All of us (except the Buddhists) want some control in our lives. We call those most obsessed with it “control freaks”, just as we call those concerned with what they consume “health nuts”. The terms, however describe starkly different pursuits. One can avoid unhealthy food and activities while carefully partaking of nutritious meals and maintaining a consistent regimen of exercise. Control, on the other hand is always short-lived, at best and ultimately, only an illusion.
Paradoxically, the harder you try to control events and other people, the less control you actually have. More than a point of diminishing return, the single-minded pursuit of control invariably takes control of the pursuer as life becomes unbearable because of your inability to achieve the level of control you so badly crave. Instead of gaining any control at all, you become a slave to your desire for control. Freedom is the complete release of any need to control anything more than what you are doing right now.
Manifestations of this self-perpetuating behavior include cutting, eating disorders and extreme anxiety. In a paradox of thought, you assume your anxiety is based upon your fear of not being able to maintain control when, in fact you never had any and the root of your anxiety is your very need to establish it. Similar to an alcoholic needing to admit to the problem as a first step to sobriety, so does the control freak need to take a step back and admit that, like a mirage in the desert, the control you seek or think you have is an illusion. It simply does not exist and the harder you try to achieve it, the greater your frustration and anxiety.
A true irony, those who seem the most intent on controlling those around them, while driven in some areas, seem to have the least amount of self-control, often becoming completely derailed by episodes of hysteria. Besides being an illusion, control is just not all it’s cracked up to be.
Real control is exemplified by the ability to maintain decorum in our own lives, our behavior appropriate for our surroundings. Don’t let events control you. Force yourself to react more slowly to life’s insults, perceived or real. Measure your words and your actions. Postpone confrontations until you’ve had a chance to calm down and determine whether or not that confrontation is really necessary. There’s always time to say what needs to be said, not taking that time can only lead to things being said that never should have been said. And can never be taken back.
The past can never be changed. The future can never be controlled and no amount of preoccupation will influence it. Right now is the moment you can enjoy. Right now is the moment you can control.