There are four laws of control, laws we obey whether we realize it or not.
Here’s the first:
It’s the Law of Addiction.
What does it mean?
Control means the ability to edit reality — to make people, places and things the way we want them to be,
Addiction means the compulsion to repeat a certain behavior in order to achieve a particular gratifying — but ultimately unhealthy — experience.
So a control addict is anyone who
(a) feels compelled, over and over and over again, to edit reality according to their preferences,
(b) experiences intolerable discomfort or anxiety when they cannot.
We are all control addicts.
Think of it this way:
Moment to moment, we each carry around in our heads a picture of the reality we want.
And we constantly compare that picture to the reality we have.
Anything we do to bring those two realities closer together is what I call controlling.
It’s controlling whether we do it in speech, or behavior, or in the privacy of our imagination.
Our controlling may be obvious or hidden, conscious or unconscious, choiceful or compulsive, creative or destructive, healthy or unhealthy.
Notice how vast a range of human behaviors this description covers:
I’m controlling when I mow my lawn, balance my checkbook, steer my car, swat a mosquito or help my kid do homework.
I’m controlling when I brush my teeth, salt my eggs, change channels, vote in elections or post selfies on Facebook.
I’m controlling when I pursue a goal, a degree, a job, a raise, a sale item, a cure for cancer or a sexual partner.
I’m controlling when I rage at bad weather, slow traffic, dumb commercials, rude waiters or lying politicians.
I’m controlling when I lie, hide my feelings, pretend to agree with you, worry that I’m fat or guess what you think of me.
I’m controlling when I try to get you to agree with me, hire me, understand me, respect me, kiss me, forgive me or do me a favor.
Also whenever I judge, criticize, manipulate, persuade, coerce or abuse you.
Not to mention whenever I anticipate, plan, ruminate, fantasize, worry, project or obsess.
All controlling behaviors.
All stem from the urge to swap my current reality for one I think I’d prefer.
All those and infinitely more.
Our craving for control is inevitable and unavoidable, the mother of all motives, the psychological sea in which we swim.
Perhaps the best way to describe its enormity in human psychology is to describe its opposite:
The opposite of controlling is the ability to
say nothing, and do nothing, and trust that
things will work out just fine anyway.
How often can anyone do that?
How often can you?
Welcome, fellow control addict.