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Sunday, April 23, 2017

The illusions of control - A take on controlling/controlled people

To any of my faithful readers who've ever been accused of being a controlling person or a control freak, don't worry.  Regardless of what anyone else thinks, you aren't truly in control anyways.  So, the claims of others to that effect, don't fully matter anyway.

In a way, you are being accused of trying to do something you probably don't or wouldn't succeed at anyway.  I firmly believe that control is largely an illusion and that to the extent we have control, it is short term and passing.  On January 5th of this year (2017), I was once again reminded of just how illusory control can be.  On January 4th, I was thinking about getting another year or so out of my 2006 Ford Focus before I would buy a new car.  By shortly before 8am on January 5th, I was staring at the reality that I would need to buy a new car imminently.  Another driver's failure to control her car, led to the destruction of my car, something whose timing I couldn't have predicted. That being said, just because we don't always have control over life's events doesn't mean that we should just throw up our hands and 'cast our fate to the wind'.  Rather it means we should factor in some uncertainty and keep in mind that despite our best plans, we have to be flexible enough to adjust them if the need arises.

But I digress. Regarding relationships, in order for control to be seriously attempted, there has to be someone who could feasibly be controlled.   That is to say, there has to be someone who is tends to be controlling and someone who tends to 'fall prey' to a controlling person.

I am going to ponder the delusions, illusions and mindset which I believe controlling people and 'controlled' people to be be under.

  • Often they live fear-based.
    • It may be cliche to say controlling people are often driven by fear, but many cliches are true.  
    • The fear may take a number of shapes.
      • Fear of humiliation.  Obviously, you inherently have control over your own behavior as you have free will and can make choices.  However, those that you perceive that represent you--employees, children, spouse, family--are external to you and they have free will also.  So, as the thinking of a 'control-freak' goes, I will be judged based on those around me, therefore, I must do everything I can to pressure them into conforming to my standards of acceptable behavior.  
      • Fear of making a costly mistake/missing a deadline/losing it all.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to be wound too tight.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to be too conservative or risk-adverse.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to second guess too much.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to micromanage.
        • They can't read the minds of others, so they can't 'take a chance' of failure.  This is especially true when if the other(s) have EVER 'failed'.  Even if they risk failure when in control, they have more 'certainty' as to success.
  • Often they live all about them or narcissist-based.
    • A controlling person I believe tends analyzes everyone and everything as to how it affects them.  How does it make me look or feel?  How does it help, hurt or inconvenience me?
    • They do not want to deal with the feeling of uncertainty that giving up control seems to unleash in them.
    • They often seem to need to positive validation tied to success at whatever situation they are 'taking-charge' at.  That is to say they seek situations to run or control (and therefore people) so they can get the praise associated with 'success' at them.
      • Instead of quietly seeking to do the right things, they seek to the opportunity to make sure others see it.
      • It can be a symptom of an underlying low self-esteem.
      • Instead of being comfortable in their own skin, they require more and more confirmation of their goodness or worth.
  • Often they are 'groomed' to be controlling.
    • They have either seen or felt the affects of when one isn't in 'control'.  They don't want to feel that.
    • They have often been 'taught' or learned from influential people in their lives that they can't count on others and that they have to be in charge.
  • Often they have rationalized their controlling nature.
    • MARTYR complex - Thinking they are just doing "the Lord's work", even when they have pushed others out of the opportunity to help.  
    • SOLOMON complex -Thinking they are just doing what is best for all parties. Justifying their behavior based on what they deem to be best for all, rather than asking or accepting the input of others.
    • HERO complex - Thinking or worrying that without them, things may not go off right.  That is to say, the situation "requires" them. 

