The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield’s Control Dramas
I considered doing an entire review on Redfield’s work – but I figured it would be better to create a content hub of the Insights, each one earning its one article. I want to start with the 4th insight, but before I do I will share the 12 Insights as found in the literature (Celestine Prophecy, etc.).
- Noticing Synchronicity
- The World Has a Spiritual Design
- “Giving” The Karmic Design
- Human Control Dramas
- The Spiritual Connection
- Sensing a Life Mission
- Following Intuition
- Giving Energy Increases Synchronistic Experiences
- Fulfilling Human Destiny
- Life In Heaven – Guiding Us On Earth
- The Power of Prayer
- The Sensation of God’s Presence Inside Us
What Are Human Control Dramas?
Alcoholics Anonymous captures the basis of Redfield’s idea in a manner that’s palpable to most – particularly those suffering from addiction. The passage can be found in their celebrated chapter ‘How It Works.’
The first requirement is that you see that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collission~ with something or somebody, even though our motives may be good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show: is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wishes, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrangements our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, as with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits.
What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself some more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still, the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when trying to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a producer of confusion rather than harmony?
Our actor is self-centered – ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired businessman who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the preacher who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; politicians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. Whatever their protestations, are not these people mostly concerned with themselves, their resentments, or their self-pity?
Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly, without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self, which later placed us in a position to be hurt.
A control drama is a script the actor observes.
When someone feels powerless they unconsciously try to manipulate and take power from another.
Control dramas are unconscious ways of behaving that some people use to gain power or energy from another person and to essentially, “get their way with others.” This is done by making others pay attention to them and then elicit a certain reaction from them. This often causes imbalance and drama in our interpersonal relationships.
Most of us can be in a control drama automatically, without even realizing what we are doing and to what extent and expense. Your need to defend and engage in defensive responses with someone means you are caught in a control drama and you will thus, “react.”
Considering the many angles his vision explores, this is the one that I thought was not only ingenious but doubly helpful in understanding and emotionally surviving interpersonal dynamics.
Which, almost goes without saying, is indispensable for an individual in recovery.
Why Is It Important We Properly Handle Interpersonal Relationships?
Aristotle once remarked that mankind is a rational and social animal – we only live, reason, survive, prosper, etc, in groups. Another philosopher correctly asserted, “the essence of man is tribal.” And another, by the name of Epicurus, believed transcendence was ultimately found in community. Adlerian Psychology – Individual Psychology – is contingent upon this relational, social nature of man if it is to have any coherence whatsoever. Further, Individual Psychology has deeply influenced modern cognitive therapy…so what does this mean?
It is this… If you are a human – which I’m presuming you are – then you must learn to live in the group. Understand that I am not advocating that one must live in an Epicurean commune to experience human flourishing; I am, however, arguing for the necessity of being emotionally communal. That is, emotional and mental health is deeply relational; it is embedded in our molecular code.
But if our essence is communal, you may ask, “why is it so damn difficult!”
Scarcity or Abundance?
Two mentalities exist – perhaps “identity” is more fitting – whatever we chose to call it, it’s an orientation from which all comprehension flows. In philosophical circles, this is called a worldview. If you’ve never heard this concept, it’s exactly as it sounds – “a general conception of the universe.”
It answers myriad questions, such as:
- Who am I?
- Who are they?
- Who am I in relation to them?
The Worldview Determines Life Experience
If who I am – or perceived to be – is a lone wolf, all alone in this untrustworthy, cut-throat world, then how will that characterize my relationship with others?
I will see them as the enemy, as the competition in this life of limited resources. I will alienate myself and intentionally insulate myself emotionally. Additionally, this will determine my interactions with them. And what will that look like? Well, they will respond according to how their being treated. which, seemingly will validate my original opinion/view of them.
If I could sum it up in one sentence it would be:
“If you are wearing asshole glasses, everyone will be an asshole.”
