The illusion of control

Posted on July 28, 2010
Filed Under book review, Breathing practices, Buddhism, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

I’ve been doing some internal work lately and one of the issues that has arisen has been about control, specifically the control a person has in his/her imagination vs the control s/he has in reality. If a person feels that s/he has no control over circumstances in his/her life, there can be, sometimes, a tendency to utilize imagination to create scenarios where a person has complete control, but when you replicate those scenarios in life, you find out you actually don’t have that much control. I’m one of those people who’s had that realization at times, and when this happens its usually a good indicator that I’m reacting against the lack of control I felt I was dealing with. Problem being that even when I acted out the scenario I still didn’t have control and if anything it was emphasized how little control I had, in regards to myself.

I recognized this particular pattern of behavior recently when I started examining how I’ve used imagination to provide a feeling of control as it pertains to my sexual identity. And I’ve realized that this issue goes to the core of my sexual identity, back to when I was raped, because I had no control then. It’s replicated itself in the relationships I’ve been in, but until now I never fully acknowledged how much my tendency to fantasize has come about as a direct result of my initial experience, and a desire to have control as a safety mechanism to protect me from having such an experience again.

Yet no fantasy can really replace life or the experience of it…and there’s much less control in the experience of life, and under the right circumstances much less need as well for such control. In fact, it seems to me that the need for control is a result of the lack of self-control a person has (something which is his/her own responsibility), though it can also arise from a situation where a person was made to feel s/he had no control. As I continue to do my internal work and take responsibility for the different dysfunctions of my own life, I find that I need less control of anything else, because I have control of my responses and as long as I have that, then control of anything else ceases to matter. Or rather, more to the point, by taking control of my choices and actions, I can choose how to handle situations and be grounded in that, regardless of how things turn out. In the end the only control you do have is that which you exert over your actions, and your ability to consequently navigate through situations by understanding what you can choose to contribute or not to them.

What do you think?

Book Review: Wonders of the Natural Mind by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

I highly recommend this book as an excellent introduction to the Bon tradition of Tibet. In this book the author explains what the Bon tradition is and how it differs from Buddhist beliefs and practices. The author explores in depth the foundational beliefs and practices of the Bon tradition while also explaining how they can be meaningfully applied to the life of the practitioner. What I like is that its also clear that this tradition has its own perspective on emptiness, which I found useful for getting a new perspective on it. Overall, I recommend this book for anyone serious about doing internal work.

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