Outta Control, Part One

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Today, I woke up to an aroma. Rotten flesh. At first I thought, “Dammit, Erik. You know that’s my least favorite smell in the whole wide world!” (I never in a million years would have made it as a forensic pathologist. Yuck.) But then I remembered our new roof. Any little critters who were able to enter and exit from the many holes that had peppered it were doomed to death now that it’s sealed air and animal tight. So some poor little squirrel, rat, possum, or raccoon died a slow and agonizing death. Our recent mid-90s weather with a heat index in the low 100s didn’t help. Maybe they had a nest full of tiny babies. It made me feel sad to think of how it suffered,and I’m sure it wasn’t alone. 

On a lighter note, enjoy this two-part series (Can you call a series if there are only two?) about losing control. Today’s is pretty long, the second one about losing control of a situation is short. Sorry. 

Throughout my life, it seems like I’ve been spinning the roulette wheel not knowing where it will stop. As a child, my life was one of complete disempowerment for various reasons I can’t share. However, time heals wounds, and I came to believe that I did have some control over how my life would play out. Most days I woke up expecting a beautiful day to unfold. I had that expectation on October 9, 2009, but at around 1:00 PM, I would be proven wrong because I didn’t have any control over how that day would end. I couldn’t control whether Erik would pull that trigger. A few millimeters of travel. That’s all it took—how I despise that trigger—and I couldn’t control the downward spiral of grief that followed. Hope becoming an elusive commodity, I stopped believing that, “Everything will be all right.” Here, Erik explains how the desire to control only creates misery and how to relinquish that control to reclaim your hope.

Me: A lot of people feel like they’re spinning out of control when it comes to other people, themselves or situations. How does this relate to uncertainty?

Erik: Okay, let’s use driving a car as an example. You’re going along just fine when all of a sudden another person, a situation or your own emotions take the steering wheel and starts careening in all directions, and you don’t know where you’re going next. My death took the wheel, your father took the wheel, your grief took the wheel. It’s like all of a sudden you’re going rogue. That’s where the uncertainty lies.

I belly laugh when Erik starts singing, “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”

Erik: Consider the phrase, “loss of control. “If you feel like you have to control everything, then you’re coming from a place of scarcity because scarcity wants to control what it wants so that it will never go away. As humans, we have to learn not to control things. Guide instead. We’ve controlled throughout our evolution up until now, but we’re going to start moving away from that. Look at all the things we’ve tried to control and what it’s done. It’s just fucked everything up. One of the big example of in the “War on Drugs.” Look at all the misery and suffering that came about because we’ve tried controlled what people do.

Me: What we resist persists.

Erik: It’s better to let people guide themselves to do what’s innately right for them.

Me: Do you relinquish control over a child that’s heavy into drugs?

Erik: You have to. They have to get to get to a point where they’re so stripped of ego that they have to redefine themselves.

Me: What happens if we try to control them?

Erik: It wouldn’t help them, Mom. They wouldn’t learn the lesson. Kids on drugs don’t respond to house arrest. They’re going to slip out of the window during the night anyway. They don’t respond to you searching their rooms and confiscating things. They’ll just learn to hide it better. Being those arms that tightly close around them to try to keep them controlled is only going to enable them. Think about a small child who runs up to you and sits in your lap. The minute you wrap your arms around them, what are they going to do?

Me: Squirm to get down.

Erik: Right. Suffering is not a bad thing. It’s hard to watch, especially in your own child, and our culture makes it hard to be a spectator to suffering. It’s like, “Oh, how terrible. How can you do that? How can you let that happen?” But only open arms can save that lost soul. Give him something to run to for that hug. I’m using metaphors here.

Me: Oh, I know.

Erik: All you can do is be available to them to listen, to offer resources that might help them, to let them know that you love them.

Me: In the case of loss of control over yourself or a situation, you can still use guidance, right?

Erik: That’s right. The thing you have to recognize is that there’s no such thing as control. It’s all about guiding. Here’s the difference. Control is like a dam. It stops everything up. It tries to stop the flow of the river because you don’t want it to go there. Guiding is not that way. It’s about letting the river go where it wants to go, seeing where it goes, and then taking action from the bank. It’s about following the river instead of telling it, “I want you to go left,” or “I want you to go right.” Let the river go where it wants to go, and then adapt to that.

Me: So as an example, as a young mother I used to control my kids more because I was uncertain whether, if left to their own devices, they’d remain safe and become the happy, productive and fulfilled adults I wanted them to be. Eventually I learned that that doesn’t work, so I started just facilitating them, encouraging them and using logical consequences as the main form of discipline.

