Coffee and Control

CawfeeI was on my third cup of coffee this morning, two more than is typical for me these days, when it struck me. I have no issue with coffee.  But it was when I was drinking that third cup that I understood.  The issue, I mean. It’s the absence of control that robs me of sleep. It’s that sense of helplessness with which we must contend, from time to time, during tumultuous periods of our emotional lives.

Just before four o’clock, I abandoned my attempt to go back to sleep.  I had awakened at three o’clock and just couldn’t stop my mind from racing from one thing to the next, as if a deadline were approaching.

My first cup of coffee was ready at 4:02 a.m. After allowing it to get cold, I zapped it in the microwave to revive its power.  The same fate awaited the second cup.  And then, the third one seemed to be waiting in line for its turn at spending twenty seconds undergoing microwave radiation.  But, no, I let that one sit, untended, until a quick microwave zap could not have revived it.

By the time my third cup had cooled completely, I’d spent most of the preceding four hours reading materials from a homeowners’ association in a place we’re considering as our next destination.  Homeowners’ associations can be like little kingdoms in which homogeneity is worshiped and individuality is treated with loathing and suspicion. I don’t know whether I would be happy living in a place in which the fate of my decisions about the color of my house or the placement of an outbuilding rests with an architectural control committee.

My skepticism stems from distrust.  Distrust of people I don’t know.  Distrust of people who may be perfectly decent and honorable and fair.  People who hold sway over the legitimacy of my desires regarding the physical space in which I live.

It’s odd, this issue of trust.  On the one hand, I have deep suspicions about people who would willingly sit on committees that presume to pass judgement on the suitability of the desires of other people, especially other people they don’t even know.  On the other, I sometimes don’t hesitate to place my trust in people utterly unknown to me.  It all depends on what is at stake, I suppose.  And what’s at stake may include the consequences of relinquishing control.  The greater the potential negative consequences of ceding control to someone else, the less likely I am to trust the person who is asking me to give up control.

This afternoon, as I was listening to the TED Radio Hour, I heard Ben Saunders allude to measures of risk.  In his case, it was the risk associated with extreme adventures.  I began thinking about the relativity of risk.  For one person, risk may involve stepping close to the edge of a precipice; an inch too far and certain death awaits.  For another person, risk may involve deciding whether to live in a place where a decision on exterior paint color may be overridden by a bureaucracy.  The latter may seem silly and inconsequential in comparison to the former.

But control is at stake.  Fear of being at the mercy of other people must contribute to a need to be in control.  So, is it fear or is it distrust?  Is distrust simply a manifestation of fear?  These are the kinds of questions that make the study of psychology so fascinating. Answers are easy to come by, though, because they spring from theories that are hard to prove, or to disprove.  Squishy science loves plausible explanations that can’t be adequately tested.  That is not to say psychology is squishy science, but many who attempt to use it to their advantage are squishy scientists.

With that, I will leave the reader to ponder: what, exactly, is he talking about?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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5 Responses to Coffee and Control

  1. druxha says:

    Glad you enjoyed this recall to this lovely rendition by Collins, John. Also glad to hear that you will “ponder” my point of view, for I do see some validity in these thoughts. I will continue to ponder as well, for its so very complex, and vast in its essences, which make me all the more inquisitive as to…what makes us tick…were are the triggers…and “most” importantly, what sets off the triggers….key root…Pandora’s Box, deeply buried in our subconscious. But if one want to know, they will discovery another world, good, bad, and grey, could be worth the journey whilst one is still breathing…

  2. Beautiful and soulful and deeply emotional piece, Trish. It’s long been a favorite of mine, though I haven’t listened to it in quite a while. You make interesting points…things to ponder.

  3. druxha says:

    And I must add a song that I’ve always considered self effacing. I am still staunch in its deliverance, for there are some deep beliefs and feelings that we do not escape, no matter the circumstances that lead to ones exposure. It might well be, whom, or what you were subjected to, and my feeling is that it can not be taken from you, but sometimes given away by you alone….

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YXpH3eHgGE

  4. druxha says:

    correction *toll* not loll….

    *Not only”…another slip up…

  5. druxha says:

    Boy, this post packs a wallop, John! I love my coffee, and arise often at those same wee hours of the morning. But, in my case it is not the java that propels me, for I stop the coffee indulgence at 9 AM. There are other thoughts that encourage awaking at 4 in the morning. I often wonder if these early kick starts are really, perhaps a way of getting control of what one is worried about or are in fear of to begin with. Early bird catches the worm, even on a emotional level? It could be a controlling reflex nevertheless. I do recognize that if I sleep till 5 or later is went the fretting is less a burden.

    And now on to the trust issue. John, I completely understand were you’ve spoken of trusting on an blind level. Think this stems from ones own personality, and its a reflection reaction. You can trust me, therefore surely I can trust you. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

    Oh, I’ve read up on psychology just recently. Fascinating is putting it lightly, Was married to a “narcissist”, and have linked myself with a “border line” personality. No only did I find some enlightenment into them, but discovered a great deal about myself in the process. It was ugly (I’m the care giver) to a step towards a self awareness that I was oblivious to. Has it made me wary? Yes it has, even though it still rubs against my grain. It takes a loll upon my sensibility.

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