Gaining control by letting go of it.

Letting © 2005 Capture Queen | more info (via: Wylio)
Life, it seems, has a way of playing with me. It encourages me to go in a certain direction, then, when I have gone quite far, it makes me question everything I have done. Sometimes, it shakes the very base my ideas are standing upon.

There was a time in my late teens when I felt I had little control over what was going on in my life. My father controlled my finances, I was terribly bad at social interactions and terribly conscious and embarrassed of being skinny. Nothing seemed to be going right. Even my studies, which were better off earlier, started deteriorating. I felt helpless. Gradually, I grew tired of this helplessness and decided to change things. I wanted to gain more control over my life and live it exactly like I wanted to live it.

I started on this goal with great fervor and determination. There were different things I worked at – my fitness, my studies and social interactions. I got some good results at fitness and social interactions. At studies, I could not get myself to do well and get good grades, but I kept trying. I wanted to join the army. I tried four times while still in college but did not get through their selection process. By the time I had failed my last attempt, I felt totally torn. Life ahead looked less than what it should be. I thought I will never be able to recover from this failure. But I did.

Once I got into a job, my day to day work and my finances also gradually came under some control.

I felt good about the things I could control. But the things I could not control, did not turn out to be very bad either. While I did not get good grades in college, I managed to get good jobs later, owing to my interest in logical reasoning and programming. Even though I did not make it to the Army, I don’t feel I have missed anything. I am enjoying my life as it is.

It seems that, over a period, I have enjoyed both aspects of my life – those that I could control and those I could not. This has made me question – Do we really need to try control things?

How far should we take personal control?

I think personal control is desirable. It is so much better than trying to control the rest of the world. We cannot control what others do, we cannot control everything that happens in this world. But we can most certainly control our reaction to the world, we can control our response.

But should we aim for absolute personal control? Should we aim for having a response ready for anything and everything that this Life can throw at us? What about spontaneity? What about intuition?

Complete control, I think, will make us into robots that give the same response for the same input, every time. Imagine if your success is always guaranteed. Imagine that you don’t have to think about anything because you are already prepared for everything. No matter what happens, your response is already decided. What is there to do in life then? Won’t life become very dull?

Before marriage, when I first told my wife that my feelings for her were more than just of a friend, it was a spontaneous decision based on intuition. I had felt that way for some time but did not know what would be her response. I did not want to loose the friendship. Logic said I should have tread cautiously. Intuition, in that instant, said just go ahead with it. I, who liked to always be logical and practical, did something on intuition. I am so happy for that spontaneous step.

While control is desirable and a good thing, too much of it is probably not what we want. Spontaneity is fun too and should be allowed to take control sometimes. When are those ‘sometimes’? I won’t tell you that for two reasons – First, I don’t really know, I only know that both control and spontaneity have their own importance in our lives. And second, if I tell you, you again will have a ready made formula for every situation, and that goes against the idea of spontaneity. Just follow your heart and have faith.

Highs and lows with spontaneous action

Decisions made with intuition make you experience big highs and lows. When unplanned things go right you feel extremely enthusiastic and totally alive! The flavor of happiness is so different with spontaneous actions. Have you ever had an agreeable end to an intuitive decision? How did it feel compared to something you had planned and achieved?

On the other side, when a spontaneous decision goes wrong, it hurts badly too. We like to avoid spontaneous, intuitive action because of fear. We are afraid we will get hurt and avoid listening to what the heart says. We seek security in planning.

Is it possible to experience this spontaneous kind of enthusiasm again and again? What do we do about the times we fail and it hurts? I will continue the discussion in the next post.

To be continued…


  • prateek
    June 14, 2011 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

    good post.I think the question of control and spontaneity is quite similar to question of free will and you’ve put very nicely that both can coexist.I think acceptance is also a major factor in the way we perceive the world and I don’t imply “learned helplessness” by acceptance but the sense that some things in life are the way they should be and can’t be otherwise while some can be changed by exerting control.

    • Rahul
      June 17, 2011 - 12:38 pm | Permalink

      It’s a good thought – Some things are just the way they should be. Life need not be in a state of constant alteration on all fronts.
      It is very easy to fall into learned helplessness and mistake it for acceptance. I suppose staying put on the path to acceptance requires one to be constantly in touch with the Inner Self, to be true to oneself. Fears, having once been banished, have a way of returning in other guises.

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