A sense of control

Another thing we control addicts tend to get wrong is the difference between actual control and what I call a sense of control.

I’ll explain.

Like you, I want to feel certain feelings.  I also want to avoid feeling others.

For example, I want to feel column A and avoid column B.

~~~ 2 columns

And so on.

Sense of control refers to those moments when we feel only the items in column A.

It’s in those moments that our internal universe seems to be under our command.

And we hunger for those moments.  We hunger for happiness and safety, confidence and love.  Those experiences are what we live for.

In fact, our whole lives are arranged in an attempt to repeat these experiences as often as possible.

Think about it.  Doesn’t every choice you make boil down to an attempt to answer questions like What will make me happy, not sad?  Comfortable, not uncomfortableConnected, not alienated?

Our preference for Column A experiences is rooted in survival instinct, and so hardwired into us.  That makes it the inevitable basis for all our conscious choices, and all our unconscious choices too.

And often we conclude that what will enable us to choose comfort over discomfort is to get actual control — control of the external world around us.

And that’s a valid conclusion sometimes.   Of course I’ll feel better if

~ My car stays on the road (instead of hitting that tree),

~ The boss raises my salary (instead of firing me),

~ My kid aces English (instead of failing it),

~ This attractive woman agrees to have dinner with me (instead of slapping my face).

All these experiences, and a million others like them, leads us to conclude that the way to get a sense of control is to get actual control.

A natural conclusion, but a flawed one.

Because one (the internal feeling) is a goal.  And the other (control over the external world) is just one means to that goal.

They’re.  Not.  The.  Same.

And it can be dangerous, self-defeating, and crazy-making to conclude that they are.

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