Friday 19th August 2016

You have less control than you imagine.

Control of our lives and the events that surround us is a very high priority for most people. We live in an uncertain world with many dangers and it is tempting to believe that much of this is within our personal control.

The reality is that most of the things that we worry about are beyond our control. The energy that we waste attempting the impossible could be much better employed on controlling the few things that we can influence.

So what drives the emotional need for control, and is it a positive emotion or one that can be extremely damaging and limiting? What does the common expression “it is necessary to lose control to gain control” mean?

The world of business has historically been a good test bed for finding answers to questions like this. Current management best practice encourages supervisors to release the shackles of control with their employees. The supervisor consciously steps back and delegates much of their authority to their employees. However responsibility can never be delegated and so this can be an extremely uncomfortable situation for many supervisors.

However the rewards can be substantial. Employees usually want to do a good job as much as anybody else, and providing them with empowerment, respect, and trust often leads to unimagined success. A happy workforce can often do more for company profits than the actions of the management team.

The world of sport and the creative industries are definitely aware of the dangers of over control. The reason is that conscious control overrides unconscious performance and has stifled many promising careers. Performers often report that after an exceptional result the big difference was that for once they let go and got out of their own way. Their performance took on a dreamlike quality as if somebody else was in charge of it. In other words they were in the zone.

Other cultures talk about the law of surrender as being essential for well-being and peak performance. That we perform best when we let go of our ego, and stop focussing on results.

The work of Sydney Banks and  his philosophy of Three Principles has been particularly helpful to me. However his philosophy is extremely difficult to understand, let alone employ.

Indeed the more one thinks about it the less likely it is to happen. To keep it simple Banks proposed that as many as 70,000 thoughts each day arise from different parts of our brain and most of them are not helpful. Once we are aware of the unconscious thought it has reached our conscious mind and so we can then control what we do with that thought.

The options are simple. To embrace it or to banish it because it is only a thought, and not a reality. The thoughts that we choose to embrace can then be processed by higher mental powers. A further extrapolation of this conclusion leads us to complex questions about spiritual and philosophical beliefs, as embodied in religion, and possibly also in Carl Jung’s views about the collective unconscious.

These are deep issues far beyond my comprehension but for those who find the subject intriguing you could do worse than read a little more about Sydney Banks and his Three Principles. I will leave you to your own conclusions and would be fascinated by any additional insights that you could share.

Link to Sydney Banks article on Wikipedia.