Trust and Control

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.

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Honesty and Authenticity

“Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering” – Carl Jung

Have you ever been asked how something was going and you responded with “good”? Have you ever felt that they seemed to magically interpret good as meaning something other than good? Last I checked, good means good. And even if it didn’t, why should someone be seemingly dissatisfied by how you feel things are? What are they, the feelings police?

I think this ties into the robot barbie mentality that seems to resonate in our culture. I think part of this may be because of the excessive amounts of sugar-coating, sweeping problems under the carpet and conflict avoidance that goes on between people. It has come to the point where basically anything that isn’t filled with rainbows and Care Bears is a potential trigger for anxiety. It is like you have to walk on egg shells and dodge around the truth like an obstacle course built for the Avengers simply to avoid offending people by stating facts, observations and opinions based on them. That said, I also have a tendency to come across as a bit blunt, so it is partially a matter of perspective.

I think that the ripple effect of the social pressure to always fake pleasantries and cheerfulness can be destructive. I think it compels people to put a mask on and pretend to be someone they are not. I think it can more greatly alienate people when they aren’t in the best place and can create a stigmatization and sense of shame around that. This is a concern when an estimated 1 in 4 American adults have a diagnosable mental disorder. This doesn’t even include unhealthy mindsets the DSM doesn’t recognize. Maybe if people felt safe being themselves, we wouldn’t have such an alarming rate of mental illness.

I’m not saying we should take being “honest” as an excuse to be a jerk. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t get offended by things we find offensive. I just think a little bit of authenticity and acceptance could go a long way. Don’t tell people their subjective viewpoint is wrong. It doesn’t make sense to objectify and create rules around things that are subjective in nature. The facts are objective, but their personal meaning is not. Maybe we should try to understand rather than judge every once in a while and see what happens. I highly doubt it would create more discord than harmony.

Perfect is Boring

There are countless articles, books and other forms of advice on how to improve yourself. They give you these set of rules on how to live your life to be what they consider a better person. They share their secrets to success in careers, health, relationships and more. They tell you to do this and do that. Some even tell you which people to allow into your life and which ones you should throw out like human garbage. But there is a bit of an undertone in this advice of “you aren’t good enough” or “you need to be fixed”. While like many people, I want to be the best version of myself… I’ve also come to realize the absurdity and self-absorption of it all (sometimes I forget). I think accepting some of these little so-called flaws and quirks are key to really being human.

So many aspects of our life revolve around judging. We judge others. Other people judge us. We adapt our behaviors and goals accordingly. We determine our self-worth and the worth of others based on our ability to adapt ourselves in alignment with those judgements. While judgements have a value, sometimes I think we are excessively influenced by them. What if we learned out of curiosity rather than because we feel obligated to get better grades? What if we chose our romantic relationships based on love rather than”practical” reasons? What if we didn’t give a shit about the conventional definition of success and did what we really wanted instead? I don’t think it would make society fall apart, I think it would make things more balanced.

If we keep looking at people through a lens of how they are “good/bad”, how can we expect to actually connect with them? How can we expect to have genuine relationships with people if we are constantly trying to assess if they are “good enough” and are constantly distracting ourselves in some way or another with those judgments? It is one thing to acknowledge the characteristics of a person and consider what that means, but I think in excess they can distract us from truly connecting with them. I think this may play a role in a deficiency of true compassion for both ourselves and others.

I think the only way we would be completely flawless in everyone’s eyes was if everybody didn’t give a shit about anything at all. Collective apathy doesn’t sound very appealing to me.

Flaws are beautiful. They are what make us human beings and not human fucking robot barbies.