  • They often live fear-based
    • They worry about being rejected totally.
      • Thinking if they stand up for themselves, the other may dump, fire or similarly completely reject them.
      • Thinking perhaps that they do not deserve better and/or cannot find better.
    • They worry about being partially rejected.
      • Thinking if they stand up for themselves, the other may withhold positive attention and/or ridicule them.
      • Once again thinking they don't deserve and/or cannot find better.
    • They mistake keeping the controlling person happy as being 'accepted' by them.  In reality, such a mindset can often lead to rejection by the controllers as they don't respect them anyway.
  • They are often what I call "negative narcissist". 
    • Think they can't do it right anyway.
    • Think they deserve what they get.
    • Think they can't please the other(s) anyway.
  • They are often 'groomed' to be controlled.
    • They have had their voice shut down at some point by a controlling person, often a parent, from an early age.
    • They have been often told or implied that they are not capable aka are a failure.
      • Too ignorant
      • Too clumsy
      • Too weak
      • Not as good
      • Too much of a risk
      • Too mistake prone
    • While sometimes they may lack initiative and seem to 'crave' being controlled, often it may just be that they are just beaten down by being shut down and/or being implied that they are a failure.
  • They often rationalize their controlled nature.
    • PEACEMAKER complex - They are the peacemaker and/or don't want to make waves stir up trouble or make life more difficult for anyone.
    • HELPFUL complex - They want to be seen as being helpful and not argumentative.
    • EMPATHETIC complex - I should be more understanding of the other, given their situation (tremendous workload/responsibility they have, victim of abuse, etc.)
      • You can be understanding without allowing yourself to be walked all over.
      • You have to remember that often times you didn't cause that situation or problem for them (or at least were not fully responsible), so while it is okay to empathize, it is not okay to let it be a tool to control you. 

This is not meant as a comprehensive study or take on controlling people (and controlled people), but really a discussion piece on what I see in these people/situations.  As they say, "You Mileage May Vary" (YMMV).  

The world is full of leaders and followers.   Inherently, neither role is necessarily a bad thing.  Being a leader doesn't inherently mean one is a 'controlling' person no more than being a follower inherently means one is a 'controlled' person.  It is often times the mindset behind why they are taking that role and how they are treating others.

  • The best leader leads because he or she wants the best for those whom they lead, not to satisfy a craving for power/validation.  That is to say they lead not because they wish to control others, but rather they see a need that they can help with and it concerns them enough to 'take charge'.
  • The best followers follow as they realize they want to help, but realize that 'too many cooks spoil the broth'.  They are content helping behind the scenes and not getting 'leadership' credit.  They may share the vision of the leaders and realize that they can help out with the vision.  That is to say, they follow not out of a need to be validated (by the leader) or out of a sense that they don't deserve better or even out of a fear that they can't lead.  Instead, they understand that being a follower is a role.
  • Leaders can be followers at times and followers can be leaders at times.  It really depends on the needs of the situation and the strengths of the parties involved.

My takeaway on this subject is to recognize your role, why you are in your role, recognize your need to be respected, but also to respect others.   We have to understand that we can't control everyone and everything nor should we want to.  Life is full of uncertainty.  We can't live with complete uncertainty, but we also can't expect to live no uncertainty.   While it is important in many cases to minimize uncertainty, it cannot be at all costs.  We cannot control others for our own selfish needs, nor can we allow ourselves to be controlled for our own selfish needs either.  We have to respect that each of us has a role.  We have a time and place to lead and a time and place to follow.  We have a voice to be heard and we have voice to be silent and to hear others.  Based on our gifts, the types of roles and the size of our voices may be different, but we should not let it devolve into a controlling situation.

While respecting our own needs, we need to be able to take ourselves out of the picture and let our role come naturally rather than be forced.  I believe God will, if we listen, direct us to our roles making it not so much of a matter of control, but rather doing or being open to the right thing.

Just some thoughts.  I've hope you've gotten a little out of this posting.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Paradise and paved parking lots that replace them.

