(THE BOOK) Chapter 18: Survival

All the factors just described — family, trauma, socialization, culture — combine in the human mind to drive controlling behavior.

And the ultimate goal of that behavior is the most primitive and stubborn of all human goals:

Life itself.

I refer here not just to physical survival, though certainly much of our controlling (like when we’re driving a car or battling an illness) has that as its aim.

I mean emotional, psychological, and social survival as well.

We cannot help but believe control is essential to these, too.

Thus it is emotional survival that forces children to appease their narcissistic parents, since on the deepest level they know they need parental love, nurturance and protection in order to live.

It is psychological survival that demands trauma survivors limit their exposure to threatening triggers, since the alternative — constantly recurring states of fight-or-flight — would lead to intolerable stress and the disintegration of their minds.

And it is social survival that requires each of us to absorb and obey the dictates of the society to which we belong, since – again, on the deepest of levels – we know that we cannot last long without acceptance by the tribe.

For all these reasons we each come to believe that control is essential to our lives.

This conviction is so unconscious and inescapable that it makes getting control feel like a matter of life and death.  It’s why even the idea of losing control can produce anxiety, and why control addiction plays like a silent soundtrack behind every human experience.

And where does it come from, this conviction that we must control or die?

Mainly from the structure of our minds.


6 responses to “(THE BOOK) Chapter 18: Survival

  • betternotbroken

    I am waiting for a post where something ANYTHING does not drive us to control. It makes me feel I will never be able to give up my “addiction” there is too much controlling me. I like this post, at least I can say, “Yes, I resorted to controlling because I wanted to survive.”

    • Steve Hauptman

      Yes, it’s easy to forget that compulsive controlling — like most emotional problems — started out as a solution.

      And that it felt successful to an extent.

      Which is

      (a) why controlling is so hard to give up, and

      (b) why giving it up depends on whether or not we’re able to develop another, healthier solution.

      Cheer up, though. Healthier solutions do exist.

      • betternotbroken

        Thank you so much, your posts do help me and together with my children we are all focusing on healthier solutions and it does feel good.

  • Al

    Your post raises queries for me Steve.
    I wonder at what point we lose the ability to trust our instincts?
    Instincts that we have naturally at birth…?
    Instincts that would guide us on the path of what we can control (good for us) and what we can(bad for us) if we trusted them, let alone were in touch with them…and our ability to naturally heal? Where’s that gone?
    Is it conditioned out of us?

    • Steve Hauptman

      No, I don’t think instincts are ever entirely conditioned out of us.

      That’s because, despite all the socialization and conditioning, we retain our animal bodies.

      Unfortunately, “Many of us have lived like renters in a small room of a house we consider barely habitable. Disembodied, we have dangerously compromised the fabric of nature that supports us,” writes James Conger, whose THE BODY IN RECOVERY (Frog Ltd., 1994) provides an excellent overview of the subject.

      As a therapist I see reconnecting to nature through the body as essential. It’s why I spend so much time teaching clients to listen more closely and respectfully to feelings, which I see as the road to self-care, self-acceptance, accessing our instinctual intelligence, connecting authentically with other people, and healing our confused and controlling minds.

  • The conversation: God, skew, and instincts | Monkey House

    […] In response to “Chapter 18: Survival”:  […]

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