Questioning the iceberg

(Steve and Bert are fighting a particularly stubborn cold, and so have decided to recycle and expand a post we wrote over a year ago:)

Peary relates that on his polar trip he traveled one whole day toward the north, making his sleigh dogs run briskly. At night he checked his bearings to determine his latitude and noticed with great surprise that he was much further south than in the morning. He had been toiling all day toward the north on an immense iceberg drawn southwards by an ocean current. ~ Jose Ortega y Gassett


Here’s why the idea of control fascinates me.

It’s an emotional iceberg, constantly carrying each of us southwards — away from where we want to go or where we think we’re headed.

Its size and invisibility make it easy to overlook.

But ignoring it is dangerous.

Because it hardly matters how hard you mush towards your goal when the iceberg keeps moving you in the opposite direction.


Feeling lost?  Stuck?  Exhausted?  Depressed?

Stop mushing, already.

Question the iceberg instead.

You can do that by asking yourself:

(1) What is it I’m trying to control here?

(2) Have I been able to control this thing successfully in the past?

(3) If not, what can I do instead?

To answer (3), you’ll need to know something about the three alternatives to control.

We call them surrender, responsibility and intimacy.

They’ll be our subject next time.

* * *

8 responses to “Questioning the iceberg

  • Bill Lynch

    As I began reading this post I kept “hearing” the word “surrender” a concept I am practicing lately. Man is it hard to shift away from feeling responsible for everything – who told me that any way? – onto a more sane understanding of the minimal control I have of myself, not to mention all those other monkeys out there!

    I enjoy your blog – keep it up.

    • fritzfreud

      Thanks, Bill. Surrender is an idea we hope to write more about.
      if you care to share, we’d be curious to know where/how you encountered it and what form your practice takes.
      ~ S&B

      • Bill Lynch

        Surrender is a central concept in my understanding of AA. I’ve been a member of the club for over two years. It is akin to powerlessness but contains an active embracing of fact – we are pieces of organic matter floating in this vastness yet we think we run the show.

        On the other hand, we evolved in a dangerous environment in which we needed to be ever vigilant and ready to react. Kill or be killed. It’s a tough neighborhood in my mind – how about you?

        • fritzfreud

          Last year I published two posts (titles and links below) describing how I got professionally interested in control. I got personally interested even before that, though, as a depressed ACOA attending Al-Anon and wrestling with that annoying First Step. Eventually I came to distinguish “power” from “control” and to translate “Admitted we were powerless” as “Realized we can’t control reality” or something similar.

          Yes, our addiction to control probably originated as a healthy adaptation to an environment filled with sabretooth tigers, and in that context “surrender” would have been suicidal. Nowadays I think we’re our own worst enemies, the tigers exist mostly in our minds, and surrender means to stop scaring the crap out of ourselves by taking a step back from our own paranoid monkey-mind chatter.

          ~ “Corduroy” (
          ~ “Red Thread” (

          • Bill Lynch

            Absolutely! Our imagination and creative powers scare us to death. The way to life – really living – is to acknowledge those haunting scenes but pay little attention to them, attending instead on this morning’s beautiful sunrise and my wife’s smile as she awoke.

  • Jan Williams

    I find this application of your “control theory” to be right on and very helpful.

  • Phyllis

    Olive Leaf Oil will help you guys get better. I like Gaia best.. You can get it on line or at health food stores.. Hope you both feel better.

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