Control: Restoring Trust in Others

Lately, I notice how much we all try to control one another.

I started noticing it earlier this summer when I had my dog on a hike. A woman stopped us and wanted to check that I had water for my dog. She mentioned there was no water at the top of the mountain, that it gets hot on the south-facing side and a dog died up there last year.

To be honest, it annoyed me. For one, it was clear that I had plenty of water. You could see it in my bag. Also, it was early in their year and it just wasn’t that sunny or hot. Also, I get triggered when people don’t think I know what I am doing.

At the top of the mountain, I grabbed some shade and relaxed with my partner and the dog. We had a rest and a snack. Again the woman walked by, this time declaring, “I bet the dog likes that shade!”

I think what got under my skin is that I am quite aware of the situation I was hiking into. The weather conditions were fine, and the dog was not hot, in fact, he wanted to keep hiking; we were the ones that wanted a break. What the woman really wanted was for no one to ever take their dog on this hike again. I can imagine the reasons why. I hate to see animals suffer, so if I can prevent it from happening, I would want to also. The dilemma here is the woman was responding to her pain by trying to get control and control other people, all while telling herself the story that she is doing a public service- that she is the hero.

Instead of telling us what happened last year and that it made her sad, she just made a passive-aggressive comment to us in hopes it would control our behavior… or we would feel the sting of her judgment… or we would learn we were wrong and she was right.

Often good intentions show up as the need to control others.

Even when the intention comes from a place of caring, the underlying belief is that others are not responsible or trustworthy, therefore we must prevent wrongdoing through control, rules, or even passive-aggressive comments.

Yes, this is absolutely showing up in the world today, as we navigate politics, pandemics, and propaganda. Unfortunately, common sense and morality can not be legislated, it has to be understood.

The woman was searching for peace from the situation that caused her pain last year, but in her attempt to find a resolution, she is now stuck in perpetual pain. There will always be another person hiking the trail with their dog. It doesn’t mean it is pointless to educate, but it is pointless to try to control. All that it is doing is re-traumatizing her each time that she sees another dog go down the trail.

This pattern is everywhere, and I see how much I also do this. I make suggestions about other people’s health; I set up situations so they will go the way I want them to go. I make up rules to get people to do what I want. It’s natural to do this, but we must become mindful of the when, why, and how if we want to move beyond this story.

The lesson here is: that if we hold others in distrust, then we are asking for evidence to prove to ourselves that we are right. Thus, people show up and do things that are irresponsible.

When we hold others with trust and integrity, then we are actually giving permission for it to be so.

Lisette Larkins says, “Build yourself a bridge for a new tomorrow by holding confidence in someone else, and in that way, you will hold confidence in yourself.”

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