An eerie silence has descended upon our house. For several days six children, six adults, two dogs and a cat have been compressed into limited living quarters. Chaos has reined supreme. Now the hustle and bustle of the Holiday season been replaced by quiet. We remain alone. They all have left. Already we are feeling a void.
Making plans to entertain so many little people presents a challenge. It is difficult to meet the multiple, and often conflicting, wishes of a children’s group. Parents are forced to make arbitrary decisions for the greater good of all. In turn, children are forced to accept the parental decisions. All they can do is complain that it is not fair. Adolescence introduces a degree of rebellion as the teenager strives to establishing his own values and independence. Teenagers so badly want to be adults. Yet, the very word adulthood carries with it the pernicious illusion that we have more autonomy over our lives than we really have. Sooner or later, if we live long enough, life intrudes and demolishes our most splendid plans. These intrusions might take the form of unexpected illnesses, accidents or what we call acts of God. More often they represent a chain of events set in motion by previous bad decisions. To avoid taking responsibility for such failures we blame bad luck or fate. I tend to blame the devil. She seems to punish me for all the good I have been doing!
Some even suggest that there is no such thing as free will. I disagree. It does seem to exist to a limited degree. However, most of the major decisions in life are probably forged outside of the ream of consciousness. A prime example might be the mental illness known as “being in love.” Rarely do we choose that beautiful state of being on a voluntary basis. It just seems to be an inevitable happening. The same might be said for our choice of career or our choice of friendships. In regard to religion we most often allow the choice to be made by our family of origin. And then never underestimate the power of genetics. Studies of adult identical twins separated at birth show a remarkable similarity in intelligence, behavior and even preferences of a trivial nature.
It might be a blow to ones narcissism to admit that we are not complete masters of our fate, that unconscious factors might control most of our truly important decisions. This is a problem for obsessive people who feel they have the ability to control all of their behavior. Some carry this illusion to extremes and attempt to maintain mastery over the smallest details of their lives. We call them control freaks. When I was doing psychotherapy this group would be offended when I suggested that they had little or no control over the truly important things in their lives. When they vigorously objected, I would challenge them to control their aging process or the health and behavior of their adult children.
Perhaps all of us want to believe that we consciously control most of our lives. The possibility of lack of control is too uncomfortable to accept. Yet, each of us have to acknowledge that certain of our repetitive and unusual behaviors are automatic and emerge from some unknown depths within us. They are also the features that make each of us unique and hopefully interesting.