Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Out of control? Never...



Have you been convinced that if you tried a little harder, you could make things better?

Wanting to be in control seems to be a universal feminine desire. I have not met a single woman who didn't show signs of this trait. Whether it is keeping her house just "so", fighting those pesky wrinkles appearing around the eyes, being on time, trying to get her kids to behave they way they ought. I am sure there are exceptions to my generalisation, but I do believe that control is something women have struggled with since the dawn of time.

When Eve saw the fruit on the tree she saw it "was good for food, and pleasing to the eyes, and could fill the desire of making one wise. So she took of its fruit and ate." Let me paraphrase in the style of a self-help marketer - "Try this new method of gaining all the insight and understanding you need to live a prosperous life! And it tastes fantastic! Plus it looks great, and will complement any fruit basket!"


It sounds to me like the ultimate self-help offering. And I am sure I still struggle with the same thought processes as Eve. As soon as life gets difficult my first thought is..."I can fix it!! I know I can!! If I just think hard enough and work hard enough at it, I can make things better!" Unfortunately, trying to fix things often means trying to get other people to do the things you want them to do, or to be the way you want them to be. This is where the difficulty of the theory comes in. People (especially husbands and children) can be notoriously difficult at fitting the mould we have for them in our minds. They don't LIKE to fit into our mould. They want to fit into THEIR mould.


This is why being in control so often breaks down into manipulation and blackmail. Because ultimately the idea that we can be in control is a lie. There are two major things in life that we can never control. Other people, and life circumstances. I've already discussed why we can't control other people - because unless they choose to do what we want them to do with their own free will, the life-giving positive relationship breaks down. Kris Vallotton says we can only influence people as much as they have value for us. After that we have to manipulate and "muscle" them to influence them. 


Moving away from people, there are things in life that we can never control, and we all know it. Death, aging, economic climate, weather, accidents, illness. The list goes on. Of course most people in the world spend their lives making variously successful attempts to control these things (how many vitamins do you take in one day?). However, ultimately we cannot be completely protected. So what is the way forward?


What encourages me greatly is that Eve was looking at the apple in her perfect state. She had not yet fallen. This means that the impulse to make things better, to improve things, was part of her original design. She was MEANT to be like that. What she did with that impulse was her tripping point. But I would like to argue that the desire to be in control is an expression of something good that is built into women's nature, and that thing is responsibility.


It is what drives us to make sacrifices for our children, to follow our husbands to new places in search of careers, to cook and clean a house when we are ill, to buy another pair of school shoes instead of a new dress. A woman's nurturing instinct is accepted generally as a part of her makeup, although it is expressed uniquely in each woman.


So how should Eve have stewarded her impulse? - in the beneficial and life-giving form that control was designed to take - self-control. Jack Canfield, co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, writes a simple equation which brings tremendous freedom from the burden of controlling external factors:


Event + Response = Outcome


We can never be completely in control of events (or people) but we can be completely in control of our response. And that means we can ultimately be in control of every outcome. Of course the real battle is to have a positive response to every event, and that is where self-control comes in. I believe we can build up our self-control with exercise, just like a muscle. In fact, self-control is something our parents have built into us to varying degrees in our upbringing. How many of us remember our mother's reply to our request for a sweet treat at 5'o'clock - "Wait until after your supper". Self-control is a quality that is taken for granted in many areas of adult life, and is forsaken in many other areas to an increasing degree (credit card debt is a fairly modern phenomenon!).  


I am preaching to myself here, I assure you. I have been very lazy in many areas and am only now learning that self-control is a healthy, positive and constructive way to express my natural desire to make things better without manipulating others or living in fear of catastrophe! Every small positive response I make to the situations life brings me will give me an accumulated experience of positive outcomes. It's not easy, but I know it will free me from the bondage of trying to be in control, and that will be worth it.



1 comments:

The Sassy Kitten said...

You know, that's a very compassionate view of Eve...and also very insightful. Even when she and her life were "perfect", she wanted to improve...

Now that explains why I can be sitting on the porch with my husband, experiencing bliss...and wondering what else I can do to improve it. :)

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