Because your worldview will not allow for people who are genuine, kind-hearted, and trustworthy. No, those folks will be edged out of the picture. Only the assholes will be given full focus and attention.
This is only one example of a scarcity worldview. Of course, it could look a million different ways but ultimately all have the same competitive similarities.
Worldview + Interaction With Others = Life Experience
The Control Dramas are born out of a scarcity worldview. I’ll explain each one briefly and give some examples to clarify.
- The Intimidator
- The Interrogator
- The Aloof
- The Poor Me
It’s important to note that these four dispositions are centered around control, as is evident with the name. Recall, if emotional resources are perceived as limited, failure to acquire them is tantamount to death. Moreover, they are primitive in nature and thus not rational.
The Primitive Power Of The Limbic System
The four manipulative tactics are a standard outfitting equipment for individuals and seem to be fully employed by the age of five. It should not be surprising that the limbic system – the emotional sector of the brain – is for the most part fully developed by then.
On the other hand, the rational part of the brain – the frontal cortex – is still in development until about the age of twenty-five. No wonder these habits are so difficult to break. We mastered them by five yet can barely master their counterpart by thirty!
The Four Control Dramas Explained
The names spell with clarity the character inherent in each drama – for this instance, it’s control through intimidation. Let me give a comical albeit realistic example.
The other day my daughter requested a few of America’s greatest cookie – the Oreo. However, bearing in mind we were only thirty minutes until bedtime, I had to deny her request.
Broken hearted she insisted, “but Daddy! Only a few, please!!”
Unfortunately, I remained firm in my resolve. Second request, denied.
At this point, mass hysterics was about to ensue. Resorting to her more primitive and sinister tactics, she locked my eyes with a fierce gaze and boldly declared, “that’s it! You’re not coming to my birthday party!”
Knowing I had been defeated by a far superior force, I folded and handed over the treats. In her dreams… 🙂
This continues into adulthood, that is, the necessity of getting our way, all the attention and energy. Please note that there is more than one way to “steal” energy and attention – to regain control. The class clown is an attention junky, but so is the quiet and reserved, hard to reach student. Both are two sides of the same coin. This leads to the second control drama.
Once more, nothing is a better teacher a than a narrative (==>See Article on Devotionals). Behold! Control through questioning…
Let me explain at the outset that understanding control dramas should never carry connotations of condemnation or self-punishment. Instead, they should namely be a prerequisite to freedom and social reintegration i.e. awareness.
I recall one event that captures this disposition perfectly…
I invited a friend over for dinner last summer. We just had a baby so the house was a bit messy – this, however, was not surprising considering we were a family of four with two dogs and a cat all piled on top of each other in a tiny three roomed square box.
Now this friend of mine was a notorious critic. Often going to extraordinary lengths to point out shortcomings, errors, and lack in practically everything.
Upon arriving at our humble abode – which was pretty clean considering the madness surrounding it – she almost immediately started to show physical distress.
As if the toys on the floor were dirty diapers strewn asunder.
Then she opened her mouth, “what is wrong with you people?”
Luckily, I understood control dramas so I acknowledged what was said by answering quoting Epictetus,
I did not feed into the control drama, I simply pointed out the fallacious reasoning in such a myopic and limited worldview – we all have faults. And I certainly have mine.
I responded to the person wishing to contribute to their life, not to the control tactic wishing to take its control away. The two responses are an eternity apart.
Have you ever seen the “meh” emoji? Yup, that’s the aloof. You never can get anything out of them. It’s like trying to pry open a Russian doll. The minute you think you’ve accomplished something you immediately recognize that you’ve only reached the next layer that needs prying.
Every answer given is quintessentially superficial; never even coming close to broaching substance.
They are the ones who answer questions with questions. They turn yes or no answers to twenty-minute responses. Let me illustrate by giving a recent conversation I had with my good friend Aloof Jerry.
- Me: Hey Jerry, how are you?
