The Illusion of Control

We pretend we have control over things all the time.  We do it so often that we don’t even think about it.   We don’t worry about getting in a fatal car accident because we can control the outcome through our habits and the protective gear we buy, right?

We don’t stress overmuch about choking on our food because, if we chew our food well enough the food will be much less likely to choke us.

We tend to mitigate our fears of getting mugged by parking in well-lit areas, not going alone into unknown areas, and knowing the “good” from the “bad” parts of town.

In short, we can control things.  We can control our fate.  Right?  We can create the eventualities we desire directly through our actions and behaviors.  We have control.

I used to think that way, people.  I used to firmly believe that my willpower alone could affect the outcome of events and happenings in my life.  You can imagine how big my shock must have been when I realized that I control, literally, nothing.

That’s right – and it’s the same with you.  You control NOTHING.

Think about the scenarios I listed above.  No matter what you do, you can’t control the actions of others on the road, so you are always at risk for a fatal accident.  No matter how much or how carefully you chew your food you can still choke to death.  No matter how safe you think you are there is always a chance you will get mugged, or worse.

What can we control then?  We can control our own actions and behaviors, right?

Not really.  To an extent, but even those actions and behaviors are a factor of biology, evolution, genetics, and cultural upbringing – all things over which you have no control.   It takes a Herculean effort to overcome the “baseline” behaviors and actions that are ingrained into you.

You can’t even control your own body.   I know.

Cancer is the biggest reality check in the world.  Nothing brings home the fact that you have control over NOTHING like realizing your own body has turned against you and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do about it.

Sure, there are things you can do to lessen your chance of getting cancer, but no one knows how much you decrease your chance.  You can eat lots of fruit.  You can not smoke.  You can make sure asbestos isn’t lining your walls.  You can avoid the sun.

All of those things might add up to keep you free from cancer.  But then again, they might not.

Once you actually have cancer, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  Nothing.  Not a thing.  You can try positive visualization, prayer, changes in diet and exercise.  These things might make a difference.  But then again, they might not.

You cannot bargain with cancer.  All you can do is fight it as best you can.  Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy; these are the weapons at the forefront of the cancer battle nowadays.  They are by no means certain.  You can still lose the battle.

Anxiety About Tommorrow Can Ruin Today

Anxiety About tomorrow Can Ruin Today

And you can’t control it.

So how do you deal with the knowledge that you control nothing?

Do you surrender?  Give up?  Say to hell with it, roll over, and die?  No.  You don’t do that – but the knowledge that you can’t control things gives you a certain sense of freedom.  When you realize you can’t control something you can choose to STOP trying to control that thing.

I can’t control whether or not my cancer will recur.  I can do certain things to mitigate my risk factors, but ultimately I have no control.  Living my life in fear of a possible eventuality is not an acceptable option – so I let go of the fear, I stop trying to control things I can’t control, and I live my life as best as I can.

I don’t always succeed.  Letting go is hard.  Especially in March and September of every year for me.   I have my 6-month PET scan coming up next week and my nerves are starting to get frayed as I worry about the results of the scan.

I can’t control what the results will be.  In fact, if I have a recurrence of my cancer it’s better to know as soon as possible, but the fear of the possible bad news is making me edgy, distracted, and a bit surly.

Next week I get my scans.  Wish me luck.  I’m having a hard time letting go this week.  I know I can’t control the outcome one way or another, but I keep looking for SOMETHING I can control – just to make myself feel better.

The thing is; I control nothing.   I have no control.

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One Response to “The Illusion of Control”

  1. If there is a glass of water on the table, and I don’t want to drink any of it, I don’t have to. I personally think that life is about choices, which is related to control. Yeah, a person walking down a street could get mugged, but what If they chose to take the bus? Their ability to make a choice IS their control. In the case of cancer, there is no choice, and in that case I would have to agree. We can’t seem to control who gets cancer, but we are trying to change that. Don’t lose hope. And I hope your test is favorable.

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