In How to Attain Peace: Part 1, I spoke about practicing relinquishing control to attain peace. Simple, you say, I’ll stop trying to control everything. But as with everything, the surface is superficial. You have to look deeper to understand. After all, what is control? Indeed, control is a sneaky beast, shapeshifting into manifestations where we don’t see it as such. Here are three subtle ways in which control can manifest within us, without our realizing that we are being controlling.
Toughness is the act of being hard on yourself or someone else with regards to accomplishing a task, and it directly relates to wanting to control outcome. We all want certain outcomes, and because there is a proportional return on accomplishment with steady effort over time, we confuse minute-by-minute toughness with average, long-term endurance and think that more pressure in every moment will change things. But that is the catch, being tough every second, never subconsciously letting yourself take a break, does nothing to improve the odds. Rather, allowing yourself to breathe a little with the week-to-week variations in success is what allows you to recuperate in order to focus on endurance. We are relentlessly punishing in our daily schedules, our work, with our performance and goals. We transfer our brutality to our children, especially with regards to academics and sports. But sustained success is the average – not sum - of effort over time, with failure factored in. It is not built on minute-by-minute duress but week-by-week adaptability in order to endure to our goal.
As you evolve in life you need to gradually shed immaturity and find a centered appreciation of self. This means not having to show off, be right, be recognized at all costs. If you always have to be top dog, it requires a lot of effort to stay in charge. You don’t allow others around you to act or speak authentically, you can’t tolerate not being acknowledged, you must draw a constant supply of external validation on your terms to feel good. With conceit, it's about trying to control one's outer landscape in order to try to maintain an external supply of validation because true self-esteem is lacking within. Conceit is about doing everything to promote your superiority in your mind because deep within, your wounded self never felt very loved. Conceit and its image-control are absolutely contrary to the liberating acceptance of self-generated, healthy self-appreciation.
Have you ever spoken with another who only listens so far as to be able to counter you? Everything you say cannot be their truth, even if it makes sense. They’ll only agree with you if you parrot their opinion. And, if you persist gently in trying to explain your truth, this person will cut you off with staunch, repetitive affirmations of his view. This denial of you and what you’re trying to express is about control and blocking your threat to their ego. In my line of work, this happens because of a patient or family’s denial of death. Such forms of not wanting to acknowledge anything else but what’s imagined in one’s head as reality, are forms of denying the truth in order to attempt to control what comes in and what stays out. Denial is a blockade of reality so that the latter doesn’t hurt or disrupt the ego. The practice of denial always prevents us from finding peace; unfortunately, at the end of life, it prevents us from finding a peace in dying.
These are three subtle forms of control, which we might not recognize as such. As always with this blog, I attempt to address forms of immaturity or inflexibility which prevent us from being able to achieve peace in this lifetime - which in turn prevents us from encountering death with equanimity at the end.