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Are you a controlling person?
How to let go and be happy
This article is an excerpt from the book I am writing (Wake the F Up). In that book I suggest that if you truly want to be happy and end suffering you must transcend your egoic-mind, or break free of the mental conditioning that keeps you small and unhappy.
This is the fourth of five practical articles on how to do that. In my prior articles I identified the five ways your egoic mind acts out (the five red flags), namely:
Regretting and worrying
This article is on Controlling.
Without you realizing it, your egoic mind always seeks control. Although you might think that trying to control situations is useful and necessary, you will see here that controlling is rarely possible, usually ineffective, and actually harmful. It is simply your immature egoic mind in action, wreaking havoc.
What’s wrong with controlling?
The act of controlling consists of trying to manipulate the circumstances and people around you. We all do this because we generally want things to work out in our favour. We want things to run smoothly. We want our dinner party to be a big success. We want the perfect job. We want folks to agree with us.
We even try to control our insides, particularly our emotions and even our biology and health. We never want to be unhappy and we never want to get sick. In essence, we want everything to be “perfect.”
But there are a few problems with this. First, we think that we can actually control things, which is rarely possible. This is particularly true when we try to control our feelings, as described here,
“Inwardly, it is difficult to accept that we have no real control over our emotions, moods or desires. We try to control our feelings because they are painful or don’t fit within our belief systems, concepts, self-image, and goals, all of which are conditioned mindsets [ego] keeping us from the experience of ourselves as we are.” John Ruskan
The egoic mind is convinced that it must always be in charge. It dreads chaos and feeling out of control. It wants you to be absolutely safe, so requires that it be in control at all times. This is a full time job and, sadly, one that usually backfires.
We can not change reality
Most sages and mystics remind us that it is completely insane to try to maintain control because in effect we are trying to change reality. For example, if your friend Bob does not want to see a particular film, that is a fact (e.g. reality). If you try to control him and convince him to see the film with you, he might not enjoy the movie and might resent you. If you accepted the fact that he did not like that type of film (and respected his ability to trust himself) you would reach a more satisfactory outcome – even if you ended up seeing the film.
Second, we think that if we control circumstances and people, we will somehow be happier. We think that if we manipulate situations, our lives will be much better and bad things are less likely to happen. We think that if we control the world around us, we will live in ease and avoid all difficulties and pain. Think about that for a second.
The reason why our egoic mind wants to control everything is because it is deeply insecure. It believes that without taking change of everything, we will be in danger or suffer.
This egoic tendency of constantly wanting things to be different than they actually are is a major barrier to happiness and a hurdle that must be overcome. Many people find this concept difficult to understand, yet it is vitally important, if we truly want to be authentic and free, as explained here,
“When we insist that the things, people and events around us change so that we can be happy, we’re actually denying something very deep within us. We’re denying the truth of who we are. We are denying the truth of each other.” Adyashanti:
Third, our attempts to control things, show complete arrogance to the natural state of things by assuming that our wants and desires trump life itself. Osho describes it this way:
“You are trying to impose a pattern on life, something of your own. You are trying to drag life to follow you and you are just a tiny part, infinitesimal, so small, and you are trying to drag the whole universe with you. Of course you are bound to be defeated. You are bound to lose your grace. You are bound to become hard.“
Fourth, the desire to control is a set up. By believing we are in control we set ourselves up for failure. We keep pretending and trying harder to control, until reality hits us in the face, as described here,
“There are times when you’re almost forced to recognize that you aren’t in control. A painful emotion arises, and you can’t run away from it. You can’t make in vanish. All of a sudden it’s obvious: “I’m not in control!” which often causes a deeper panic. [And ] literally we can spend a whole lifetime trying to exercise this sense of control that we don’t really have.” Adyashanti
Finally, by controlling things we reject ourselves. We forget (as you will see in my future articles) that as humans, we are constantly projecting our preferences, as John Ruskan says,
“Outwardly we try to control whatever does not fit in with our mental concepts of how things should be. This amounts to self-rejection because perception of the external is always our projection; rejecting our projection is rejecting ourselves.”
Ultimately, as we awaken to the egoic mind we will eventually see some lights go on. We will see that there is actually no security at all in this world and that the whole effort by your egoic mind to gain security is often a waste of time and effort. Adyashanti describes it this way,
“People feel their very existence is a stake, and they will fight and argue until they get control back. This is all because we have attempted to build solidity where there is none. Now we have to fight to keep it together. The problem is, there is no way out that way. There is no peace and there is no winning at that struggle. You were told not to build your house on sand. Well, this is the ultimate sand.”
So how do you deal with your impulse to control? By noticing it and out-growing it. First watch it in action and you will see that it does not work the way you intended, and actually prevents you from enjoying life. In this realization, your ego will mature, let go of its death grip and start acting in a less controlling way. And you will be happier.
Here are some non-controlling behaviours
I allow people to be themselves
I am patient and calm
I trust things to unfold in their own time
I assume others are trying their best
I listen to the ideas of others
I am open to a variety of perspectives
I am okay if I do not get my way
In my next entries I talk about:
Egoic behaviour 5: Regret and Worry
How to transcend the egoic-mind
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