Erik: Yes. That’s guiding from the riverbank. You don’t want to sit back and say, “Well, if you fuck up, you fuck up.” It’s about giving them information and letting them know what the potential consequences will be. Those are important tools in guiding people. Sometimes this can play into people’s fear, but fear is often a necessary tool. Ultimately, everything is a tool. Think about how some schools have these mock car accident tragedies to show how dangerous texting while driving is.

Me: Yeah, they do that at our high school. Lots of bandages, crumpled cars, ambulances, hearses, blood and people playing dead. It’s very realistic and graphic.

Erik: Yes, that’s giving them information, even though they might feel fear from it, but you can’t just show them something fearful and leave them there to stay in that fear. Otherwise they’ll think, “Ooo, I gotta stay away from this.” You give them the information, and then you talk them it. You counsel them.

Me: So loss of control over children is pretty straightforward, but what about family members, friends, coworkers, etc. when they run ram shod over you?

Erik: They don’t respect you.

Me: Exactly. So how would you guide them from the riverbank?

Erik: Take a bully as an example. First, you have to accept that that is how they are in that moment and not resist it. Some people tense up and get ready to fight back. Other people tend to flee. They just give up control. You have to recognize how you are emotionally and get your shit straight; get yourself centered. Then you have to figure out why the person is like that. Not everyone can do that, and, if you’re one of those people, you have to start out with the acceptance of it and go from there. Sometimes if you can’t see a person why a person is the way they are, they’re probably just a dick who’s been trained to be that way from past experiences. Becoming aware of that fact makes it easier to accept them as they are. Then, don’t fight with them. Think of a tennis game. If someone brings you hostility and you give hostility in return, you’re just going to keep batting the ball back and forth. You’re never going to get anywhere. Just let them hit the ball, and don’t hit it back. Step back. That shit can be hard to do.

Me: I guess you can be emotionally honest with them and set boundaries.

Erik: Yeah, but with some people where you can do that until you’re blue in the face and nothing will ever happen. After you accept, you have to make a choice. Do you want that person in your life? Sometimes that can even be a family member, but if trying to figure out how to deal with that person becomes too much for you, you need to step away.

Me: Or you could change the relationship to be shallower. I’ve had relationships with family members where I could only talk about things like the weather and, ‘Hey, how ‘bout them Yankees?’

Erik: You can, but that’s really avoidance. If that’s the case, you need to ask yourself, “Am I avoiding things out of a fear of conflict?”

Me: Yeah, and I guess that’s not being emotionally honest with yourself.

Erik: That’s true. It all depends on your intent. Why are you in that place of avoidance?

Me: Okay. What about when you feel like you’re spinning out of control? You’ve lost control over your emotions or your actions. One example might be that you’re an alcoholic, and you can’t stop drinking.

Erik: Well, eventually, you recognize that the addiction is driving your life, so what some alcoholics do is completely cut alcohol out of their lives. I know this sounds contradictory, but then all they do is switch the control from being addiction to trying to control the addiction. They’re setting themselves up for a lifetime of struggle, constantly fighting their addiction they’re trying to control. Again, if you’ve been addicted for a long time and those blankets are piling up, sometimes it’s not wise to quit cold turkey. Sometimes you have to taper off. In some cases of addiction, you can’t just taper off like with heroin or speed.

Me: So some examples of working from the riverbank might be to surround yourself with emotional support and resources like AA. I guess that’s true with all sorts of instances where you feel like you’re out of control.

Erik: Yeah. You have to have someone there who’s really strong who isn’t going to judge you for your actions. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a therapist or whatever, they can help guide you through it. They need to help you become aware of what’s going on and then help you find the motivation to do something about what you’re aware of. These resources can help you see that’s really in yourself with is empowerment. That’s our natural state without the blankets. Whoever’s going to help you needs to be empowered for you.

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Elisa Medhus

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  • Tracy Lamont

    It’s a fear thing, isn’t it…….losing control. You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, Elisa and today, I think Erik popped by to see me. I’ve been gardening all day today, been such a lovely day. Hardly been in the house at all.
    I have a small room I use as a library and I went in there looking for something today. To my surprise, there was a book on the floor – your book, with erik’s face lookin up at me!
    What made it fall to the floor? There are hundreds of books in there, why that one?
    So, Erik, thanks for the visit, but not sure what the message was…
    Lotsa love to you, Elisa xx

  • Ginger

    Hmmm, this is always a tough one for me…like I just told my 14 year old daughter to take her fiends on Instagram back down to 100 because she snuck 60 more in when she knew better and she posted a photo of herself that her father and I thought was very suggestive and inappropriate and we told her to take it off, is this too controlling? I just feel as parents we need to monitor this stuff or it gets out of control because teens are missing the part of the brain that filters out shit like that that they don’t comprehend yet….help! Peace & Blessings Elisa , Ginger

  • Jacqueline Orszulak

    Such impressive info from erik and yourself Elise. I imagine you still are impressed with his intelligence.

