emotional intelligence, mental health, Rhyme & Reason

Ramblings: Control

I am no stranger to extremes.

I feel nothing or everything. I am highly productive or not at all. I am open & talkative or closed-off & isolating.

High or low.

Anxious or lackadaisical.

I’ve mellowed a bit as I’ve matured, but when under stress I default to this fundamental duality, and any ability I’ve developed to compartmentalize for the sake of functionality (and sanity) disappears.

The language I’m using in this post is evidence of my current state of either/or — though I am aware that in reality I don’t appear as extreme as I feel. I know this because I’ve had friends tell me that, by most appearances, I am put-together and well-spoken, my inner sense of chaos safely hidden behind a carefully curated façade — or mask.

The wearing of masks is a very human endeavor — an adult human endeavor. In order to negotiate the terrain of social interaction, we rely on masks. They differ depending on the role we’re playing at any given time, and they’re usually effective as long as we don’t find ourselves in a situation in which two (or more) roles overlap in time and place.

But I admire people who don’t rely on masks. They’re rare, in my experience, but there are people who manage to be their authentic selves regardless of setting or present company. There’s something childlike about these people — their lack of artifice seems to imply an innocence usually found in young children. Whereas most adults experience life at least one degree removed from the present, children simply react. They don’t have a social filter through which their words and facial expressions are processed before relaying information to the world. This is a learned skill, a survival mechanism. What I wonder is: can it be unlearned? I think it can, but I also think doing so requires the willingness to be vulnerable — and that can feel very threatening. We spend so long perfecting these masks, playing these roles, trying to be everything to everyone. We spend so much energy on these things that the idea of letting go of the charade once and for all can feel like walking around naked. At the same time, I think it offers a sense of relief. If we can get past the fear of being seen, if we can just let go, I imagine there’s a lightness to be experienced. A release of burden. A surrendering.

I can’t help but wonder if surrendering in this way would result in my experiencing less extreme states. The act of surrendering might allow for the free-flow of energy, instead of the forcing of it, the end result of which is exactly my extremes. In my mind I liken this to someone releasing their grip on a hose, allowing water to flow unobstructed. Without resistance, there is less force, less buildup. No reason to resort to extremes.

So what if I were to let go? What would I be letting go of?

Control? The illusion of control? I think that’s it. So I’d have to be willing to face my fear of losing control — of chaos reigning — and have faith in the idea of an orderliness to the Universe. But in my effort to control, don’t I just end up experiencing chaos anyway? Isn’t that what my carefully curated façade masks? So in reality I really don’t have anything to lose by taking this risk.

Can I do it? Can I simply let go?

I guess it’s time to find out.