interview, The Saturday Evening Post, October 26, 1929
Setting Limits is One Thing, But. . .
Life without control in some form would create havoc. Rigid control procedures are essential in such areas as science, medicine, and manufacturing, which require high degrees of efficiency and safety. Most societal and institutional forms of control — laws, regulations, procedures, and the like — are also important for our overall well-being and safety. Similarly, in interpersonal settings such as the workplace, the home, and the classroom, appropriate levels of control are necessary to assure productivity, education, and safety.
Most of us, however, feel the pressure to control all aspects of our lives. We take for granted that that’s what we should be doing — what we must be doing to survive. This goes beyond setting limits and standards, and often we don’t even realize how far beyond we take it. How often do we stop to question how our compulsion to control may be harming us, whether at home with our children and family, at work, in our friendships, or in our leisure activities?
Young or old, male or female, rich or poor, teacher or preacher — we all have the compulsion to control. Control is a deeply ingrained part of our human condition. Indeed, it underlies the entire fabric of society. Our workplaces are hotbeds for control as the “survival of the fittest” is played out through intimidation, deception, and the drive to get ahead at all costs. On the world stage, powerful nations control by imposing their values and forms of government on weaker nations. And, of course, war is all about control.
Social institutions of all kinds try to control. Religion is controlling when it tells us what and how we should believe, lest dire consequences come our way. The political arena is rife with control strategies. Misinformation about candidates is broadly disseminated to discredit them and change voters’ minds. High-stakes bartering is employed to force through partisan legislation. On the home front, we control our partners and family by telling them what they should do and criticizing their choices. We control our friends by trying to change them. We even control in love by lavishing gifts and doling out kind words to court favor, crying to churn a lover’s heart, pushing “hot buttons” to punish, and calculating when and how to bring sexual pleasure to our mate.
Continue reading “The Compulsion to Control: Book excerpt from Losing Control, Finding Serenity“