A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in the New York Times by Christopher Mele titled Pushing That Crosswalk Button May Make You Feel Better, but …. The article rattles off a few examples of things in everyday life that do nothing other than give a sense that we’re actually doing something or that we’re in control of an eventual outcome. News flash: in the grandest of schemes – we aren’t.
“Perceived control is very important,” she said. “It diminishes stress and promotes well being.”
I absolutely have issues with dominance and power over me and with control in general. I’m sure some people in my past (or present) might qualify me as a nightmare in this regard. So, if I say things about letting go or giving up the need to control everything – I don’t say them lightly. And, I’m talking to myself here more than suggesting what anyone else should be doing. Pretty much like everything in these pages.
The other day at work a friend was talking to me about my recent riding trip in California and what it was like being in isolated areas of the desert by myself. He asked if I was scared and “what if something happened?” Well? I don’t know. What if something happened? What would I have done? I suppose it depends on what that something would’ve been. Here in the comfort of my living room, I still don’t know. But I didn’t worry about it.
Does that mean I was fine with being out of control? Or did I actually perceived myself as being in control? Is it all just a matter of semantics? If I was standing on the side of the road and some big, burly guy stopped, lunked me over the head with a monkey wrench and threw me in the back of his pickup truck, I would’ve had no control over that situation. If I got a flat tire? I could be in control of that situation. Both undesirable scenarios were possible. Neither possibility stopped me in my tracks.
“If the door never closed, we would stop pressing the button,” he continued. “But in that case, of course, we would stop using the elevator altogether. So, that habit is here to stay. Similarly, even though I have grave doubts about the traffic light buttons, I always press them. After all, I’ve got nothing else to do while waiting. So why not press the button on the off chance that this one will work?”
Maybe neither one of those scenarios stopped me in my tracks because of exactly what’s outlined in the last sentence of the quote above: hope. There is the persistent hope that nothing will go wrong and that everything will go right!