Control by definition;
1. To exercise authoritative or dominating influence over;
2. To adjust to a requirement; regulate
3. To hold in restraint;
4. To reduce or prevent the spread of;
5. To verify or regulate
A verb, a noun, 2 syllables, 1 spelling, yet it's meaning, definition and power is sprawling. We all exert it, use it and abuse it, in different forms and in varying degrees. We seek it out for power and for influence. Yet control paradoxically has controlled me for most of my life.
The more I try to find it and foster it, the more I am left wanting and desperately grappling with the very meaning of the word itself. For me, it has been a sense of assurance in who I am; a defining marker of the present; a form of peace and a comfort in the future, which no one or nothing can dominate, supersede or rob. The times when I have let go from the need to control, I have felt liberated, almost shocked as I wonder, can it be true - can I be free? But then control tiptoes back, in to my daily routine, engraining patterns and rules, which become the norm. I have battled with anorexia for over 6 years and during that time I have come to understand that not only is control a hindrance to my recovery but it's also completely unreachable, unattainable and impossible.
Rituals, habits and rules dominate the life of an anorexic. It is this inflexibility, which has bound me ever closer to a life of chaos in place of the perfection I presumed would supervene. Many other mental health conditions are also subjugated with controlling routines. However, it is far too easy to bind yourself in to routine in our age of uncertainty. Do you find yourself standing at the same spot on the platform to make sure you get a comfy seat on your commute every morning, do you eat the same lunch day in and day out, have you had the same hair cut since you were 15?
Change is uncomfortable and unpredictable. Surely, there is no shame in it - is there? It is much easier to stick to what you know once you have established a safe routine rather than wonder down the path less trodden. Why fix what's not broken? I know many who work the 9-5, come home for dinner to the same, predictable weekly meals, and go to bed at an innocuous hour to start the same hum drum again. Our status quo is rooted in what keeps us safe and relaxed - a sense of control is comforting. Most of us can relax when our parents, friends, managers are controlling us because we can be at peace, trusting them to provide the control we seek in our own lives. When I relinquish control, I worry what will happen to me, if I let someone else take the reins of my life? If my set ways and detailed plans do not pan out in the way I imagined- how will I cope? Does control then imply a lack of trust in others? Or is my need for control, more so, a lack of trust in myself? If I jump, will I just keep falling?
As I've pointed out, we're all susceptible to control. But, the difference between others and myself, is that they are probably more willing to break the cycle of control when the occasion arises - a wedding, a holiday, a birthday and respond positively to spontaneous invites. They are able to shrug off the unforeseen changes in their daily pattern; their inner sat-nav re-routes. For me, these breaks in routine unstabalise me. It scares me how much I rely on my day-to-day patterns of control and the loss of control is unbearable.
We all exert control and submit to controlling influences and most of the time it's normal. However, the relentless need of control is an imprisonment. Wherever we find ourselves on the spectrum of mental health, we have to ask ourselves, could we break free of the chains of control if we had to?
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