Category Archives: meaning of control

(THE BOOK) Chapter 4: Chameleon

Controlling is hard to spot, and even harder to talk about.

Several reasons for this:

(1) It’s automatic and unconscious, like blinking or the beat of a heart.  You can make yourself aware of your own controlling, but it takes effort.

(2) It’s normal.  You do it all the time.  Everyone around you does it all the time.  So controlling behavior fades into the background of awareness, like a chameleon blends into its surroundings.

(3) We use stunted language to describe it.  We apply the verb control to wildly different behaviors, to our handling of everything from feelings to finances, foreign trade to cholesterol, termites to acne.   We almost need to construct a new language in order to adequately describe this chameleon we’re looking for.

Let’s try to do that, then.

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We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time; one is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, six members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 3: Pictures

an excerpt from 3 (w borders)You may not think of yourself as controlling.  

Well, you are.

You just don’t see it.

Consider this view of how we operate:

From moment to moment, each of us carries in our heads a picture of how we want reality to be.

And we constantly compare that internal picture to the reality we have.

Everything we do to bring those pictures closer together — whether we do it out in public or in the privacy of our most secret thoughts — is what I mean by controlling.

See it yet?

Add this, then:

Discomfort of any sort – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, everything from agony to an itch – amounts to a signal that the two pictures don’t match.

And we respond to that signal automatically.

So wherever there’s discomfort, there’s controlling.

And we all know how uncomfortable life can be.

Controlling, in short, is as reflexive and inevitable a response as slapping a mosquito that’s biting you.

See it now?

x

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We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One group is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 


(THE BOOK) Chapter 2: Controlling

an excerpt from 3 (w borders)The urge to control is part of our hard wiring.

Why?

Because it is wired into us to

..~ seek pleasure and avoid pain,

..~ imagine a perfect life (one that meets all our needs and makes us perfectly happy), and then

..~ try to make those imaginings come true.

The word controlling covers all forms of this imagining and trying.

Our trying may be large (building a skyscraper) or small (killing crabgrass), complex (winning a war) or simple (salting my soup). 

It may be important (curing cancer) or petty (trimming toenails), public (getting elected) or private (losing weight), essential (avoiding a car crash) or incidental (matching socks).

I may inflict my trying on other people (get you to stop drinking, kiss me, wash the dishes, give me a raise) or on myself (raise my self-esteem, lose weight, hide my anger, learn French).

All this involves seeking some form of control.

We’re controlling nearly all of the time.

We control automatically and unconsciously, waking and sleeping, out in the world and in the privacy of our thoughts.

From birth until death.

The only time we’re not controlling is when we can relax, and do nothing, and trust that things will work out just fine anyway.

How often can you do that?

x

Logo_v1

 

We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time.  One group is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work.  Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested?  Write me: fritzfreud@aol.com.

 

 


Elephant parts

“A blog about control,” it says at the top of this page.

So what are we talking about here? 

What is control, anyway? 

What does the word mean? What does the idea mean? 

We must think we know.  We use it often enough. 

This morning, for the hell of it, I Googled “control.”  Google replied with 225,000,000 items.  That’s million. 

I tried the same thing at Amazon.com.  Amazon coughed up 168,459 books with control in their titles. 

So what is this thing that so fascinates us? 

Good question. 

There’s an old story about blind men brailling an elephant.  One feels the elephant’s side and says, “Ah, I get it.  An elephant is just like a wall.”  Another feels the elephant’s leg and says “Ah, I get it.  An elephant is just like a tree.”  Another feels the trunk and decides an elephant is just like a snake. Another feels the tail and decides an elephant is like a rope.  And so on. 

Control is an elephant.  Big, big elephant.  Many parts, many contradictions.  After fifteen years of studying it I sometimes still feel like a blind man, groping my way towards the truth, one wrinkly body part at a time. 

Join me? 

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control: The capacity to manage, master, dominate, exercise power over, regulate, influence, curb, suppress, or restrain. ~ Judith Viorst

That’s fairly broad, as definitions go.  My definition, which you won’t find in any dictionary but stands behind everything I write here, is broader: 

The ability to dictate circumstances. 

Dictate as in direct, determine or define.  Circumstances as in, well, everything.  Everything under the sun.  All the nuts and bolts of reality, both external (the world of other people, places, and things) and internal (the world of our own thoughts, feelings and behavior). 

By control, then, I mean nothing less than the ability to edit reality,  transform it into whatever we need, or want, or prefer. 

And by controlling I mean everything we do towards that end, whether or not what we do is effective, or healthy, or if we even know that we’re doing it.

First question: Is control the best word for what I’m describing? 

I don’t know.  But I’ve tried and can’t think of a better one. 

The Buddhist term attachment probably comes closest to what I mean.  As does a Tibetan word Pema Chrodron writes about, shenpa.   But control is so much more important in English (Google lists only 16 million items for attachment) it seems the best label for what I’m interested in describing here. 

Next question:

What are the most important parts of this elephant? 

Well, the first two things you notice about control are 

(1) It’s enormous. 

and 

(2) It’s invisible. 

“Some things you miss because they’re so tiny,” Robert Pirsig writes.  “But some things you don’t see because they’re so huge.” 

Control is one of those invisible huge things. 

The urge to control explains a ridiculously wide range of behaviors.  Often we think of controlling as bossing, bullying or nagging, or a controlling person as someone like Hitler, Donald Trump or Mom.  But that’s like mistaking the trunk for the whole elephant. 

We’re controlling whenever we scratch an itch. Comb our hair.  Mow our lawn.  Salt our soup.  Spank our child.  Balance our checkbook.  Change channels.  Stop at a red light.  Vote.  Punch someone’s nose.  Flatter someone.  Seduce someone.   Lie.   Disguise our true feelings.  Get drunk.  Worry.  Dream. 

You get the idea.   

We’re all controlling, and we’re controlling all the time.  

We chase control all our lives, waking and sleeping, out in public and deep in the secretest crannies of our mind.  We chase it consciously and unconsciously, creatively and destructively, wisely and stupidly, from birth until death. 

We can’t help it.  Control-seeking is the default position of our species. 

At the same time, because it’s such a given of human experience, we barely notice we’re doing it. 

Control isn’t like a tool we pick up and put down.  It’s more like breathing, or blinking, or the way your knee jerks when the doctor taps your patellar tendon.  Constant, automatic, involuntary.

Nor is the wish for control like a faucet we can turn on and off.   The need to control flows through us continuously, saturates all our behavior and feelings, infuses everything we desire and fear. 

It not only drives behavior, it structures thinking.  What is most of our thinking anyway, if not an attempt to somehow change some circumstance, shift some piece of reality closer to what we’d prefer?  What else could you call problem-solving, planning, analyzing, fantasizing, worrying, obsessing?

The idea of control makes up the psychological sea in which each of us swims. 

And most of the time most of us barely notice we’re wet. 

(To be continued.)


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