Thought bubbles: the need to control

When I love something, I suffocate it. It’s not that I want to exactly, but just that I inevitably do. Like my cat who I want to squeeze until he pops into a million pieces. Like a baby that is so cute I feel an indescribable urge to eat it. It sounds maniacal, this feeling. But I think it’s a common one, and one that extends beyond the harmless cute cat and baby feelings (harmless granted I don’t actually explode my cat or eat a baby..) For me, this urge goes further, into the way I live my life. This pressing desire that often crops up for me to hold on to the un-holdonable. To possess that which cannot be possessed. It manifests in many ways. It’s lingering a little too long in a kiss. It’s wanting to imprint a sunset into memory, willing it to sear right through my core, rather than simply marveling at its passing beauty. It’s a wanting to inhabit and to own, rather than to let things drift through me like water. To control, rather than to experience. To preserve rather than to live.

It’s an urge that can be dangerous if left unchecked. It can lead to anguish, this desire to carry the world in my two palms. And at the heart of it, there is the never-ending quest of learning to let go, to live the unattached life so to speak. And at the center of that is this annoying idea of presence we keep hearing about. To be so fully in a moment that it hits the tongue all at once, the sour and the sweet. The bitter and the salty, tasting everything so fully that we feel sated. While we may want another bite, we know it couldn’t make us more full. It could only make us sick.

I yearn for this ability to be fully present in a moment, especially when I think about the pain that arises when I don’t embody this sense of presence. When, instead, I let my more natural urges take over — skipping from wanting to wanting, unhinged by an unquenchable emptiness. And while a healthy sense of wanting is what keeps us moving forward, too much of it can be paralyzing and distracting from what we truly need.

So then I think of the times when I didn’t feel this wanting, when I was satisfied by the less tangible things. Like when I finished a piece of writing I could feel proud of. When I truly connected with another individual and the authenticity of the exchange was both grounding and uplifting at the same time. When I did something for someone else, something that truly helped them and for which they were truly grateful. These little moments when I was in service or in communion with something larger.

These ideas are not new nor particularly profound. To appreciate the “true” things of life and not get caught up in the superficial distractions that beckon from all around. But how do we access them when we are in the throes of untamed wanting? Should we try to at all? Or again does it come down to letting go of control? Recognizing the wanting, letting it go through us and then doing our best to direct our energy to more fruitful activities. I tend to gravitate to the latter idea. The idea that sometimes we must let things overtake us, letting them use us up fully, before we can change, before we can move towards nourishment. Like the inevitable craving of green vegetables that follows a junk food binge. That’s not to say that we always have to or should bandy between these extremes, just that if we do from time to time, maybe we can see it as a natural cycle. A cresting upwards that will inevitably set us back down on stable shore. An overwhelming urge to control, hold or possess dissipating to the ease of hands hanging free.

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Think of this post as a wondering out-loud. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Can you relate? How does the need to control manifest in your life?

*Photo by Love Emma Photography.

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