THIS ARTICLE ENTITLED, “CONTROL” is by Dr.Shanni Dover
Hello again, Dear Reader. The topic I’ve chosen to discuss this week is “Control”. In light of current events, this appears to be a salient and timely subject. We will look at behavior patterns, and discuss ways to improve negative cycles of thought.
The concept of control is multifaceted, although it may appear simple on the surface. How we define and manage control issues can have a profound effect on our lives.
Individuals often have unreasonable expectations when it comes to control. We struggle with our every day lives, attempting to manage the issues that are simply not within our realm of influence.
It is our perception of control that guides our actions. These perceptions are subjective. Thus, they are yours alone and not necessarily valid when compared to other’s realities, or even a possible broader reality. Our perception of control can assist us. Conversely, our notions of control can be deleterious to our very existence.
Natural consequences for misunderstanding the nature of truth, knowledge and reality (Kelly, 1986) can be quite devastating. For example, our reality regarding our personal relationships can often be erroneous. We believe we can control problems as they arise in our lives. However, this may be far beyond our grasp.
Our misinterpretation of life events, large and small, can lead to anger, sadness and fear. The anger, sadness and fear can evolve into rage, depression and anxiety. This negative cycle of emotional dis-ease exhausts our reserves of energy, and ultimately takes a toll on our physical health.
As we grapple with control, we often tend to hold tightly onto our indoctrinated belief systems. Other’s realities, or a larger reality, are unknown quantities in life’s equation. By holding onto our inculcated values and beliefs, we anchor ourselves in a mold that may not fit our true nature. Consequently, our sense of control is often bombarded with unforeseen losses.
Along with our indoctrinated beliefs there come many distractions that can tend to muddy the waters when making life decisions. Consequently, one’s sense of control can be shattered.
These factors tend to fragment and compartmentalize our thinking processes. Compartmentalization refers to our ability to create a variety of structures that we often mentally separate. For example, a person who was taught and holds the value of not stealing could justify/rationalize stealing while still maintaining the value that stealing is wrong. We place our template of reality over other’s realities. By doing so, we continue to tell ourselves we have control of these distractions.
The distractions (and I don’t use that word lightly to describe our lives) tend to be of our own design. That is, we have chosen some of these distractions. The distractions can include but are not limited to family, extended family, work, homes, and health issues.
Our control in creating our mental structures regarding what our lives ‘should’ be ends to a large degree upon creation. Afterwards, we watch as events unfold out of our control that we never could have imagined or predicted. Subsequently, we flail about in our attempts to control our circumstances and search to regain our sense of balance.
This feeling of a lack of balance is what Piaget called Disequilibration (Genetic Epistemology, 1970). Piaget believed this loss of balance, loss of our sense of control, can work for us and stimulate cognitive development. We tend to become waylaid by the distractions that have entered our lives, and our control is subsequently compromised. Not only does our focus become skewed, but we lose sight of the fact that we only have control over our own actions.
Jean Piaget proposed his theory of cognitive development and functioning as a result of working with elite groups of children in Switzerland. His work yielded his four-stage theory of cognitive development: Sensory-Motor, Preoperational, Concrete and Formal reasoning. These stages of development continue to have merit today.
Many move through through these stages due to conflicts we encounter, and the lack of control we feel. Our mental structures, according to Piaget, become inundated with new information that must somehow be fit into our existing structures.
However, when new information conflicts with ones sense of order and control, our existing structures must be modified to include the new data. This is what Piaget called Assimilation. Additionally, when new information cannot be fit into one of our existing structures, new structures must be created. We discard our previous ideas to create room for the new data. This is called Accommodation.
Thus, through adaptation we can learn and grow. Our cognitive development expands when we assimilate and/or accommodate to new information. When our sense of control is threatened, although we may feel off-balance and fearful, through adaptation we can become more critical, efficient thinkers and problem solvers.
As we come to realize that our control is limited to our own actions, we naturally begin to search for meaning in life. When this search ensues, we become scientists, testing our own control and its limits
As our metacognition (thinking about thinking) increases, we begin to better understand the nature of our world through our interactions with others. This metacognitive awareness serves to ameliorate our feelings involved with loss of control.
Furthermore, a path can be opened that leads one to research ways to add comfort to life. Specifically, strategies that assist us in our life-path. Through this personal research, we can develop strategies and tactics that will include aspects of our lives we can indeed control.
By structuring all or part of our day into reasonable routines, a sense of control can be given back to the individual. How you structure your day may not always be in your control. Nevertheless, by attempting to manage small parts of your life you can impose your will upon the environment, thus regaining your sense of control.
When structuring our days, we must remember the importance of including exercise. Even a 10 minute walk will lift your mood. When we exercise, endorphins are released into the bloodstream that positively impact mood. Again, we are in control of these actions.
Adding another component to your day such as very basic yoga postures and/or calisthenics before any type of exercise can also increase your sense of control. This can can include simple stretching such as ‘windmills’ and toe touches, as many of us experienced as children in PE class. An increased sense of control often leads to a sense of peace.
Further, by reaching out to others via phone calls, texts, social media and face time can also ease one’s sense of chaos and lack of control. This can be quite therapeutic and requires little effort. By staying in touch with others, we are not alone to face life’s challenges. We can compare notes, determine what variables may be at play, and see how well our templates fit when compared to other’s realities.
Finally, investigating various forms of meditation techniques could reveal a method that suits you and your lifestyle. Meditation can elicit a feeling of oneness within ourselves, thereby increasing our feelings of control and order. Through meditation our bodies experience a deeper level of rest than even REM sleep. Meditation in conjunction with good sleep habits, good eating habits and exercise can provide a sense of control and peace. Breathing exercises can also provide relief from stresses.
Our sense of control, or lack thereof, can often lead to frustration. This frustration can lead to anxiety and depression. Distractions further complicate our lives, often leaving us unfocused.
By realizing that our perceived control is often an illusion, we can become scientists in our lives. When we think about how we think (metacognition), we can come up with ways to adapt to factors we cannot control. Through adaptation (Assimilation, Accommodation), we can include new information into our existing structures, or create completely new structures that render the old structures obsolete.
When we let go of that which we cannot control, we free ourselves to discover new ways of problem solving. This adds control back into our life-equation. Finally, by including in your routine an overlay of structure, we can introduce strategies such as exercise, yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation to enhance of sense of control.
As always, Dear Reader, please feel free to comment with regards to the value of this post in your daily lives. I will be available to respond to your questions and/or comments. Until next time, I remain your friend.
THIS ARTICLE ENTITLED, “CONTROL” is by Dr.Shanni Dover