On Power and Control

I recently had a major revelation. That somewhere locked deep in my body, my unconscious mind, was a belief that if I let go of control, I give up my power. This revelation shocked me. It was not something I had consciously thought about or believed. It does makes sense, though, as many of the images of power in our culture are tied up with controlling others or being in “control.”

The first definition of control that pops up when I search Google even includes the word power. It states that, control is “the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.” What I'm postulating is that the idea of control in this way is an illusion, and that control actually does not hold power. It is in fact, the opposite of it.

Certainly we can have impact, we can have influence. Certainly sometimes people will listen to what we say, do what we ask of them. However, we don’t ever truly have control over others’ decisions, how they respond, how they decide to feel, how they are impacted by us, and ultimately what they decide to do. We can persuade people, share our opinion and knowledge, but we do not truly have control over the outcome. The illusion of control makes it so that we grip on and keep forcing. When we manipulate a situation, or control it in some way, in order to get the outcome we desire, we actually give away our power.

The difference can be as simple as demanding with an expectation (control) OR simply sharing our wisdom and opinion (power).