The Illusion of Control
“He that would govern others should first be the master of himself.” — Philip Massinger
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt out of control? Where no matter how hard you tried to gain control, it wasn’t going to happen?
Well, about 15 years ago, I had a situation that robbed me of any control I thought I had. In 1998, I started experiencing some stomach and lower back pain that was going on for several months and was progressively getting worse. So, like the stubborn goober I am, I put off seeing the doctor.
Then one day, when I was with some friends, the pain got unbearable, and I could not ease the pain no matter what I did. My friend Skip happened to be there with me. Being a nurse, Skip said we needed to get to the emergency room because he was concerned about the pain – and because I was turning yellow! I gave in, and off we went.
After about six hours of poking and prodding and asking every embarrassing question known to man, they came back and said it was my gall bladder, and that it needed to be removed. I said OK, but that it was going to have to wait! I was swamped at work and was preparing for some workshops. In fact, I was busier than a man with one tooth eating an olive! So, I left!
Later that night, my dear friend Bill (who happens to be a surgeon) called me at home and said, “Rick, we need to get you back here and get your gall bladder out because it has gangrene.” Needless to say, I went back to the hospital and checked in. This is where I lose my control.
They wheeled me back to a little room, where a pleasant nurse came in and said, “Mr. Roepke, you need to take off all your clothes and put this on,” and she handed me something that looked like a washcloth with two strings. Now, I am a big guy, and there was no way that was going to cover everything! So I said – while trying to regain my control – “I will take off everything but my underwear.”
“No, Mr. Roepke, we need you to also remove them as well,” she said.
“Why?!?!” was my reply! “I know where my gall bladder is, and it’s nowhere down there!”
“Mr. Roepke, in case there is an emergency, we would have to cut them off.”
I said, “OK, so if there is a fire, nowhere does it say on my underwear ‘EXIT’ or ‘Break Glass.’ ” Then I looked at my wife, Kathy, and said, “For your eyes only, baby! They’re not coming off!”
At that point, the pleasant nurse left the room. Ten minutes later, she came back into the room. In her hand was a little cup, and in the cup was a little pill. She then said, “Mr. Roepke, you need to take this pill.” “Fine!” I replied, “but I am NOT taking off my underwear!”
Well, about 15 minutes later, I not only took off my underwear, but I wound up putting the hospital gown on backward. I am now out of control! Control ... what an illusion!
The harder I try to control something, the faster it runs through my fingers. That is especially true when it comes to trying to control our spouses. Aldous Huxley wrote that “there is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that is your own self.”
The more we try to control our spouse, the faster we choke out our relationship. When a person tries to control their spouse, they make constant demands on their partners, trying to direct everything their partners do, including finances, time, relationships, etc.
Often times, the more controlling one becomes, the more the spouse will try to get away. The need to control can come from inner insecurities. So, if you find yourself feeling the need to control your spouse, you may need to take a look at yourself and see if there are issues that need to be addressed. In reality, the only one you can control is yourself.
Much freedom can be gained by learning when to let go!