Jackie Kellso

Archive for June, 2015|Monthly archive page

The Illusion of Taking Control

In business relationships, character, communicating, connection, control, control freaks, coping with pressure at work, corporate life, dealing with a difficult coworker, dealing with a male boss, diplomacy and tact, disagree agreeably, disagreements, empathic listening, fight or flight, human relations, illusion of control, insecure bosses, interpersonal skills, letting go, managing conflict, mindfulness, negativity at work, personality, spiritual growth on June 21, 2015 at 6:43 pm

Dear Control Freaks,

Here are a few examples that define the term “Control Freak”:

1. You have to be in charge of what’s happening or you lose control of your composure.  It could be as small as how chairs are lined up in a room, to scaring the driver in front of you by riding his tail in the fast lane, to push him over to the middle lane.

2. You must reign in other people or you lose control of your temper.  Don’t like someone’s expression or the fact that he’s not as enthusiastic about your project as you are? Well, how dare he!

3. Everyone should buy into your idea or you fear you will lose control of the outcome.  People are giving you feedback you don’t like or disagree with you so you disregard them and don’t see them as team-players.

4. You don’t like what’s happening and have either a FIGHT or FLIGHT response.  You argue or your bust out. You’ve completely lost control.

5. A lack of certainty of what’s happening makes you lose track of your thinking.  You can’t adequately plan the next steps. You feel overwhelmed to not get on top of things.  This is happening because stress hormone has taken over and wipes the pre-frontal cortex (thinking part of the brain) of rational thought.

6. You are miserable when you aren’t in the driver’s seat.  Literally.  Don’t like the way your husband drives?  He doesn’t signal early enough before turning?  So what do you do? You assign yourself as the family driver.

I say these things with deep empathy. I was a control freak with many aspects of the aforementioned as my symptoms.  The work it takes to LET GO and begin realizing that control is an illusion; that the only thing we ever have control over is our own behavior, is a painful but freeing shift to being mindful.

Sure, parents can control their children:  what they eat, when they go to bed, how much they study or play, but one cannot control a child’s spirit, or a child’s feelings. One cannot control a domestic cat’s nature:  you love it and care for it and provide it with scratching posts and toys, and it will still shred the hell out of your sofa.

Just yesterday, I attended a Spiritual Conference at Teacher’s College and one of the workshops I attended was called, Council Practice: Community, Art of Connection and Empathic Listening.  I had hoped to learn some new ways of facilitating improved listening and people skills through this workshop.  The school defined council as: “…a practice of open heartfelt expression and attentive empathic listening.”

So, I’m sitting in a circle with about 30 other people and within 5 minutes I realized that although with very good intentions on the parts of the facilitators, that this was nothing I would have designed and I was completely turned off by the exposure requested of the participants to play in this arena. The spirituality of this felt contrived to me, and the immediate assumption of this group as a ‘community’ of like-minded individuals didn’t work for me.  There were four rounds of everyone responding to a single question; some were barely audible, some overly emotional and some having no sense of when to stop talking. I sat there wanting to take control  – to break up the room into 3 small groups, to set the rules of play about being audible and concise and to create a better opportunity to get feedback and debrief each step, to ensure value was being transferred.

As an empathic listener by trade, I still only have so much patience.  Being asked to hear 29 other people speak four times = listening to 116 people’s stories, all in 90 minutes, with the idea of being open-hearted to all, was a bit much of an ask of me.  I wanted to yell or flee.  So when the question posed of us was, “What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever given to someone?”, I said, “The gift I’m giving is to me right now. I am sitting here fully awake to the fact that I have no say in the way this workshop is being run, and the reminder that I have no control. I’m glad to use this experience to become better at letting go.” And I meant it.

The “freak” in us just limits our ability to dance with the flow of reality.  By learning that we don’t have to love what’s happening and don’t have to change it is quite freeing.  We can move from having an illusion of needing to exert power to building skills in patience, and allowing ourselves to experience the teachings that life has in store for us.

Mindfully yours,

Jackie

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