Comments on “The fantasy of control”

Partial Control is Spontaneous

Gabriel Schroeder 2020-04-06

Hi David, I’m really grateful for discovering Meaningness, it’s really helping me with these dark times of social isolation that we are currently facing. I found your website through a friend of mine who faced a serious existential crisis last year and said that this place made a total change in his way of seeing the world (so this thanks to you comes from both me and him).
About a month ago I had a serious panic attack due to the isolation, and for few days I had the same feeling as you described of total loss of control, but in a chaotic sense (to put in other worlds, the panic attack was so overwhelming that I started to have an anticipatory anxiety, in which I had the sensation that another panic attack could happen at any moment and I couldn’t do nothing to stop it). I had a phone session with a psychologist who told me that the panic attack itself was due to the constant “battle” for control exercised by ourselves through the social construct that “We are ought to control everything”, so, ironically, one extreme caused the other extreme to show up (he explained me a lot of other things that cause a panic attack but I don’t remember in his exact words and I’m afraid I could write something entirely different to what he said, so I’m just gonna leave what’s already here since that’s one of the things I understood completely). For a solution to the panic attacks he gave a sort of an exercise, in which, everytime I had such crisis, I had to “shift the locus of awareness from the head (which implies the constant thinking and anticipation for what HAS to happen) to the heart (which is the spontaneous Self that is capable of doing things almost instantaneously given the current situation)”, even though it looks allot like spiritual jargon, I trusted it and so far it brought results.
After reading this specific post regarding control, I started to had a little bit of anxiety, thinking that I was shifting myself to a monistic view of the world due to the fact that I “surrendered” myself to some sort of God or Higher Self or whatever. However, as I started to analyze more of what you wrote, I concluded that what my psychologist told me to do, was not really “wrong”, for all I did was to trust myself to my own capabilities, that I shouldn’t be afraid of my heart beats (yeah, I started to be frightened of my heartbeats since panic attacks really make you heart rate go through the moon and it gives the sensation that you’re going to have a heart failure out of the blue), since control is spontaneous, it cannot be (fully) planned, and when I really tried to fully control my heart rate all I could do was have another panic attack, paradoxically, by being afraid of having one. However, when one is not planing constantly his actions, he is able to trust his own capabilities and do things without thinking too much, therefore I can only trust myself that I can beat the heart, breathe and do other activities of the body (I do understand that my examples are related to the functionality of the body, but I quote them most because they’re the examples of things that I faced) and by doing so, I can do them spontaneously.
So, in a short way of saying this, I concluded that control is partial by both the self and the world, however the self can only control spontaneously (due to very nebulous nature of reality, he cannot plan things to happen, he cannot force the situation to play out the way he wants to, so he has to be able to deal with the current situation immediately and the best way is by letting the situation to be at the way it is, and then doing “what can be done” in that moment).

Sorry if you can’t understand much of what I wrote, I’m a lay in the particular subject of spirituality.

Partial control

David Chapman 2020-04-06

Hi Gabriel,

This all seems right to me. I’m really glad the method the psychologist gave you has helped.

These are unusually difficult times, in which it’s natural to want to gain as much control over chaotic circumstances as possible. Taking sensible actions to decrease risks and improve our situations is wise. At the same time, we have to recognize we can’t control everything, and it helps to cut ourselves some slack and to relax in the middle of confusion when it’s reasonably safe to do so.

Best wishes,