Trust and control

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 13, 2022, 10:00 PM | comments: 0

I have trust issues. It wasn't always this way, and really I think I've been overly trusting, naïve even, for most of my life. But with age and experience comes a lot of realization about how many people have let me down, taken advantage of me or otherwise done me wrong. It doesn't feel good to think about that. It's hard not to take every slight personally, even when it's not personal.

But if you peel back the top layer, I think what it's really about is control. Not being able to trust is really accepting that there are a lot of things that you don't have control of. Embracing a lack of control is really hard, and I suspect it's one of the biggest reasons that people suffer from anxiety, or worse, develop paranoia and, to be cyclical, an inability to trust. I can think of specific instances in my life whether it be in college, personal relationships or work, where that spiral has caused me to feel pretty low.

Perspective hasn't helped me, though it probably should. Long-term outcomes generally are OK, and especially in midlife, it's not useful to spend time on things that do not serve your remaining time on the planet. I often wonder where that threshold is, where one's natural reaction to the lack of control is, "Ain't nobody got time for that." It's slightly related to my previously disclosed need to not have to make any decisions. Accounting for a lack of control and trust means that you have to make more decisions.

I've seen it suggested that the sort of thing I'm trying to avoid or mitigate here is an attempt at opting out of adulting. I can assure you though that I'm not one of those entitled types looking for shortcuts. Adulting is fine, if a little exhausting at times. But there is a mental health cost, a cognitive load, associated with chaos. (Sidebar: I don't know how Type-A's can even live their lives, because they've gotta know how much is out of their control.) If the pandemic did anything for us, it made us realize how important mental health is, especially in chaotic and scary times. Wanting to get better at maintaining it is hardly wanton subversion of adulthood.

The optimist in me, which has taken a beating in recent years, might embrace chaos as an opportunity, but it's hard when you're tired. I'm a little tired. I haven't come out of the pandemic fog completely yet, despite some leaps forward this year. I feel like I need contingencies. Backup plans for missed expectations, instead of lower expectations. If nothing else, I should be able to trust myself.


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