Category Archives: paradoxes of control

Third Paradox: Tradeoff

The Third Paradox of control:

 THIRD PARADOX

.

Controlling boils down to a tradeoff.

Gain control here, lose control there.

Think of the original monkey trap:

To hold on to the banana, the monkey surrenders his freedom.  To regain his freedom, he must let the banana go.

It also explains all garden-variety codependent interactions:

To control you (make you like, love or accept me) I must surrender control of something else — like my ability to be honest, or spontaneous, or emotionally expressive. 

Conversely,

Taking control of my emotional life — especially how I feel about myself — means surrendering control over how you react to me.

It also applies to New Year’s resolutions, not to mention all goal-setting:

To reach a particular goal (like writing my book) I must surrender control of others (like spending time with my family, or on chores that absorb my energy and attention).

To gain control of my weight I must surrender control (i.e., limit my choices) of what I put in my mouth.

To control my social anxiety I must detach from how other people see me and practice being myself.

And so on.

So control and surrender are two sides of the same coin.

And getting control of anything means losing control of something else.

To win A, you must sacrifice B.

Tradeoff.

Balance.

Yin-yang.

Fill your bowel to the brim 

and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife 

and it will blunt.

Chase after money and security

and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people’s approval

and you will be their prisoner. 

                         ~ Lao Tzu

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yinyang2


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In times of crisis she calls herself names.

“I’m so stupid,” she’ll say.  Or “I’m crazy.”

But when I offer her a diagnosis – suggest she has an anxiety disorder, say – she rejects it:

“I don’t like labels.”

Puzzling.  What are stupid and crazy if not labels?

It reminds me of something many addicts say when I suggest medication:

“I don’t want to need a pill to make me feel good.”

I hear this regularly from people already dependent on pot, street drugs or alcohol.

How explain this inconsistency?

To some people, accepting a diagnosis or medication feels like a loss of control.

I sympathize.  Nobody likes to feel defined or directed by somebody else.

But resisting diagnosis and treatment usually leaves such people feeling neither freer nor stronger.

Just crappier.

Not more in control, but more helpless.

Another reminder of what I call the First Paradox.

The greater your need to feel in control, the less in control you’re likely to feel.


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