You Have to Control

It's one of nature's non-negotiables.

Posted Oct 12, 2019

Control is not so much what we do as what we are. We can never step outside the process of organic, autonomous control. Well, not until we take that final step into whatever lies beyond our earthly existence.

Control is even more fundamental than breathing in and out. Whereas you can suspend breathing for brief periods of time by holding your breath, you can’t stop controlling. Not ever. Breathing, actually, is part of a control process.

We are, essentially, a conglomeration of control processes. Or maybe a “choir” or an “orchestra” would be better metaphors to emphasize the coordinated and interconnected nature of all our control systems.

People have developed different ways of thinking about and categorizing control. For example, some people seem to find it useful to discuss things like “perceived control,” or “locus of control,” or “objective control,” or “illusory control,” and other aspects of control at different levels. Ultimately, it’s all just control.

It’s difficult, in fact, to know just exactly what some of these terms mean. All control, for example, involves perception, but you don’t have to perceive “control” in order to control. You certainly have to perceive the thing that you are controlling, but “perceived control” would seem to imply that what is being controlled is control, which is a bit hard to make sense of!

All of our activity—all of our thinking, imagining, debating, dreaming, planning, inspecting, scrutinizing, sharing, hallucinating, concentrating, meditating, and so on—is all control.  

Even not controlling is control. There is no denying that some people like to create states where they feel detached, perhaps “going with the flow,” or being “in the zone.” Paradoxically, the fact that they can create and maintain these states is strong evidence that they are controllers. Similarly, “letting go of control” is a control process!

We don’t even use control in the sense that someone might use a broom to sweep the leaves off the front porch. There is no “I” or “me” that is separate to, or somehow outside of, the control processes that use their body or their mind to live the life they want.

Understanding control and how it works can be illuminating. As controllers, we all have specifications for the way in which we want different aspects of the world, including ourselves and our position in it, to be. That’s a fact. These specifications are ours and ours alone. No one can give us or otherwise persuade us or force us to take on a particular specification or a value for it if we don’t want it. That’s another fact.

Pongpon Rinthaisong/ID: 97073559/@123RF
Source: Pongpon Rinthaisong/ID: 97073559/@123RF

When there is a difference between the way we are experiencing the world and the way we have specified we want it to be, we must do something. That’s another fact. Itches must be scratched!

We can’t let there be a difference between what we want and what we’re getting exist for very long without acting. The way we go about reducing that difference might not be predictable, or even observable to others, but the fact that we will try to reduce it is for certain. If we don’t or can’t reduce this difference, control will be impaired, and health at one or more of the biological, psychological, or social levels will be compromised.

In order to create more harmonious social environments, we need to find ways for the controllers in any particular social setting to be able to control the things that are important to them without preventing other controllers from doing the same thing. Our most challenging and intractable social problems arise when some controllers prevent other controllers from controlling. This occurs not only between individuals, but between families, clubs, groups, communities, towns, and even countries.

When we understand ourselves and others as controllers, we can recognize how futile it is to suggest to people they should not control. Certainly, the things that people control can be objectionable or counterproductive, but the fact that they control is immutable. Perhaps it would help individuals if they recognized that when they are feeling disgruntled or otherwise out of sorts, it is because there’s a nagging difference between what they want and what they’re getting.

Contentment will only return when this difference is reduced somehow. The difference can be reduced by either changing what you’re getting or changing what you want. The way it is reduced doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it is reduced. This sentiment is summed up by the ideas of getting what you want and wanting what you get!

Control is what we do all day every day, day in, day out, year after year until we’ve done all of our doing. By understanding ourselves and each other as controllers, and gaining an inkling into how control works, we might discover that the best thing we can do to enhance our own controlling is to help others with their controlling. We perhaps can’t even imagine yet how wonderful it will be to arrive at that place.