Saturday, July 9, 2011

Control and Chaos

In the mid to late 1960’s was the television comedy show “Get Smart” (yes, I was a teenager). The plot was basically spy vs. spy – with the organization named “CONTROL” being the good guys and “KAOS” being the evil opponents. I think it is a great metaphor for what many people might believe – that control is good and chaos is bad.

Why would I think that control is good? Simple – it appears to eliminate risk and makes me feel safe, whereas chaos could be defined as the lack of control and the author of insecurity. But is this polarization really true in a relationship?
Chaos in a relationship might actually be the result of an attempt by one person to maintain control over another.
If I fear abandonment I will pursue you with intensity any time you seem to be withdrawing from me. Even if the distancing is reasonable and healthy, I may feel threatened and react by trying to control you. When you feel my control you will likely react by trying to create more distance.  I will pursue harder, and you will run faster and the relationship will be in chaos.
So is the controller at fault? Not necessarily.
On the opposite end there are those that live an undisciplined life creating difficulties and pain for all who associate with them. Their need for freedom and lack of restraint makes them unpredictable and unreliable.    
People at both ends of the spectrum are unsafe people.
So what is the goal? Balance!
In other words, structure with flexibility. It is a mature standing within a relationship that will produce a connected, but not enmeshed one.  I will feel both safe, and free to have a separate identity. 
So how do we achieve this? We have to manage our fears.
When I feel like controlling another person, I must self-soothe my anxiety and ask kindly for what I need. When I feel like running, I must stay connected and ask kindly for what I need. Both must seek compromise, a middle ground. It will likely be difficult at first. But don’t give up!

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