I’m not quite sure when the connotation of “control” became so negative, but it seems to currently provoke images of raged, hormonally middle-aged humans with heat-damaged straight hair, unnaturally taunt facial skin and a noticeably viscous outer-layer of spray tan shouting nonsense about unfair prices in the co-op Whole Foods Market to the poor dreadlocked employee.
(Furthermore, due to the nature of our unfortunately patriarchal society, these humans tend to possess the ability to physically bear children. This serves to instill further opportunities for assertive or self-controlled women to be criticized as being “demonic” or the inevitably descriptive “bossy”.)
The “ability to have control” has blossomed into “to be controlling”. This to me is like equating “I used to run the 100m dash in middle school track” with “I have the opportunity to win the Western States 100 mile trail run”. It’s simply not the same, despite the having the word “run” in common.
I am not afraid of control, or having others associate me with it. For the most part, I try my hardest not to let my inclination toward control affect others–here, it would cross into the realm of “controlling”–nor do I “obsessively control” areas in my life.
I do openly recognize that control, like many other qualities, can become negative very easily with over-application. But I also openly recognize that this is typical of many other qualities. Control should not be the taboo that society has turned it into.
The kind of control that fascinates me is a three-fold combination of awareness, self-control and self-efficacy. Let me walk you through this.
Awareness: the ability to recognize what outside stimuli make you actually happy, satisfied, positive, understanding, patient, angry, frustrated, unfulfilled etc. The ability to recognize the doses which benefit you the best, and the ability to balance without toppling over into the realm of “over-indulgence”.
Self-Control: the application of awareness; the ability to say no to certain impulses that are negative.
Self-Efficacy: the application of self-control; proving you to yourself enough to instill the belief that you can function as a developed and beneficial member of human society.
You are 1000% in control of how your life is going, I firmly believe this. I believe it’s definitely harder for some than others but that it is nevertheless attainable. Life is more than where you live, the activities you do, the person you are married to…”how your life is going” relates to your capacity to enjoy the situation you are in and how you feel about yourself.
I believe in an immortal Creator, but this fact doesn’t disrupt my theory that we are in control, because I believe that our Creator has given us choice. The ability to be aware of our surroundings, to choose to react certain ways; there is choice in everything that we do. Choosing lends hand to control.
What happens when you don’t believe that you are in control? What happens when you give yourself over and convince yourself that you have no choice in anything you do? The tier topples significantly. You may have awareness, but because you don’t convince yourself that you have self-control, you aren’t able to do much with the awareness you do have, which then just leads to sadness and discontentedness. Furthermore, you lack self-efficacy, because without a firm belief in your ability to control yourself, the ability to achieve whatever goal you want is left entirely up to chance which is entirely unpredictable.
Contrastingly, what happens when you become in-control? You possess awareness, obviously, because this is where is begins. You allow yourself to explore what makes you happy, what makes you sad, what creates longing and what provokes satisfaction. You do this without judgment of yourself, without hatred. A playful curiosity over the nature of you.
What does this look like in application? It starts small. For a while I had the final scene of Fight Club, my all-time favorite movie, as my desktop background. It features a silhouetted figure standing stark against a night-time cityscape. While it made me think fondly of my favorite movie, it also did nothing to add to my happiness; it was a dark and somewhat foreboding picture leading to images of a dark and somewhat foreboding thematic movie. So I changed the image to one featuring the Austrian mountains that I am going to live amongst this upcoming year. Channeling awareness, I realized that this minute change subconsciously would instill hope and swell my sense of adventure when I glanced at it.
Then you take this a step further. Maybe you have found that positive self-talk, for example, makes you a more patient person whereas maintaining relationships with people who gossip often tends to make you grumpy and dissatisfied. So you do something with this information. You don’t hate yourself for partaking in gossip with these people because then it disrupts positive self-talk and thereby disrupts the ability for self-control. You simply take decisive actions toward preventing the furthering of this.
Okay, so awareness and self-control are present. Next comes self-efficacy, the belief that you have the ability to reach the goals you set for yourself. It’s pretty logical that this comes most naturally when you prove to yourself that you are in control, right? Of course you’re going to be able to obtain your goal of being an ultra-marathoner, you have proven to yourself that you can run half-marathons and full-marathons. You have this confidence in yourself because you have done it before. First, you were aware of how you run and how to run better and how not to run. Then you exercised self-control by disciplining yourself to run and enter into half-marathon and full-marathon races. With this foundation, of course you are going to be able to obtain your goal.
It’s a dangerously unpredictable life you will lead when you don’t believe you are in control of yourself. Every situation you are thrown–and you will be thrown a lot–you’re going to emerge hopeless and rattled. What happens if you want more than anything to be a professional baker, but you don’t get along with the manager of the bakery you are working for and this tense relationship leads to your termination?
I can’t seem to get along with anyone. Because I can’t seem to do this, I’m never going to get re-hired. I’m never going to be able to be a professional baker.
I wish that I could lose some of this excess weight, but I can’t because I can’t seem to control myself around chocolate. I just overeat, that’s what I do.
I don’t know what I want to do in life. Nothing seems to be making me happy. I don’t have a desire to go to college, I don’t really want to choose a career. Nothing makes me happy.
False! False to all of this! I hope that you see the same issues with these statements that I do. The only thing that is disabling you from getting along with anyone is that fact that you are labeling yourself as someone who doesn’t exhibit this ability. You are putting yourself into a tightly packed box labeled “people hating” and you are sealing the lid.
The reason you “can’t seem to control yourself around chocolate” is because a). You are putting yourself in situations which make it easy to over-indulge, which, by the way, you control and b). You are categorizing yourself as someone who can’t resist chocolate. Your body sees chocolate, and it says to you, “Well, brain, you keep telling me that I can’t resist chocolate, so I guess I gotta do it”.
“Nothing seems to be making me happy”, maybe because things don’t make us happy. We make us happy. Truthfully. Your best friend goes on a trip to Canada and brings you back a jar of pure 100% Canadian Maple Syrup. This syrup does not make you happy. You recognizing the gift, attributing it toward a show of love from your friend, recognizing the effort she or he had to go through to get this to you and then affirming that this proves that you are loved…that’s what creates the happiness. And this comes from you.
You can’t assume that situations are going to come along and suddenly you are going to be happy. You don’t know what you want to do in life? Your life purpose is not going to waltz up to you and hit you in the ear with a loud, “Here I am!”. You find your life purpose by trying a whole bunch of things and by awareness.
So, my friend, my pal. You are in control of your future. You are in control of your happiness. Please, please, if you have any inclinations toward leading a satisfying life, please stop attributing your negative feelings with things you “can’t seem to control”. Because you really can.
Of course nobody seems to understand you, they don’t seem to understand me either. It’s not their job, it’s mine.
Awareness leads to self-control. Self-control leads to self-efficacy. It starts small and it builds well if you let it.
Peace and Blessings,