I think that there is a link between trust and control. I think control is often used as a stress response to fear of uncertainty and distrust towards the world. That said, some people seem to respond with apathy, they emotionally hide under a rock. There are also people who seem to get obsessed with self-control and others who seem to get obsessed with controlling the external world.
I think there is a difference between acting with intention and controlling out of fear. People that act with intention have less attachment to the result, they focus more on the process and have more trust with the world. People that are acting with intention are more open to opportunity and changing their plan of action. When we are simply acting with intention we are more adaptable and less forceful. People who act with intention, but don’t control out of fear remain much more collected and are mindful of the purpose of their actions. They remain calm and collected when unexpected situations arise and are able to respond rationally.
People who are controlling out of fear seem to be more attached to a specific outcome and a specific way of doing things. When we control out of fear we get tunnel visioned and can’t handle things not going as we planned. When we control out of fear we have a harder time accepting the world as is and when things don’t go as expected. We stress over things we cannot change and that are out of our hands. People who control out of fear seem to respond to much more stress when presented with ideas that conflict with their perception of reality aka belief system. I think a lot of people who pointlessly micromanage are controlling out of fear. People who control out of fear respond to stress by over-gripping.
Let’s apply this to dieting as an example. When I act with intention, I will eat a healthy balanced diet and trust that will work out well. I am mindful of calories, but I won’t hyperventilate about going 100 calories over my daily average. When I control my diet out of fear, I become more dogmatic about my diet. I become obsessed with calories. I feel the need to repent for my sins (i.e. overcompensate) if I decide to live a little. I am more obnoxious when eating out and am looking up the nutrition facts about menu items rather than just ordering what seems delicious and nutritionally reasonable. When I eat with intention, I am controlling my diet. When I control my diet in response to stress, I overanalyze my food and micromanage my diet. I also get more obnoxious about not allowing unhealthy foods into the kitchen because I do not trust myself. I get into the habit of the binge/ micromanage cycle of dieting and the harder I try to grip, the more I feel as though I am about to slip. I may also overcompensate my lack of control in other areas of my life by micromanaging my diet. An extreme example of controlling your diet out of fear is orthorexia.
This can also happen in exercise. People overwork their bodies out of fear to the point where they are at risk for injuries such as stress fractures. They do it out of fear of not being good enough, pretty enough, etc.They do it because they fear that if they don’t, they will get fat. They get stressed if they haven’t worked out for a couple of days and may overcompensate by working out more extensively upon return. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of marathon runners and bodybuilders are like this. This may be coupled with being obsessive about their diet, but it may not be. Personally, I have never overworked myself through exercise… getting off the couch and out of my head is enough of a miracle.
This idea also shows itself throughout the irrational freak outs we or people we know have. Consider that person who has a panic attack when somebody is running 5 minutes late to something where the purpose is to have fun, or that person who is a clean freak way past the point of being objectively beneficial. These are all examples of distrust of the world and trying to control everything and plan out how everything will go to cope with it. It is shown with parents who put their normal healthy child on a leash (both figuratively and literally) and never gives their kid a chance to just figure things out on their own. While the intentions may be loving, there is an underlying irrational fear their love is being controlled by. We do this when we try to force our own beliefs and opinions on other people as well. It is one thing to debate, discuss and share our ideas, it is another thing entirely to shove it down peoples throat and want them to agree or die (religious wars being the most extreme examples). And when one person ignites the stress response, there is a good chance others will catch their stress cooties.
I think the best way to end pointless and even destructive control is by saying “fuck it” a bit more often. “Fuck it ” represents trusting yourself and trusting the universe. It is about trusting and focusing on the process rather than being blindingly results driven. It is about embracing uncertainty and not forcing the world into an arbitrary micromanaged box to protect ourselves. Being able to say “fuck it” and have trust is the ultimate form of freedom and is necessary for being a balanced person.