Control is an illusion

Ann Wilson Schaef, „The Addictive Society“

“For most of us the thought of living fully, is far more frightening than the thought of dying or being only partially alive. As addicts we have high control needs. It gives us the illusion of having control.

Living fully – as in opening ourselves to everything we feel – seems the same as having no control, and that feeling is experienced as unbearable.”

Addiction is more paradoxical than it first appears. The truth is that being authentically ourselves, loving ourselves as we are and being open to life are deeply terrifying.

Because our survival strategies in life have involved the opposite in order to maintain our control over ourselves and others >

– Playing a role or putting on a mask so people don’t reject us
– Hating ourselves in an attempt to force ourselves to become ‘better’ (so we get love or approval from others)
– Repressing many aspects of ourselves (and hiding from life) because we don’t know what the outcome will be (thereby staying safe). And a million other things…

It’s much easier to turn to a behaviour or substance to control how we feel and to hide aspects of our being, than to face the fear of feeling everything, being fully seen and living authentically.

None of us were ever taught how to be with the intensity of our feelings, may it be hate or fear. Nor were we taught how to relate to them in a healthy way.

Instead throughout our childhood we have taken on beliefs like: „I am powerless/helpless/stupid“

Because when we believe that we are powerless, we will try all the harder to stay in control. (Who – but someone who unconsciously feels powerless – needs to be in control?).

When we don’t trust ourselves and we can’t trust life or the people that surround us, we must maintain constant control to avoid danger and failure. To the mind this is very understandable. It’s not wrong or bad, but it is suffering and not being fully alive.

CONTROL is an ILLUSION. It costs us a lot of energy and can be painful to live life this way. We are inflicting suffering on ourselves in order to stay in control.

Living fully means welcoming all aspects of life – and most of all – all of our feelings.

But no one has taught us how to allow feelings safely, how to regulate or co-regulate. We need understanding, skill and patience. We need to go slow and find empathy and compassion for ourselves. And we need a sense of safety to finally relinquish our need to control.

Welcoming every emotion and experience. Unfortunately our nervous system operates 80% in the unconscious realm, so we mostly don’t have access to deeply suppressed emotions and beliefs – we often may not feel much at all since „unsafe emotions“ remain deeply buried – so at the beginning most of us need a little help in order to turn towards thoughts and feelings we have rejected and pushed way, way down into unconsciousness.

All the while our body holds the score – turning to somatic-based inquiry can be a skilful way to reconnect to ourselves to heal and live fully open in the flow of life.