In today’s pop culture, the word control is used in a variety of ways, some of which are not so complimentary. He/She has control-issues… Get control over yourself… control-freak. Eek! There is no doubt that control is associated with these darkly shaded pop-culture idioms. But is being controlling really so bad?
When understanding control, it is important to deduce it to it’s core function. Control is deeply linked to our survival. Our primal ancestors had to constantly be assessing the environment for threats, food and water sources, and safe habitable lands. The more they could ascertain their environment, the better their chances were of waking up to a new day. Control meant understanding and understanding meant survival.
In today’s world, we are living with a whole new backdrop. It is no longer predators and disease we are battling but we haven’t changed that much and either has our instincts. Many of us face a crowded metropolitan landscape, concrete and cars, media messages, financial pressures, multi-culturalism, changing social and family structures. In addition, abuse, neglect and trauma can make the world feel like an unsafe place. Early trauma can leave a person feeling a sense of helplessness, fear, and little control. Later in life, they may seek to acquire a sense of control through organization, food intake, substance abuse, addiction, hoarding belongings, micromanaging, abuse, and sexual assault.
Our survival instincts are the same but our environments are new and our expert adaptation skills are sometimes not working to our benefit. Control is a way to gain a sense of calm and a handle on the world. If you seek control, it is a sign that you are adaptable and a strong survivor. When understood in this way, it becomes a little more positive. But how do we know if our need for control is misdirected?
The truth is that none of us, no matter how great of influence, have total control over the way the tides turn and wind blows. Many aspects of life are unpredictable and that is difficult to cope with for anyone. But we do have A LOT of control over some things that can bring a sense of calm, peace and well being. First, we have control over OURSELVES. We can take personal responsibility for our actions which helps to sooth that out of control feeling.
We have control over how we manage our time even though that to do list piles up faster than the dishes in the sink. We have control over our priorities and have the power to say no to others when we feel stretched. We have control over how we treat others in relationships, even though we may not have control over how they treat us. We have control over our mental and physical health, and sometimes we don’t in the case of chronic illness. We even have control over our voice which may have influence on a more global scale. The energy we bring into the room also impacts our immediate environment, which we want to feel comfortable.
So though we feel out of control at times, we can relinquish some of it to the forces of the universe. Some things are just out of our control, and some things belong solely in the control of the individual. The challenge is remembering we are far more in control than we think, and far less than we would like to be.