“It is easy to understand how you would come to the conclusion that your path to feeling good is through influencing or controlling the behavior of others. But as you attempt to control them (through influence or coercion), you discover that not only can you not contain them – but your attention to them brings more like them into your experience. You simply cannot get to where you want to be by controlling or eliminating the unwanted.”
I’m realizing more and more that the vast majority of people’s actions are an attempt to control their environment. Control feels like real, tangible stuff. Say you want a thing, walk into a store with money, find the thing, bring it to the front of the store to exchange said thing for money, and leave with the thing you wanted. Control.
Of course, you can probably remember the last time you wanted a thing and they were out of the thing or the store was closed or the thing is different from the last time you wanted it…
We try to control for everything, and yet even the best controllers land smack dab in the middle of the uncontrollable situation.
We try to control our government by voting and by telling other people who to vote for or by refusing to speak to people who don’t vote for who we vote for, but really we have no control over how the government is run at all in the first place. If you’ve ever watched House of Cards or listened to the podcast Serial as they discussed the ins and outs of bringing Bowe Bergdahl back to the United States (think “a bottle of Johnny Walker Black will get you a place on the Secretary of Defense’s schedule), you’d know that pretty much everyone holding a position of power is going to figure out how to do what they want to do.
We try to control our partners by setting up rules (which sometimes we call “vows” and sometimes we call “boundaries” but really they’re mostly fancy words for rules). We tell them not to cheat on us, but more than a third of spouses do. We tell them to be loving towards us, but anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than 5 minutes knows that goes out of the window some days. We tell them not to smoke, so they sneak the cigarettes on business trips. We tell them not to spend too much money, and so they get a secret bank account.
We try to control our society by telling them they can’t drink too much, steal, hurt each other, drive on the wrong side of the road…and yet people do these things. Regularly. Like, a lot.
People do what they want. And as much emphasis as we put on character and dignity and integrity, we’ve all done something that someone else asked us not to do because we liked our way better, even if it’s as small as using regular steaks instead of organic ones for the cookout (why would I spend $15/ribeye when I could spend $9 and they taste the same?).
So what’s a human to do?! Control nothing and just hope for the best?
Well, sort of.
You can only control how you treat the world around you, and how you react to it. You can leave this country for another one whose government you like better. You can choose a partner who is more in alignment with the rules you set for yourself (btw, do you follow all those rules you set for yourself all the time?). You can choose which situations you stay in and which you don’t. (Just remember that you’ll be brining yourself with you wherever you go, so unhappy-here doesn’t necessarily mean happy-there.) But standing still and resisting what IS is kind of the definition of insanity…
It’s all a game of resistance, and as much as I’d love for resistance to result is LESS of a thing I don’t like, it will always result in the same amount or more, because we get and become what we think about, even if what we’re thinking about it what we don’t want. (Remember Prohibition?)
What if instead of trying so fervently to control what others think, believe, and do, you spent all that energy focused on making yourself happy? What if the whole world was filled with people who took responsibility for themselves and left you alone unless you both agreed it would be fun to be around each other? Is it possible that you could find your own personal happiness without worry about what someone else is doing? What if you had the same grace for others as you have for yourself?
I know, I know. Perfect world. <3
*Note because someone will say it: NO, I’m not talking about minding your own business if you know someone is being physically abused or has a disability and needs help or someone got the flu and wants some soup. Because duh.