When the surreal becomes real, when the warm traditions of the past are declared old news, when the memories of our childhood are wiped out or built over in favor of maximizing legal tender, it feels like we've 'paved paradise & put up a parking lot'.  In other words, we've pushed away the good in pursuit of the 'better', when often the better is not necessarily so.   But, as we know change is often inevitable and doesn't necessarily have to be or be thought of as bad.  As Carly Simon sings in Coming Around Again, "I know nothin' stays the same, But if you're willin' to play the game, It's comin' around again".  That is to say sometimes the old has to pass for the new 'good' to have space to take its place.  Which in a way is an appropriate thought considering the day I'm writing this (Good Friday 2017).  Good Friday represents the Father--by way of Jesus--giving us an opportunity to shed our old sinful nature and take on a new more Godly (Christlike) nature.

But I digress.  We as a society (and world) are constantly changing, we are constantly adjusting.  Some it is good, some of it is bad.  But I believe we have this annoying habit of over correcting.  That is to say, making up for mistakes (or problems) by going to far in the opposite direction.   

  • We go from an unkept, undeveloped area to an overdeveloped, overpopulated area.
  • We go from isolationist to foreign entanglement, back to isolation, then foreign entanglement.  
  • We go from being emotionally detached as parents ("Father Knows Best") to trying to be friends with our kids ("Gilmore Girls").  
  • We go from treating those with behavior/mental issues being portrayed as "oddballs" or "crazy" to diagnosing every every other person (or kid) with a 'issue' of some sort.  
  • We go from treating obvious bullying as "boys/kids" being "boys/kids" to treating any level of conflict as a 'horrendous'.  

In short, we have this habit of overlooking or zooming past a happy medium on the way to 'correcting'.  It's like we start to skid one way and jerk the wheel the other way thinking that we will get straightened out, when instead we are more likely to crash in the opposite direction of the original skid.

So, this leads me to a what I see as a derivative of the Serenity Prayer.  I'll call it the "Prayer of Wisdom for Society".

God grant us the wisdom
to push for change that is needed, but not too far;
to recognize when change isn't needed or desirable
and the ability to accept that we don't always have control over it.

Realizing the old should not be rejected simply because it is old,
nor should the new be embraced simply because it is new.
But evaluating everything on its merits 
and looking to our You, our Higher Power, for guidance.

Breaking it down

  • To push for change that is needed, but not too far
    • Speech is an example.
      • We recognize speech that openly and purposefully encourages others to violence and/or explicitly threatens others, especially 'innocents'. We push for condemnation of it, denial of a forum for it and in the most extreme cases take legal action against it.
      • However, speech that speaks out against another's beliefs, another's lifestyle or similar or could simply just offend someone is protected speech.   Certainly we have a right to free speech and can condemn what we see as unfair or rude.  However, when we start denying others a right to speak (especially under threat of legal action) because we don't like what they are saying, we are edging towards fascism. 
    • Development of a beautiful vacation areas is an example.
      • Say we have a nice coastal area that is underdeveloped.  That is to say it is say it could use some revenue/development to make it a viable vacation spot.
      • If we go too far in development of it we risk destroying its ecosystem and/or the essence of it in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
  • To recognize when change isn't needed or desirable.
    • A widely recognized instance of this truth being ignored occurred when The Coca-Cola Company in April 1985 decided to change discontinue the recipe of their signature product (Coca-Cola) in favor of a new recipe for it.  A public backlash pushed them to go back to return to the old formula by July of the same year.
      • The original recipe was still widely popular and the public had great nostalgia for the name (and recipe).
      • As Pepsi Max has shown, you can successfully make a formula variant of the original brand and still retain the old brand, rather than just replacing the original brand formula altogether.
  • And the ability to accept that we don't always have control over it.
    • Sometimes circumstances force change on us.  For example, as the population of a city (or an area) grows, so grows the need for new housing and roads, making it harder to hold onto green space around town.  We may be sentimental about the quaint smaller town we grew up in, but as the population grows we often have to face the reality that in time we will have to deal with less open space, more traffic and more pollution.  All the sentimentality in the world will not change the reality of the needs on the ground.

