There is a notion in Chapter 17 of the Dao De Jing that states the best leader is one who is barely seen, one who guides quietly without force, so that when others make decisions, they did so on their own. This leads to a distinction between control and support. As a leader, it often helps to become aware of where exactly we are supporting others in their goals and where we are, on the contrary, trying to control others with our own plans.
Control manifests when we aim to suggest, influence, or manipulate others to behave in ways WE want them to behave, to advise they change in the direction WE think is best for them. We make THEIR path about our selves, and this is fundamentally egocentric. This strategy rarely results in our getting what we want (THEIR change for OUR sake) and never develops a healthy relationship dynamic. Support on the other hand is done solely with the interests of others in mind. We help and counsel others along the path THEY have chosen for themselves. We may hold others accountable for their actions but only in order to assist them in living the life they believe is best for them; if you don’t agree with their choices, it’s not your place to add your two cents, unless asked for your opinion or perspective (or unless of course the one in question is your own minor child). Now ask yourself, where and with whom are you being controlling or supportive?
On the other end of the spectrum, it is also important to ask who in your life is aiming to support or control you, and how you feel about their position. You can always instruct someone to stop their counsel or tell them you don’t need help. But the important aspect of this side is recognizing where you are feeling controlled. If/when you ever get emotionally triggered by the notion of someone aiming to control you, it is not because they CAN, but rather because you’re afraid they might be able to. In reality, you could NEVER be controlled—it’s impossible (unless you are physically locked up). YOU are making choices whether or not to act submissively, rebelliously, or in any other way—it’s your decision. Sometimes submission is an intelligent strategy, but recognize that YOU are making that choice and no one is actually controlling you. Perhaps you’d like to avoid the potential consequences or fallout of not behaving submissively, but again this is your choice—they don’t have remote controls to your brain. You can start and stop acting submissively whenever you’d like, consciously making the decision to deal with whatever comes as a result. Only when you are absolutely terrified of risking the relationship by not behaving submissively, do you subconsciously tell yourself the story that you are being controlled. And this fear, which leads to self-abandonment and feelings of loss of independence, leads to unhealthy, co-dependent relationships. Act consciously and strategically, and always be willing to risk relationships for the sake of your own peace and health.
Control and support are important notions to consider. Many times we find ourselves unconsciously aiming to control others or feeling controlled ourselves. But in line with spiritual philosophies, such as those expressed through the Taoist tradition, the sooner we break the illusion that we can control or be controlled by anything outside of ourselves, the sooner we arrive at inner peace, clarity, and a presence in reality. And the sooner everyone gets what they want for themselves!