From the moment we are born, we are taught to exercise control over ourselves. The day your parents started training you to hold your bowels was your first rite of passage into self-control. From the moment you started uttering your first words, control was inextricably linked to feelings of safety, security, and receiving love from others. Good boys and girls had to show that they could adapt their needs, exercise their will, and conduct themselves appropriately. The very foundation of civil society began with teaching you how not to sh*t your pants. Freud would be so very proud of me in this moment.
Growing up, my family loved to tell this story of my eldest brother as an infant: While out with my mother, they were approached by a flattering stranger: “He’s so adorable”, the woman said lovingly. Without skipping a beat, held aloft by a prideful mom, my brother looked the stranger in the eye, and with the fearlessness of a newborn warrior, said: “Fu*k you”. That may have been the cutest fu*k you in history, despite how socially un-redeeming it was. Kids say the darndest things.
The moral of the story? Despite much you want to exercise control over yourself and your environment, the universe will inevitably tell you to go fu*k yourself.
More than great fodder for table time storytelling, the story about my brother is more beneficially a Subitism; a moment of sudden awakening to how things are. Let’s explore.
As we mature, the self-control we are taught as toddlers seeps into our worldly relationships. The seed of the idea that you can control your own poo starts to stink up your mind and the ways in which you interact with the world: “If I can control my own sh*t maybe I can control sh*t out there”. Remember the will to exercise control is primordially linked to how safe, secure and loved you believe you will be. When you combine the safety imperative with a moral and social one, you have the making of powerful life force that can dominate your thinking and actions. This is when the idea of control can run amuck and start to get very smelly. I mean baby poo smelly.
Countless atrocities have been perpetrated by humans who exercised their need for control over others. From the big fu*k yous of tyrants, to the violence that an angry spouse inflicts on a battered partner. The world is littered with people who, like a socially disturbed chimpanzee, fling their poo on people. They literally and figuratively can’t hold their sh*t together, so they willfully exert their influence on others, often with force, and always with total disregard for the peaceful entitlements of those they injure.
Control also expresses itself in much subtler forms. Mental rumination, repeating behaviour patterns, and emotional persuasion are all forms of control we wield to hold our sanity in place, and our inner and outer worlds in check. The fear of loss of love and life forces us into a tug of war with the reality of things. We hold on for dear life and simultaneously suffocate the oxygen out of it. We learn to waddle in our own poo. Worse, we get comfortable in that shi*tty place.
The irony of that tug of war is that there is no one else at the other end of the rope. You are literally pulling against yourself as opposing but equal forces in a cosmic game that only has one player. This internal battle you fight with yourself is mostly about the desperate drive to hold strong to the idea that you are a sane, functional, and well appreciated human being. The exertion of control and the constant tugging is how we sublimate the truth that percolates deep in our unconscious; we are always one unexpecting encounter away from a cosmic “fu*k you”. The fact that so many people poo themselves post death is an apt metaphor. Everything that you were holding on to in the sheerness of your life, oozes out of you in death.
If the idea that you are caught in a futile tug of war with yourself is disturbing, then we are halfway there. The other half of the journey is letting go of the rope.
You might be thinking that if everyone let go of the rope, we would have social anarchy – order devolving into disorder, everyone operating on impulse. If we gave up control wouldn’t the world just be a mess dominated by unconscious drives and irrational thoughts? Ironically, that is a lot of the world we find ourselves in today. Capitalism run-amuck, ever-present social injustices, and people at war over you name it; these are all among the domineering examples of people who simply cannot hold their sh*t together. We relentlessly hold others accountable for what we believe we are lacking – if I cannot feel in control, I will hold you under my thumb and look down on you with disdain. There is only one winner in the battle for control, even though both parties always lose in the end. Lose-lose is the mantra of bad deals we make with real and fake life adversaries. Consider that the greatest instrument of war was built in such a way that everyone comes out on the short end of the nuclear stick. That’s not happenstance. That is how the shi*tty rules of control are expressed in their ugliest and idealized form. If I cannot get what I want, then we all get nothing.
When we drop the rope and end the existential tug of war with ourselves, we welcome a bolder and more beautiful world. Here are some things you can expect to manifest when you let go of the idea that you need to hold your sh*t together:
You will be less tired. The amount of energy you expend trying to control your world is exhausting. You literally force yourself to take holidays so you can do nothing and affect nothing. Think about that. The time you appreciate the most is the time you are just being, not exerting unnecessary control over anything or anyone. Stop planning your time away, or your retirement, and start planning to expand your freedom factor from this day forward. Take a holiday from your holiday and get back to living.
You will be much more compassionate. Compassion manifests through the realization that all sentient beings are interconnected and mutually affected by the same reality. There is not my reality and your reality, there is only how things are. When you give up control, your universal relatability factor grows exponentially. Becoming more mindful of the fearful thoughts that dominate your actions will empower you to reconnect with the experience of self-compassion necessary for loving yourself and others.
You will become increasingly fearless and brave. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose. Control is its own commodity. Your house, your car, your stuff all perpetuates the illusion that you have your sh*t in order. They are like the cosmic diaper holding your poo in place. The reason you typically want more of everything is that the diaper is forever leaking. Go forth into the world in the buff and invest in experiences that have everlasting value. Hint: They are not the things that easily seep in and out of your life.
You will be more in tune with how things are. When we stop and smell the roses we stop and smell the roses. Control sounds more like: “I wish I had more roses”. “Maybe I can cut those roses and persuade Mary to love me”. “If only those roses didn’t have thorns”. If you’ve ever stopped to meditate, you know what I am talking about. Control and endless judgment are great bedfellows. Relinquishing control tames the mind and allows you to be in much more direct contact with how things are.
Getting our sh*t together means we need to stop treating the world like our perennial diaper. The fact that we learned to plop in the plopper is not a license to tire ourselves into a knot of controlling thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It is definitely not permission to cast poo pellets in the direction of humankind.
Let’s open to the wonder of the cosmos. In a spirit of taking the first baby step, I will begin by letting go of shit, and ending the futility of adding an asterisk in order to make this shitty blog more palpable for the sensitive masses I have constructed in my own mind. What seems like a sensitive gesture is another way of me controlling your reactions. I choose to believe that we are both mature enough to process this shit with conviction and clear intent. In a world of too much pretense, constant offense, and the tireless projections of our thoughts and feelings onto the world, it’s time that we demonstrate the spiritual conviction to become more honestly undone. It’s imperative if we have any hope of ever truly growing up.