  • Realizing the old should not be rejected simply because it is old,nor should the new be embraced simply because it is new.  But evaluating everything on its merits  and looking to our You, our Higher Power, for guidance.
    • Sometimes we get caught up in new--diet, style, car, music, idea--because it appeals to our sense of different, creative, fun, entitlement.
    • What we fail to realize that is sometimes the old is either better or it functions quite well relative to our needs.
      • For example, we may want more updated computers in our department, but the cost benefit of getting them vs. using the old ones for another year or two might not add up, especially when the old ones suit our needs quite admirably.
      • For example, society may push a new diet fad that is unproven (and possibly unhealthy) because the old diet seems stale.  Given time and results, we might find the old diet is actually much healthier or safer.
      • History is littered with 'revolutionaries' who pushed an idealistic message or system.  Yet when their message or system is put into practice, the people suffer--think Communism or Nazism.
      • If we are guided by our better self and our Higher Power, we usually realize whether we should stay with the old or go to the new.


I'm going to close this post with a personal aside.  When I was growing up 7-Eleven was the 'it' spot.  They had slurpees, they had video games, gum, candy, and little knick-knacks that a kid might want.  In short, it was a happy place we usually walked up to.  I don't think kids walk up to the store so much anymore, QT has largely eclipsed 7-Eleven and arcade games are not founds so much in stores anymore.  However, my daughter loves the heck out of QT.  They have a kitchen with the foods a kid could enjoy, they have a candy and knick-knack area and they have a beverage area that is second to none.  She'll never have the joy of running up to 7-Eleven to play games and getting treats.  But, she will always remember the 'new' hangout in our area.   Population needs changed the dynamics of the area, but the change wasn't totally for the bad.  A happy place from your childhood is still a happy place.

Don't it always seem to go / That you don't know what you've got til its gone / They paved paradise / And put up a parking lot

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Surviving before thriving

Thursday at work I was talking to one of my coworkers about the book and movie, "The Shack".  I haven't made it through the book fully, but anyone who knows that book or movie knows it's a story of a man's struggle with himself and God as he comes to terms with the abduction and death of his young daughter on his watch.  As a father of a young girl, that book kind of got to me.

Anyway, the takeaway from our discussion was survival.  Life deals us blows from time to time and usually we can absorb them, process them, shrug them off and move forward pretty quickly.  However, on a few occasions the blow are so deep and profound that we can't just do that. Sometimes, it is just enough to survive them, never mind trying to process them.

So, it occurred to me, what do we do in the process of surviving.
  • We consider the basics of what we need.  Depending on the loss, this could include
    • Planning and burying a relative.
    • Working on maintaining/recovering our health.
    • Making sure the needs of our children are met.
    • Making sure our basic needs are met including a roof over our head.
  • We process what we need to at the time.  Depending on the loss, this could include:
    • Understanding our loved one isn't there & will no longer be there.
    • Taking the steps necessary to deal with our illness or recovery.
    • Understanding that our house has been destroyed or taken away from us and that we will no longer be able to stay there.
  • We push aside the things that either don't matter or that can be deferred until later.  This can involve.
    • Delaying a major purchases.
    • Delaying or altering a vacation.
    • Cutting back on all but necessary spending.
    • Focusing on taking care of our (and our family's) own needs rather than trying to help everyone else.
    • Allowing other to do things for us while we recover.
  • We take the daily steps that we need to.   Depending on the loss, these could include:
    • Focusing on our recovery.
    • Pay the bills we need to.
    • Getting ready for the day.
    • Going to work, school or whatever the day demands.
    • Eating when we need to.
    • Making sure the kids or pets have what they need.
    • Process a little, vent/cry a little.


All that being said, it occurred to me what is surviving?  To me surviving is like the necessary taking steps to keep an old car running until you've have the means or have saved up enough for a new car.  The sub points are how it relates to life.
  • You put what you need to into the old car.  Your focus is expending only on keeping it running.
    • You energies are invested what you need to do to survive.  Not much more.
  • You limit driving in the old car to extend the life of it.
    • You limit your focus daily to making it through another day.
  • All the while, you are trying to save enough and/or make enough to make the purchase of a new car more feasible.  
    • Little by little survival mode yields to processing the blow and all that it means.
    • Gradually you get out of survival mode and you start to 'thrive again'.
      • Opening up and seeing people again after a loved one dies.
      • Recovering from or learning to live with health issues.
      • Financially recovering enough to make major purchases again.