- Jerry: Ehhh, good…
- Me: Doesn’t sound good bro, what’s going on?
- Jerry: Ehhh, nothing…you know..
- Me: No Jerry, If I knew I wouldn’t of asked
- Jerry: It’s Mary…(His better half)
- Me: What happened, you guys fighting?
- Jerry: ugh, never mind, don’t worry about it.
- Me: C’mon, spit it out.
- Jerry: no seriously, I don’t want to talk about.
- Me: Ok man, I’ll respect your choice.
- Jerry: Ok. Well, yeah your intuition is sound – we are fighting…
Everybody has that aloof individual in their life. As with all the control dramas, these behaviors are learned and unconscious but as already touched upon – they give the illusion of control and are necessary weapons of an attention and energy thief in the scarcity worldview.
Everybody is familiar with Eeyore, he is the “pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, anhedonic, old grey stuffed donkey who is a friend of the title character, Winnie-the-Pooh (Wikipedia.com).” Out of all the case studies I’ve reviewed, Eeyore’s is a classic case of poor meism.
The poor me always needs saving, fixing, advice, etc, but it’s never quite available to receive it.
Allow me to share a brief anecdote.
One of my friends has fallen on hard times – that much is undeniably true. However, I would argue that what she struggles with the most is not the adversity she faces from without, but the self-imposed adversity she creates within.
She lost her car due to inability to make payments and lost her job due to an illness. Fortunately, she has received government assistance but it’s hardly enough money to survive. Undoubtedly, this only makes the loss seem that much more intolerable.
In addition, she fancies herself as a woman of great pride, thus asking for help is nails on a chalkboard – it’s screeching soul pain.
She will ask for help like this, “can you bring me to the grocery store at 4pm tomorrow?” To which I would reply, “of course, it may not be until later because the girls (my daughters) have ballet.”
She would then get flustered, claim she can never get any help, that no one cares about her and that she’d rather die.
I listen to her frustration but assure her I will be there. Come 7pm I arrive to escort her to the grocery store. However, instead of making the trip, it now appears as if she cannot. She tells me to go away because she’s TOO tired and “sick of it all.”
She’s not going to move. End of story. Credits roll.
As is evident, she perpetuated her victimization – perhaps even created it entirely.
This understanding of self is enveloped by core beliefs of worthlessness, incompetence, and failure. And when such core beliefs direct behavior…well they ultimately create behavior to correspond with that belief. In a word, they validate it.
It doesn’t take a therapist to see the implications of this control drama. How it seeks to control others through pity, guilt, pseudo-compassion, fear, and like others.
The Dance Of Control Dramas
I stated above that these control dramas are learned behaviors – usually by the age of five with the complete development of the brain’s limbic system. Let me demonstrate.
If your mother was an interrogator and your father an intimidator – these two often attract each other (it’s obvious why) – what drama would be your proficiency? Probably the poor me or the aloof.
Again, If your parents were a poor me and an aloof, you’d probably become an interrogator or intimidator. Ultimately, whatever drama would enable you to harness the greatest power and control would become your D.O.C. (drama of choice).
I’m an aloof, should it surprise me that my wife is the persistent interrogator?
Regardless of the control drama that you identify with, this does not define you. Nor should it be used to penalize you.
Instead, it’s the beginning of an awakening. Transcending the illusion of control that keeps us enslaved to our more primitive, less spiritual nature.
Dr. Paul O brilliantly claimed, “Acceptance turns a victim into a hero” (==>Read My Article on Acceptance for more on this subject). Once we accept it, we are free.
Because the underlying assumption of each control drama is that if we can just control people’s behaviors we will be at peace, at rest, and satisfied. But if you’re emotional contentment is contingent upon other people’s behaviors then your in for a world of pain and frustration.
Identify the control drama(s) and accept it. When it no longer possesses you, but you possess it, then you’ll respond much differently to the world around you. Indeed, you might see a whole new world.