The Illusion of Control Prevents Freedom
Those of you who like to feel in control may have difficulty with this one so proceed at the risk of having your perception challenged. I have no control over your agreement or disagreement, I only present what is.
If one truly looks at the circumstance of an event occurring, any event, one can see that we have participation, perhaps even influence and yet no control. Any interpretation to the contrary is to ignore the enormous amount of factors that must concur in order for something to happen.
Any event is merely the confluence of a multiplicity of elements that must either converge or diverge in order for the single snapshot of what we call, “an outcome” to coalesce into a form. It’s like a frame in a movie, so to speak, that can be perceived because it has now become “real.” And the movie is continually rolling, so to attempt to assign our control over anything is naïve. Life is moving on in a momentum of incidents and even the outcome of a singular moment in time is merely another domino in yet another moment or frame of the movie’s occurrence.
No moment exists in a vacuum. And quantum physics tells us that everything is entangled.
Take your latest job promotion for example. Or think of a time when you were promoted. If you’re up to the investigation, I challenge you to examine everything that had to go right and everything that had to not happen in order for you to be promoted. If you examine it comprehensively enough you’ll find that there were far more elements than- simply your actions that “made it happen.”
While we’re busy trying to control how things are going to turn out, we don’t realize that we are prisoners. Our very need for control that we don’t actually have prevents our experience of the freedom we do have.
Here are a few you might not have considered. First that the company was doing well enough for them to afford your promotion. Which speaks to the market for your product that is affected by a myriad of global influences over which you have no control. A storm here that affects work there; a revolution over there that affected productivity and availability of a resource here; all of which you have no control over.
If you look thoroughly enough you will see that your actions contributed to the event called your promotion. However, had many other ducks not lined up, it would not have happened. This includes unexpected incidents that needed to not happen.
For example, consider the importance of you not getting hit by a bus during a critical business period before you’re up for promotion. An accident like that could result in someone having to step in for you who excels at what you were doing while you’re off convalescing. That person becomes really attractive to promote instead of you for handling the crisis. Or at the very least, makes you look less ‘irreplaceable.’
If not for the absence of that bus, you might have been passed over. You can say ‘well, other than that kind of absurdity, it was my actions that caused me getting the promotion. So I challenge that with this question. Do you think that you absolutely control all your actions? Really?
If that were so, every tennis player would hit the ball exactly where they want it to go on every serve. It would never go long or wide, and would always be in the best place. Especially since they practice hitting thousands of serves in an effort to do just that. And yet it doesn’t happen. And we’re not even talking about returning a serve on the run when there are far more variables to consider.
In addition, current neuroscience says we don’t even consciously make decisions before we act. It asserts that we take action in response to stimulus we don’t even know is coming and somewhere about 7 seconds afterwards, we register the notion of a what we think is a decision. So who’s really in charge?
I could go on and on. And for some, there will be an internal argument in favor of the level of control you have.
One reason you may do so is pure ego, or an addiction to certainty. The notion anything in opposition to the idea “I have the power and am master of my destiny” is abhorrent to consider. Another reason may be that a deep part of you doesn’t want to consider this idea in order to ward off the potential “so if I don’t control things, why bother doing anything at all?” line of thinking.