Anyone who has been through a major blow, a major life change, a major loss and survived to tell the tale, will tell you half the battle is survival.  It may seem like forever until we are in a better place, but somewhere, somehow we know that there can be a better place for us.  There can be a place where we can thrive again.  Just like Job, when everything was taken away from him and he was suffering, he stayed firm in his faith.  Because of his faith, he was blessed with a larger family and a twofold inheritance (Job 42:8-17)   Now I don't expect everyone who keeps survives the bad times, keeps strong and keeps the faith will be reward so handsomely.  However, I do think there is an object lesson there.  Know that if you work on surviving the bad times when you need to, work on processing them along the way and work on getting to a better place you can, you can go from surviving to thriving or at least coming to a place of serenity.


Now for some music to encourage everyone to keep on moving in the face of adversary.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Are you pushing necessary society change or just avoiding yourself?

One time I was observing a group on the news disrupting a church service attended by a certain politician.  They used the forum to try to push their agenda.  I won't identify the issue or actors as I don't want to distract from the larger point.  But, I wondered what made their agenda so important that they felt the need to shut down the service and the harass the politician attending it?  A possible answer occurred to me:  People sometimes find it less painful to 'change' society than to accept themselves or change what they don't like about themselves.  In short, for some people forcing everyone to 'accept' them or their agenda is easier than coming to terms with themselves.  That is to say, they are unwilling to do the emotional, spiritual or mental lifting required to come to terms with themselves and would rather push society toward 'validating' them--even if such validation would be forced.

Before I dive into this topic further, I want to make a few notes or disclaimers as I see it.
  • I don't mean to dismiss the need for social change in some areas.  Nor do I mean to dismiss the right or need to protest for such.  Women's suffrage and destroying the Jim Crowe legacy were clear examples of the need for and the right to protest for change.  I believe, most people when you stripped away the excuses and rationalizations realized at the time that women should have an equal vote in our republic and that no one should be denied service due to the color of the skin they were born with.  Clearly, pushing societal change was the right thing to do.
  • Sometimes people pushing for social change might do so for different reasons.  One because he or she has inner demons to deal with, while the other would be due to a sincere belief in that cause.  Still another might have mixed motives. I'm focusing on the person who is using a 'cause' as an excuse to not deal with their personal demons.
  • People shouldn't generally be forced to buy into an idea or change.
    • It can speak of arrogance to those pushing it.  As if there idea or change is THE only right one.  Some ideas/changes aren't necessarily the right direction no matter how forcefully pushed.  See Nazi Germany as an extreme example.
    • Doing so can cause problems with the idea or change taking effectively.  This is especially true when other parties are denied a voice in the process.  Our Constitution anticipated this and while not perfect put processes in place: Having Congress write laws, having the executive branch enforce them, having SCOTUS review the laws for Constitutionality and giving us a process to amend the Constitution to seek consensus where there is not clarity.  
      • Changes done Constitutionally rather than by fiat, I believe have a better history of going more smoothly.  Constitutional amendments are rarely questioned today vs. those done by fiat as there is a sense of being better settled.
      • Changes done by fiat can also be undone by fiat.  If feel you were denied a voice in a change, you won't have as much of an issue with rolling back the change outside Constitutional boundaries.
    • Not everyone has to buy into an idea or change.
      • Sometimes forcing them to do so is to deny them their first amendment rights (to speak out).
      • If the change is for the better, society is more likely to gradually embrace it anyway. 
      • So ideas or changes don't require everyone to buy into them to become effective.