  • Jamie

    I feel like this entry is exactly what I needed to hear right now in my life. I’ve been feeling so lost and out of control.

  • Kim Picotti

    Thank you for this post. Erik, you spoke with my son back in Feb. He is not ” done” yet with his addiction. I am now watching from the riverbank. He can’t be sick and tired, of being sick and tired, until he lives it. I am so glad you validated AA. It has given me my Path to the Divine. My son knows where to go when he is “done”
    He has been raised by the Community of AA.
    Progress, not perfection. You know this post was perfectly linearly timed
    Your Mother’s valor is so inspirational.

  • Pallavi

    What Erik says is so true, I have been inundated with colleagues, bosses, and relatives who have been throwing shit at me from time to time and the innate response is to strike back… I tried both fight and flight but it just comes back again and again… 🙂

    So going with the principles of Buddhism, I consider it from all angles… every behaivor has a positive intention, maybe its past experiences and then interestingly I stopped fighting back… but was firm in my outlook that I will not take shit just because someone feels like throwing it at me..

    Some souls responded quite positively… and things changed subtly to a point where my feedback was respected.

    The relatives, I have stopped my connect… as Erik says, some souls just dont get it and one needs to know when to let go.. do i really want them in my life… definitely no…

    There is more peace and the world is full of like minded souls to hang out with like this family…. 🙂 and how can i forget my spirit guides who are constantly guiding me… 🙂

    Thanks for the post Elisa… and Erik… hugssss

  • Tracy Lamont

    I posted about a visit from Erik yesterday, but my comment isn’t here so must’ve done something wrong.
    Was in my garden all day cos weather was so lovely. Then went to find something in my little library – a small room in my house.
    As I say, been outside and no one else home. But in the middle of floor was a book – your book, Elisa! Erik’s face lookin up at me from the floor.
    Of all the books, why did this one fall and what made it fall?
    Guess he’s trying to tell me something……or just saying hello!

  • Zahra

    An interesting example the texting while driving thing. The deeper information to give is more about when someone is living from their ego-mind, living from fear, and focusing on what they don’t want, judging… To point that out and show the way to joy, freedom, peace, and love can be very helpful. Teaching fear, however, perpetuates fear. Texting or not isn’t the true determinant of whether you experience an accident; things that might be considered negative consequences such a car accident are reflections of one’s negative thinking. Wellbeing is our natural state, anything “less” than that has to be actively invited through resistance. To teach that if you text and drive you will get into a car accident is to teach a limiting fear-based belief system. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, all is perfect, but it is an optional belief system based on a lie. We are all inherently safe, inherently free, and whether we belief it or not the creators of our realities. If you’re living in joy you have nothing to fear. If you’re not living in joy then the path up so to speak isn’t to try and control your behavior but to move towards and release into the joy within you.

    All said, if you are still playing the game of believing in separation and that something outside of you is the creator of your reality, that death is something decided by forces greater than you, that death is loss and something to be feared, then educating against texting while driving makes sense within that game.

  • I’m praying for your son. Erik says sometimes we need to be stripped naked by suffering in order to build the new “us,” and to redefine ourselves. This might be a wonderful opportunity for your son to do that.

    • Kim Picotti

      I had the best unexpected day with my son. I did not take out my Ditch Witch and try to plow a different channel for his river to flow my way. Our conversation had ease, and he even willingly went to an AA meeting I usually go to. I had no expectations.
      Love and Light.

      • How wonderful! I’ll pray that he continues to guide his river in the direction that honors his greatest good.

  • Yes, I continue to be. Seems like only yesterday that I was teaching him his ABCs.

  • Of course there are things we have to monitor and address. You can’t exactly let your 5 year old run into heavy traffic and think, “We;;, she’s learn her lesson.” Firm and loving consequences are the key. I personally apply them when they when my child (not when they’ve become adults, of course) does something that jeopardizes their safety or the safety of another or that will impede them from growing to be fulfilled and productive adults whose choices honor the greater good. So if my child failed to clean up his or her dirty dishes over and over, I’d toss them in his bed. He can let the roaches infest his room, not ours. In other words, they’d get a logical consequence of some sort. Now in the case of things like drug addiction, I’d offer an ear, open arms, resources, etc., but the logical consequence here might often be time in jail, losing friends, failing classes, overdosing, etc. Reaching rock bottom. Unfortunately, that rock bottom is sometimes death. It’s hard to watch your child drown in the river despite attempts to throw them lifebuoys and paddles.Sigh.

  • Aw! Could be Adam, too. I often wonder if the two of them are still wreaking havoc over there. They’ve been such good friends for a long time.

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