Many of us come to believe that we can control events & other people.
This is not that unusual, it is after all how we first started to relate to the world as children.
It’s an essential child developmental stage known as magical thinking.
We see it in the little boy who jumps up and down and believes that it will make his favourite tv programme come on. Or a little girl who believes that if she wishes for a puppy, one will appear.
We did this as children because the world felt safer when we believed that we were in control of it. This meant the world wasn’t so threatening and disorganised.
Magical thinking is often associated with adults who have OCD. One way in which OCD manifests (and there are many different ways) is through the belief that by tapping or moving objects they can protect themselves or other people from illness or death.
Imagine what a burden of responsibility it is, to believe that you hold the fate of yourself and/or others in your hands.
I think that many of us carry this heavy burden in different ways.
Our inner children still like to feel safe by believing that we can control other people or events.
We practice magical thinking when we believe that if we’re really nice all the time then everyone will like us and all our relationships will flourish.
This doesn’t correlate with reality, which is what makes it magical. People can still choose to end relationships, for reasons we may not even consider. In addition, relationships also need more than niceness to flourish. They also need boundaries.
We’re in magical thinking when we try and control what other people do, such as our romantic partners. One of the ways we can do this, is by trying to dictate who our partners can hang out with. This too is magical thinking as it presupposes that this will keep the relationship safe, such as from keeping partners from cheating.
This is more likely to endanger the relationship as it threatens the freedom of the other.
We never have been, and never will be able to control others.
We can do things that will nourish our relationships with others, such as acting with loving kindness whilst maintaining boundaries.
But we still won’t be able to guarantee that they will stay with us or love us.
This can seem frightening.
Frightening is good.
It’s our first taste of freedom.
It’s giving up control.
What a relief to acknowledge that when we try and control others, we’re really imprisoning ourselves.
What a relief to stop trying to control the uncontrollable.