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Opinion & Essays - Apr, 1995 Issue #33 

or: the Illusion of Control
by: Steve Cawdrey, Founder/Co-Director
Spring Creek Community
Thompson Falls, Montana

In a book by Joel Arthur Barker called Future Edge, he describes paradigm shifts. In one part of the book he talks about the old adage of Seeing is believing. He suggests that we change this around to realize what we believe determines what we see. When I change my perspective and am willing to suspend existing beliefs, an unusual world appears. I move to new levels of truth and awareness. 

Willing to try a journey into a different realm? Start with this premise: all of creation is purposefully designed beyond our control. All of life is a process that unfolds and invites us to participate and to accept the learnings and opportunities to grow and bloom. There exists a Life Force that creates and will manifest in spite of our best efforts. Are you beginning to tilt? 

Bear with me and try for a moment to suspend any pre-existing assumptions. Try to believe something new and experience what you then see. We can not control anything and our ceaseless attempts at control are rally fear based self- centeredness and arrogance. What springs to mind is any attempt to change another human. Can anyone truly accomplish that? When I am gut level honest with myself, I know that I can't. It is only an illusion of control. 

When I consider the various programs in the field of emotional growth/special purpose schools, people basically pay us to control their child's behavior. A parent calls a consultant or one of our schools and wants help. Our schools and programs offer myriad solutions, good people, innovative ideas, safe places: what if we are only providing an illusion? I can imagine there may be some strong disagreement to this possibility. Remember this is a journey beginning from a different belief. Like visiting a foreign country, wait and see what the natives do. 

From the outset Spring Creek Community provided structure, a healthy and safe place, very talented staff, an excellent program. We consistently acted on the premise that we could confront, challenge, control, and change a student's behavior. We did a very fine job and hundreds of families continue to be grateful to this day for what we offered. I seldom questioned our premise. That is how Spring Creek used to operate. Until I was forced to take a hard look at myself and what I was doing. 

What has changed for me is what I now have come to believe and, consequently, I am seeing things very differently. I have written before about addictions. One reason I find the addictions model helpful stems from its starting premise: powerlessness over people, places and things AND responsibility for our choices. This idea was not palatable for me to swallow. The experience certainly opened my eyes. 

Dealing with the underlying addictive process in the culture created a shift to a different paradigm, another model. Once we realize that addictive behavior is not controllable, then we can better understand how an addict learns: direct, experiential consequences for personal choices, hitting a personal bottom, willingness to change, openness to take direction. The only cure for addictions is a spiritual path. Spirituality begins with letting go of any illusion of control. 

What I know today is that I can control no one and no one will learn anything or change until they are ready and willing. I know that a safe and healthy environment is crucial. Structure and support facilitate recovery. I believe in responding to situations, intervention for young people, setting boundaries, articulating values and living a spiritual life. Running a school with sober, clear and present staff is an entirely new way of operating. 

What I don't have is any illusion that I can control what will happen or that I can stop someone from acting out. What I believe today helps me see that what our special schools do in dealing with teenagers may be abusive, manipulative and dishonest. I see much in the form of expectations which are only premeditated resentments. And fear and resentments fuel a desperation to grasp at the illusion of control. 

My life today is one of spirit. When this perspective becomes the basis for all I do, then I participate in life, respect our surroundings, honor personal feelings, take responsibility for actions and trust the divine unfolding of the Life Process. Learning, growing, walking through situations becomes possible as I realize that control is truly Maya-- the Hindu concept for illusion. 

In the awesome mystery of life that by design is impossible to control, one learns acceptance, patience, tolerance and comes to value connection, relationships and quietude. From this place I notice creativity abounds, people feel safe to explore honestly and quit fighting everything and everyone. 

Human endeavor requires removing various boulders blocking the ever flowing river of learning. We have within each of us all that is needed for our own healing and change. There are Laws of Nature operating whether we choose to believe them or not. New beliefs invite walking out of the illusionary fog of control and discerning alternative paths of discovery. 

Copyright 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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