Saturday, August 26, 2006

Sudden Enlightenment 2: The Illusion of Control

Something that all sudden enlightenment systems promise, in one degree or another, is control. I had not really paid much attention to that until I was reading Stumbling on Happiness and the author writes about how important to human happiness a feeling of control is.

That contrasts nicely with twelve-step programs which seek to help people overcome compulsive behavior by realizing that they do not have control and God's admonition that faith and righteousness do not give us control over the path of this life.

I had never thought much on that until this week. I have generally accepted that I plan, I work and I do not have control. I'm happy anyway, finding peace and joy in the moment.

Not to say that I don't believe in planning. I buy insurance, I save, I weed the yard. I learned that planning, even if things never go according to the plan, helps make things go better. I just accepted a long time ago that my plans did not create any control.


BrianJ said...

Very interesting take on a topic I just wrote about (on my blog). The contrast between quick-fixes and 12-steps is something I never would have realized.

Tigersue said...

As nurse the one thing they teach us is to try to give a patient some element of control in their care. There are things that have to be done, but like children sometimes the control can be do this now, or in a few minutes. It doesn't necessarily change the outcome, but it can help with the attitude. Perhaps that is where we all are at in life, to learn that things can happen no matter what but we can have control in how we approach the results, for good or bad. that our choices create.

Stephen said... is brianj's blog and is where I always find tigersue.

You both had good things to say.

Lisa M. said...

I keep coming back to this entry, and leaving and coming back. I have had such a struggle with this topic.

I agree, control is an illusion.

At different times in my life, I have armed myself with things that you metnioned Stephen, insurance, and information, activites, that all provide us with a sense of control over our enviornments, but really, they are all a facade, when it comes down to it.

Letting go of that, and clutching my stomach tight, closing my eyes, and just letting go, accepting that things would be as they are, despite myself, was really a huge step for me, and a lesson, I sometimes forget, and have to re-learn.

I agree with what Tigersue said. When E was in the NICU, they gave us things to do. They told us there were specific things we could do to help our baby. Like, breast milk pump, even though he wasn't eating, I kept it frozen in a bin for him, for later use.

They let us do a few of his cares, rubbing in skin creams, and things like that. It did help us have a sense of control, gave us something to do...But really, everything was out of our hands. Even though we knew that... it helped us to control our fears.

I have learned a lot about letting go, and giving up the *idea* of control.

It is helpful to conciously realize that.

Anonymous said...

Happiness is recognizing what actually is in one's control and what is not. Control is real, it's not a made up concept. The issue, imo, is recognizing that you cannot control everything. This is the crux of the serenity prayer.

"Grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference."

Happiness is recognizing there is balance. If one tries to control everything, they are not happy. If one does not affect positive change in their life on matters where they are the ones with control they are not happy either. Balance.

Your plans didn't create control; they are control. If it's your yard, you are the one who weeds or not. It's not your business to weed the yard down the street nor is it theirs to weed yours.

The 12 steps are very much about action which does involve control. It's appropriately placed control and letting go of that which is not appropriate or useful.

Stephen said...

I agree there is a balance, but my weeding the yard doesn't stop a drought (which is what we are dealing with locally) ... nor should I expect it to, and once I realize that, then I make plans, I control what I can and don't sweat what I can't.