Sober since April 6, 2006


Thursday, September 21, 2006

the illusion of control

After five and a half months of sobriety, I'm finally seeing myself in this passage from the Big Book (p. 60-62):

Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.

What usually happens? The show doesn't come off very well. He begins to think life doesn't treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?

Our actor is self-centered, ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired business man who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness, self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt. (Text bolded for emphasis)

I've read that passage dozens of times. But I didn't see myself in it until now! (How silly is that?)

I am that actor, trying to arrange the show. Virtually all of my decisions are based on fear and selfishness. I've gotten hurt recently because of my selfish behaviors and unreasonable projections.

I'm also coming to the realization that control is an illusion. Attempting to control situations, even with the most righteous of intentions, only results in hurt feelings and demoralization.

The illusion of control reminds me of the opening title of "The Simpsons". When Marge and Maggie are driving down the street, baby Maggie turns her toy steering wheel. The car swerves in the road. She turns her wheel again, and the car swerves again. It looks like baby Maggie is controlling the car! But then the next shot finally shows Marge turning the real steering wheel. Maggie's control was an illusion.

So in my life, I've been Maggie, turning my toy steering wheel trying to control my life while God has the real steering wheel. Sometimes I turn the wheel in the same direction God does, and I experience the illusion of control. But when I turn the wheel and nothing happens, I instinctively feel like a failure because everyone else seems to have more control over their lives than I do.

But everyone else has the same useless toy steering wheel that I have. They are in no more control of their lives than I am, although some of them experience the illusion of control more often than others.

God is taking each of us to our own unique destinations. I really just need to stop comparing myself to others and learn how to enjoy the ride.

... no wonder they tell me to "Keep Coming Back".


lash505 said...

"out, out, bright candle, life is a walking shadow, a poor player stumbles upon the stage and is heard no more" macbeth is that right?? Cute photo.

Old Lush said...

I remember getting a lot out of that passage, too. Great post.

Trudging said...

Great photos to go with that post.

Christina Gordon said...

GREAT Post!!!! Loved it!

maggie said...

Wow you are great you made me feel like i was not alone after all.You have some inspiratinal stuff on here thank you You will make a great sponser someday..Bless you in all of your endevors!!!

Gwen said...


Things still hit me. I can be reading something in our literature that I have read hundreds of times and it will hit me as if I had never read it before. It is magical how that happens. That is change, growth, spiritual enlightenment. Good for you girlfriend!

jackson said...

That's the passage that finally got me. I'd been reading the "how it works" for months and one day idly started to read the words that follow. Then, ah ha.

SCoUt said...

I have those moments frequently when I say, "THAT"S what that means!!!!" It's inevitably something I have read a thousand times. It's like I say--the journey from my head to my long is a long and arduous one. lol!
You have a gift with words, woman! I hope like heck you are sharing this E,S, and H at your meetings!