So back to my main point.  It occurred to me that some of the people pushing the hardest, shrieking the loudest and/or tolerating no dissent sometimes are doing so because of inner demons they have regarding the issue or change they are pushing.  In short, as Shakespeare said in Hamlet, "The lady doth protest too much methinks".

To wit:
  • Mark Foley, a champion against child pornography and who led the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children and led pushed for stronger laws to protect children against possible pornographic exploitation with the Child Modeling Exploitation Prevention Act of 2002.  The Act failed in part due to its overly broad nature.  In any case,  in 2006, he had to resign in disgrace from Congress when he was exposed to have have sexted underage pages.
    • On the one hand he practically carried 'protection' of children on his shoulders by himself, but on the other hand he struggled with exploiting underage boys. 
    • It is important to protect children and they need champions for them in high places. However, the extent that he pushed for 'protecting children' ultimately appeared to be either a cover for or a shame reaction for his own demons. 
  • In Oregon, a Christian couple was being pushed to bake a cake for a reception of a gay wedding, when it was probably obvious that they were "Christian-owned" business (Sweet Cakes).  My understanding it that they were likely not comfortable with the idea of 'condoning' gay marriage by participating in the celebration thereof.  They balked citing their faith and ultimately had their business and livelihood destroyed.
    • As they were located near Portland, OR, a number of similar businesses nearby could easily have met the wedding cake request.  This was likely known by the couple who requested the cake.
    • The couple that requested the cake, were probably aware of the the nature of the business, but instead of turning the other cheek (and respecting that a faith-based business could disagree with them), they pushed forward and sued the bakery into oblivion.
    • Instead of accepting that others could disagree with celebrating their lifestyle choice based on freedom of religion, it would seem that they were determined to 'force' society into complete acceptance and condoning of their lifestyle choice.  
    • It wasn't enough that the state accepted and condoned their lifestyle choice, the couple seemed to 'need' additional validation of their choice and couldn't accept that anyone could disagree with celebrating it (even if their faith dictated that).  In short, accept and celebrate us even if it is against your sincere and traditional religious beliefs OR we will shut you down.
    • My take is that in some of these cases, the 'advocates' would rather prove to everyone (and to themselves) how righteous they are by trying to force everyone else to agree, rather than reaching deep inside them and accepting that that is isn't necessary.  In short, forcing society to artificially 'validate' them rather than being comfortable with who they are.  

I'm not going to be the referee of what causes are worthy to push for provided that the 'innocent' aren't hurt nor is our safety or security.  I'm not going to tell others how to live.  Ultimately, I believe that each of us has to answer to our "Higher Power".  That being said, I don't want my right to free speech or free exercise of my faith smothered by a 'need' of another to be at peace with his or herself or their agenda.  That I believe is the start of fascism.  The very act of shutting or crushing another's freedoms for your own comfort or benefit is fascist in my humble opinion.

As Evelyn Beatrice Hall said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".  This applies to the right to practice your faith.  The Constitution doesn't guarantee a right to be free of being offended. 


My takeaway?
  1. You have a right to express your Constitutionally protected beliefs.
  2. You do not have a right to deny others the same regardless of your 'needs'.
  3. If you are too damaged to cope with others having an alternative belief to you, you probably need to work on yourself.  
  4. If you 'require' or need to 'force' others to agree with you to have peace in your life, that's an indication that you probably need to work on yourself.
  5. If your first instinct is to try and shut other down rather than convince them, its a clear indication that you have fascist tendencies and need to work on yourself.

I know this post was controversial, but I've got to be true to myself.  My journey through understanding addiction, codependence and human nature is intended to help others, but is not intended to be a whitewash of how I see things.  It is intended to give a perspective perhaps that hasn't occurred to everyone or even anyone.  I know that I am not anywhere near being always right and try to own when I'm not.  However, it is most important to me to express things as I see them.  As I've told a few others when I 'see' unpleasant 'truths', I don't enjoy it and sometimes I wish and hope what I 'see' isn't so.

Thanks for reading and I hope this hasn't at least given you food for thought or at possible understanding of what drives some people.

- Rich