More Problems With Control

I am not a fan of the idea of control. I actually hadn’t given it too much thought prior to a few years ago when the theme of “clarity over control” emerged as a part of the social media revolution. My post back in February 2008 on the “myth of control” probably set a record (for me) at the time with 17 comments. Lindy and Maddie’s Open Community book talks specifically about clarity over control as part of building a social organization. So the concept is not new any more.

But I think it still needs more attention. I really like this post by Dr. Daniel Crosby that is also about the myth of control, but from a psychological perspective. He points out that we have a deep psychological desire for control, even to the point where we will invest in the ILLUSION of control, even in situations where we logically understand we don’t have it. Stress, he argues, is basically what we feel when we are in a situation that we perceive to be out of our control.

So control really has a pretty strong hold over us. Nobody likes stress, and we feel less stress when we have control (even when it’s an illusion), therefore our default is to move towards control. So, ironically, it’s not that we have control–it’s that control has us.

The problem is that seeking and obtaining control over a situation is a process of closing, rather than opening. That is okay in moderation (you can’t leave everything open all the time), but because control has us, we seek the closed option too much. We leave potential on the table because we are not willing to sit in the openness. We don’t see opportunities right in front of us, because we’re looking for what we can control. That place of open and unsure and unknown is generally hard for us, but that is where we need to build our capacity.

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