“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment
Marcus Aurelius (121 – 180 A.D,
“The sun will set without thy assistance.”
– The Talmud
The Illusion Of Control
You just received a rather warm and heartfelt letter from your local IRS Agent inviting you to meet with him so you can discuss the somewhat inappropriate depreciation you have been taking for the past five years.The letter includes a dollar sign followed by a certain number that that temporarily makes your heart stop.
Your ex-wife just called to inform you that the psychiatrist you have been paying some pretty hefty hourly fees for, has advised her that she and her ex- husband both need to work on bringing a little more spontaneity into their lives, Of course, she thought this was a nifty idea so she will be stopping by in about 45 minutes with the 5 kids in tow, And, oh, would he please be a kind dear and drop her off at Jet Blue for her flight to Maui, where she will be spending the next two weeks with her new boyfriend.
Well, at least the.family dog, an adopted mutt from the local Animal Rescue League, was living up to the description of being man’s best friend. However, as you leave the kitchen to walk into the living room where the phone’s charging cradle is located, the stench hits you like a runaway freight train, just a moment before your foot feels an all-to-familiar squish underneath, and you know it will take at least three hours to scrape all of the puppy’s present from the cracks and crevasses of your favorite running shoe!
Without even knowing it, everyone strives to have the world outside themselves, the world in which they live and breathe, work, love and struggle, match what is going on inside. We call this finding balance. It is not a conscious effort, but it is a constant one. Most people also don’t understand that everything they perceive is really just a reflection of what is already going on inside. The world outside, the world of our perception, is an illusion. It is merely a projection of that which is occurring inside, whether we know it or not.
The problem is that we all want to feel better. We have developed pictures and impressions of how everything needs to work in order for us to feel good. This is the stuff we have spent a life time learning and accepting, without questioning. More often than not we don’t know we have such hard and fast models in our minds of what ought to be, especially the scripts we have created for for other people to conform to, let alone where they come from. And so, without really knowing it, we try to arrange the world we live in to conform to whatever notions we have about what will make us happy, thus matching the inner and the outer.
For instance, have you ever had the experience where you are humming along during the course of a normal (I’m not sure there is a way to define normal), uneventful in terms of upheavals type of day, and you feel relatively good. You don’t question why it’s like that, and you aren’t running to the phone to call your therapist and exposing your guts in an effort to find out what could possibly have happened to make you feel relatively calm!
Now, here is where it gets really nuts. The notions of happiness that we have developed came from places we don’t understand, and they are generally dictated to us by an ego that is committed to maintaining a constant hum of misery, doubt, shame, fear, guilt and anger. From time to time, the ego does allow us to experience what we consider happiness in order to keep us within the confines of its control; but not too much of that, and not for too long a time. The ego, it seems, has its own version of balance it needs to maintain no matter how hurtful, painful, or terrifying it may be for you to experience. In fact, the more negative it is for you, the more it has you groveling in the gutter, the better it is for an ego that is hell bent on hastening your complete and utter personal destruction.
and will committed to maintain, no matter how hurtful, negative, So, we go about finding inner peace, gaining our elusive balance, trying to achieve true happiness, trying to feel the inner peace we know should be there, in an entirely backwards manner. It is a manner that is doomed to failure. It is a manner that is destined to maintain the status quo over the long term, and it is a manner that guarantees we will never find the joy and love that is our birthright.
It is no wonder that most people walk around feeling like they are constantly up to their butts in alligators, when their original intent was to drain the swamp!
So, the only way to bring the happiness you seek into the realm of your experience is to do so from the inside out, not the outside in. You need to change your perspective. However, not knowing that you are looking into a mirror all day long, you default to trying to make adjustments to the external dynamics of your life because you do not like what is happening. Or, you work real hard at maintaining an arbitrary and subconsciously predetermined status quo by keeping a tight lid on the events and people you encounter. And you mostly do this without knowing you are doing it. In fact, you don’t know that you don’t know. But that does not make you any less unhappy.
Either way, almost every person on the planet, to a greater or lesser extent, really wants to experience equilibrium, empowerment, and a balance between the outside circumstances of their lives and their inner condition. Another name for this sought after sense of balance is inner peace.
Most of us have no idea the extent to which we strive to control the circumstances of our lives in order to feel better, more alive, less weighed down, and less victimized. We strive to experience peace in our lives, without even being consciously aware of this ever present quest. This means that, at a very deep level of which you are not consciously aware, you have already determined that inner peace is a most desired state of existence. Unbeknownst to you, you are already engaged in an effort to come home to your Real Self, to experience the love and peace that you were created to enjoy, and to extend this feeling to everyone you meet. The problem is that you could well be going about it all wrong. So, as long as you are expending the energy anyway, you might as well do it right, in a manner that will really bring you what you want.
And, let us not forget the lies we tell ourselves that are guaranteed to bring us to places we do not want to be, places that are quite familiar: “I think I’ll stop at the bar for a couple of drinks before heading home for the night. Or, I’m going to limit myself to no more than $50.00 worth of betting on the horses today, or, it’s only a medium sized piece of chocolate cheesecake, what possible harm could that be?
According to Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same things over and over again, but expecting a different result.” Welcome to the wonderful world of the blissfully ignorant insane!!
We can all agree that we are affected by everything that happens during the course of a typical day. Some events are joyful, like the birth of a child or the marriage of a daughter to a great guy. Some are not so positive, like finding out a family member has a terminal disease. It is the unusual person that can walk through life without external circumstances seriously affecting them on a variety of levels, therefore impacting every relationship and interaction they have. We cannot help but to pass it on because we really don’t want it, and we really don’t know that we are constantly teaching the negative and crazy thoughts that flow through our heads because, according to A Course In Miracles, every thought we have creates form.
It is for this precise reason that the ability to exert control, at any level, over anybody else, is a total illusion, and a complete waste of time and energy. On a practical level, in order for you to maintain even the most minimum amount of control over the thoughts, feelings and actions of just one other individual (spouse, child, friend, boss, co-worker, parent or sibling), you would have to be able to control all of the people, places and things in their lives! This is because everything that everyone in your extended network experiences has a profound impact on them, in exactly the same way that everything that happens to you has such an effect on you.
Therefore, at some level, you are being impacted by the sum total of what the other person in an interaction with you has experienced, at a time when you were not there to control those events in their lives. Given this small fact, you can see how utterly impossible it is for you to have even the slightest possibility of control over anybody or anything outside yourself. If you are anything like me, you find it difficult just to be on time for your appointments, let alone completely run the lives of everyone you know and all the people they know. It cannot be done. Not even with one person, let alone all of them! I know this because I tried and failed miserably. The details of this futile attempt can be found in my book; How to Enjoy Peace in Your Life Every Day.
Control of any sort is an illusion. Seeking to achieve the peaceful existence you so richly deserve by controlling outside people and events is an exercise that is overwhelming, exhausting, frustrating, contrary to the positive development of any relationship, and destined to complete and utter failure.
So, how do you get out of the trap?
Learning to practice real forgiveness is the answer.
To learn more about the Illusion of Control and what you can do to rid yourself of the shackles this illusion clamps around your throat, you may want to pick up a copy of How To Enjoy Peace In Your Life Everyday. You will learn how to forgive in a way that is designed to set you free.
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