What’s wrong with control?

That’s the question the 40 year old man sitting with me in my office asked. 

John: “I like to be in control,”

Elizabeth: “What does control mean to you?”

John: “Let me think about that a moment.  Well, it means I am in charge of myself and I don’t allow anyone else to take charge of me.  At the same time I don’t try to run anyone else’s life either.”

Elizabeth: “What I think you are describing is power.  Would you say that when you feel you are in control, you are participating with full awareness to bring about some sort of change?”

John: “Exactly.”

Elizabeth: “Well, you’re describing the way I understand power. We’ll talk more about that later.  But tell me; what is the difference between control and freedom, in your view?”

John: “To me, they are exactly the same.”

At that point, I offered him a new definition of power and described the two types:  power-as-freedom and power-as-control.  The use of the term “control” to mean “power” or “freedom” is a common confusion in our culture, since the dominant philosophy underlining power in the Western world is oriented toward control.  John was actually talking about power-as-freedom.  You might be thinking, “What difference does it make?  Isn’t it just a matter of semantics?”  No, it isn’t semantics, rather clarification allows us to make choices in ways that enhance our freedom and involve ourselves in going after what we want, while at the same time not attaching to what happens as a result of our actions.  Also, at the same time we don’t interfere with any one else’s freedom when the worldview we live by is oriented toward freedom not control.  That is a critical difference between power-as-freedom and power-as-control.

The person who said, “What’s wrong with control?” discovered, as we discussed the issues that brought him into Health Patterning therapy, that he often switched back and forth between using power-as-control and power-as-freedom, sometimes being competitive and manipulative and other terms being cooperative and straight-forward.  He wanted to learn to make aware choices and to act freely on his intentions in ways that worked for him and didn’t hurt anyone else.  So the bottom line is that he discovered his efforts to “be in control” were really efforts to be free and he learned new ways aimed in that direction.  He wanted to use his will deliberatively and to follow through on his choices by taking the necessary actions.