I’m a control freak. Yep, both professionally, by training, and naturally. I like to be in control of machines, robots, airplanes, my life, my spirituality, my kids, my wife, etc. Some of this is healthy! Some if it is not. Yet, despite my proclivity to control I occassionally find myself in situations where I am not in control of my emotions, my spirituality, etc.
For the bulk of my not-so-long life I have been in a perpetual cycle of shame with varying frequency and intensity. My worldview was shaped by my Mormon upbringing and I worked diligently to fit the mold completely. I was a good kid. No, I was a GREAT kid! Seriously, I did well in school, got my Eagle Scout, served a successful mission, never committed any egregious sins, read my scriptures nightly all through my teenage years, never touched any coffee, tea, tobacco, or alcohol, and pretty much put a checkmark in every box in the proverbial Mormon checklist!
Nevertheless, this was part of the cycle. As long as I was perfect I never had any problems. I merrily went on my way convinced my worldview was a correct interpretation of my existence, assured that my lifestyle choice would reap rewards. I will not deny that this leaked over into a self-righteous attitude which, on more than one occassion, led to my snarkiness toward those whom I perceived were not living these standards. In fact, though I’ve not been told this, I hold this attitude responsible for destroying more than one relationship in my life.
But alas, I am not perfect. I make mistakes, and when I do, I beat myself up badly over them. Keep in mind I’m not talking about major things here like murder, or chastity sins, or something, I’m talking about little things – things that really should be in the noise. It’s these times when the shame monster rears its ugly head and takes a bite out of my otherwise healthy self-esteem. This isn’t just some sort of twinge of guilt I feel, but shame, pure, and awful! And it doesn’t go away until I beat myself up emotionally to a sufficient level. Obviously the shame is further aggravated by the sure knowledge that once again I have failed to live up the expectations my worldview dictates.
It’s during these times the control freak in me is like a belligerent 5-year old, wanting to get his way, using all sorts of behavioral tricks, tantrums, pouting, all to try and restore order, control, and most importantly that self-confidence that has been shredded! During these times the result might be anger, or a bout with depression. Perhaps the object of frustration becomes those I love. In any case, until the control freak is able to restore self-esteem, things will be a bit rough.
Needless to say, such a paradigm is not healthy for me in the least!
And yet, at least one solution is as easy as allowing the control freak to dictate the terms on which I accept my involvement in my tribe. Through my faith crisis I learned this lesson very poignantly. I was in charge of my spirituality – not the church, not my bishop, not my teachers. And just as I could not blame them for my unhealthy worldview, I could also not allow them unchecked access to it either. It is me that decides what I should do and why I should do it. I get to decide the terms on which I participate in my culture. It’s true that I cannot choose the consequences, but my power of choice also allows me the possibility to insulate myself from them in my tribal context.
This empowerment was very enlightening to me during a dark period of my life in which I nearly left the church. I was able to resolve and separate concerns with leaders, history, the organization itself, etc. I could stay a member of my tribe but it would be on my terms, and it would be for my own benefit.
But it is hard to supplant a worldview. Unfortunately I find myself occassionally slipping into the old cycle. Sometimes in an ungaurded moment, the control freak forgets the conditions of my participation and leaves me vulnerable, allowing unchecked access to my healthier, but still budding worldview. The shame soon sets in as I again realize I do not measure up to the completely impossible standard my former worldview erected.
It is a perpetual struggle, one that is naturally built into my personality, but is aggravated, and made to be unhealthy, by a strict culture with high standards. Pulling myself out of the cycle is an exercise in meditation, prayer, challenging false beliefs, understanding, and above all, modifying my expectations!