I 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?