I got decent grades when I was in high school and university. I usually get feedback that I perform fairly well at work. I got better at volleyball fairly quickly during my first couple years of play. I attribute much of these achievements to a common thread that runs through them: control.
I try to take note whenever there’s an action I can take to move something forward. I try to reflect on how things can be improved. I try to keep a very thorough to-do list. I try to maintain a reliable schedule/calendar.
However, in recent conversations with my psychotherapist and through reflections in a series of personal development workshops I’ve been participating in, I’m starting to see how control may be one of my neuroses (my interpretation/diction, not theirs).
To be clear, I think there is a healthy place for planning. But in my case, it seems like I try to control everything because of an insecurity I experience around spontaneity. And ironically, although I adopted control as a self-defence mechanism, control seems to have become a major source of anxiety, stress, and other problems for me.
For instance, I bumped into this issue earlier this morning when I was taking transit to work. This person stood in front of the train doors to get off first, so I assumed they were in a rush. But then when we got off the train and had to walk through a narrow walking area left by the people waiting for the train, they walked slowly and I couldn’t pass them without colliding with them or other people waiting to get on the train. After we got through this narrow path, they increased their pace as they started to head for the escalator. They entered the escalator on the left side, so I tried to enter it on the right side. But then once they were on the escalator, they decreased their pace again and walked in the center of the escalator. This series of events and my interpretations left me feeling angry, anxious, and stuck.
Another example is how control influences my perception of various things. If I think I should be doing a better job of listening to someone, or if I think I should be able to concentrate on a task, or if I think I should be more self-aware about some aspect of my experience, I think that I’m failing to control something that I should be able to control. This often leaves me feel frustrated, stressed, and incompetent.
There are two things I’m currently working towards in navigating my issues with control. First, I’m looking to become more familiar (and thus comfortable) with the spontaneous. Fear of something may be alleviated as knowledge of that thing (and the lack of danger associated with it) moves from the realm of the unknown to the realm of the known. Second, I’m looking to become more aware of the illusion that is control. There are things over which I have influence but I think that I have control. If I can shift my perspective on this, I may become less attached to the outcomes of things over which I have influence.
As a side note, I struggle with solving this problem because whenever I look for solutions or next actions, I wonder if it’s just my need for control stepping in again. But I guess if that’s the case, I can deal with that problem when I get there.