The Illusion of Control
Many of us who have worked with addicts over a period of time think of dishonesty, self-centeredness, and the illusion of control as the three legs that hold the stool of the ism of addiction up. Certainly these three are key and seem to be heavy contributors to the resultant addictive thinking patterns and behaviors that develop. And I will also explore other characteristics that certainly are part of the personal and cultural syndrome of addictions.
- There is no other essential characteristic of the addictive process that is as enmeshed into the culture as the illusion of control.
- And, the illusion of control is probably one of the most destructive processes that we have on the planet.
- It is destructive to the person/country/society that labors under it, it is physically, emotionally, and spiritually destructive to the person or persons that practice it and it is physically, emotionally and spiritually destructive to those who believe in it.
There are probably those reading this right now who take umbrage to the word illusion. And, the truth is that the illusion of control and all who believe and try to practice control over themselves, other people, places and things are operating under an illusion which needs to be named for what it is.
Unfortunately, in white, western culture especially, this illusion is so integrated into the belief system that it is seen as and believed to be “reality.”
Those of us who work with personal, societal, cultural belief systems know how difficult it is to step out of these “beliefs” and see that they are not real. They are just shared beliefs with a consensual wish to make them real even when there is a wealth of data that would disprove this assumption.
For example –
- I knew a woman who home-schooled her children with the belief that if she indoctrinated them with her beliefs and worldview long enough, they would not be open to other contradictory information.
- The Catholic church have said that if they have a child for the first five years of their life, they will be a Catholic for life.
- Wives and husbands believe that they can make the other love them forever by getting married.
- Foreign policies and international relations are built on the illusion of control.
- When the philosophy of policy is built on the illusion of control instead of working with others, it does not work so well.
- Years ago, I heard an announcement on the radio as I was driving across the plains of Wyoming that some scientists in D.C. believed that with only a few million more dollars they could control the weather.
My response was – “How stupid! Why not put our time and money into living better with it?” (At the moment I am watching a fabulous thunder and lightning storm with streams of water that fill the lake. Who would want to miss that? Who would believe that this phenomenon is “controllable?”
THE REALITY IS THAT WE CAN CONTROL VERY LITTLE IN LIFE AND THE BELIEF THAT WE CAN OR SHOULD BE ABLE TO IS PART OF THE ADDICTIVE PROCESS AND IS DESTROYING THE PLANET AND HUMANITY AS WELL.
This illusion of control is a sickness, not a workable way of life or reality. Indeed, this illusion of control is the cause of much suffering, illness, and physical and mental problems.
It is not by accident that Alcoholics Anonymous which as a good track record with addiction, hits the illusion of control hard on the first step. They know and have learned by experience that no real recovery is possible without confronting and dealing with the illusion of control head on – again and again.
- Unless you know that you do not, cannot, and should not control the universe, there is no hope for recovery and living out of a more functional paradigm.
- One of the greatest issues we are seeing in Washington, D.C. right now is the struggle between those who know that the illusion of control is sick and dysfunctional and those who have staked their lives and the life of this planet on this illusion. It is like watching ALL LIFE being devoured by this illusion.
When I first tried to understand how and why the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous worked, I quickly saw that I could not approach it as a “professional,” psychologist trained in western science. To “understand” the program, I had to do it and “get” it with my entire being.
This decision shifted me out of a non-participatory worldview to a participatory worldview and practice. In so doing, I could see why medicine and psychology do not really work. They invite us into and help us stay in an addictive paradigm which is based on the illusion of control and ultimately destructive to all it touches. I was kicking and screaming all the way when I approached the first step of AA.
The first phrase of the first step is “We admitted we were powerless…” Woah! Not me! As a feminist, and woman, I will never be powerless again – – been there, done that (well maybe not really done that as a Cherokee woman. Let’s just say, “tried that.”) Since I was still firmly in touch with my integrity with myself, I COULD NOT MOVE ON! I was stuck on the first phase of the first step for two-and-a-half years! I am so grateful for my integrity on this one because, as we know, dishonesty is an integral part of the addictive system. And, for me, honesty is deep in the cells of my native heritage.
After awhile, I saw that the step did not say that I was powerless as a person (I have never wanted power OVER anyone or anything. That is not power to me. That is bullying.) The step says “powerless over alcohol.”
Well, that was a bit different. I am not an alcoholic AND, I could see that the addictive process had invaded me, everyone around me and my nation. So, I could accept that I needed to believe this first part of step one because confronting the illusion of control as an illusion is absolutely integral to be able to participate in a paradigm of growth and wholeness which are essential for living.
If it were not so serious, I would find it even more amusing than I do watching a bunch of human beings who are not God scramble around trying to control themselves and everyone else as they pay homage to their illusion of control and try to act accordingly.
I have heard it said that God created humans for amusement. Well, we are doing a good job. What other creatures are running around believing in their illusion of control while destroying themselves and the planet and missing the beauty of the whole of creation? And there’s God laughing with tears in His/Her/Its eyes.
I know that the animals pity us in our arrogance. I can see it in their eyes.
So many people are so stupid in their illusion of control as THE reality that they cannot even imagine an alternative in their wildest dreams.
- WELL, THERE IS ONE!
- We will explore it further as we explore options for healing in Section II.
- Suffice it to say right now that the belief in our ability to control people, places, and things is an ILLUSION – – nothing more – – nothing less.
- It is an illusion built out of our thinking and created by the sick minds of human beings who have made some very bad decisions and participated in some processes that have led us on detours, as a species, that have been destructive to and threatened all life on this planet.
- I repeat, the illusion of control is a large component of our acting out an addictive system that is destructive to ourselves and all life.
- We can recover and it will require a shift in direction that we will have to do from the personal to the planetary level.
Let me give a personal example. Years ago, when I lived in St. Louis, we had a college student living with us (we often have “others” in our household). He noticed that my now dead husband and I had fights. At one point, he came to me and said: “I notice when you and your husband have fights it is about control. You are both trying to control one another.”
I paused, thought about it and then said: “Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite right! Check again.”
He did and then later he came back and said: “You’re right!” It is about control. He certainly wants to control you. And, you don’t want to control him. You refuse to be controlled by him.”
Again, I paused. “Yep,” I said. “That sounds about right.”
For now, it is very important that we see the illusion of control as one of the operational illusions of an addictive way of functioning. And, because ultimately, control is impossible, this controlling behavior results in our constant failure in what we have come to believe is what we should be able to do. This constant failure results in feelings of inadequacy, anger, despair and unworthiness affecting everything we think, feel and do and results in a never-ending downward spiral.
This control issue is one of the major issues (if not THE major issue) we face as a planet at this time.
Historically, there have been societies on this planet not based on the illusion of control and they and the planet prospered. Yet, in the development of the human race, we have tended to move in the direction of societies and relationships based on the illusion of control AND THEY WILL DESTROY THE PLANET.
The history of this USA of ours is that people come here to escape this kind of oppression, learn from the native people of this land and build a society not based on the illusion of control, dishonesty and self-centeredness – the pillars of the addictive mind and way of functioning.
Returning to our original vision will not be easy. And, hopefully, with the help of those who are not so enmeshed in the current addictive/dysfunctional system, we can find our way back to honor, respect, and honesty as a way of being in this world and living with one another and the planet.