There seem to be so many things in life that are contradictory. Take for example, comparison. Comparison can be helpful in motivating or inspiring us towards a goal. It can prove that something is possible and we can do it too. It can also cause us to feel defeated, and that we’re never going to be as good. Why even try?
The actual definition of comparison is: “the act of looking at things to see how they are similar or different.” Yet we do much more. We experience comparison as a scale by which to measure ourselves against others- deeming ourselves better than or less than, superior or worthless.
Although it seems malicious, it’s inherent.
Comparison is a psychological way in which we process the world. It’s how we invisibly grade ourselves and give ourselves a sense of place, safety, and control.
Since we fear or avoid things we don’t understand we are compelled to order them, structure them, and break them down into systems. How many times on the cover of the magazine have you read,
“The #1 Diet Trick,” only to open it up and the trick is . . (drumroll) . . . Exercise and Eat Healthy! Well DUH. Yet they sell us the same prescription in a million different new formulations.
Something about a diet formula and rules to follow appeal to the systematic side in us.
Structure provides a sense of safety. There is danger in unpredictability and we feel it.
This concept is true even in relationships. People are deemed “unsafe” if they do not have a certain predictability about them.
We order things in a way that will maximize our sense of control over ourselves and our environment, and avoid chaos. Chaos is complete disorder and confusion. It is the opposite of control.
Now let’s throw some contradiction back into the mix. Control can be deemed either good or bad, depending on the situation, and whom you ask. As we’ve seen above, comparison has its “light and dark” sides. It’s as though the (good/bad), (light/dark) sides of the trait itself become opposite sides of the same coin.
The Chaos/Control coin is a very interesting one. With anorexia, control might mean allocating how little food is allowed that day and how much exercise. Then forcing yourself to stick to these invisible rules with the hopes of keeping anxiety at bay. However, at the same time, the more you try to control yourself like a slave, the chaos builds.
It’s like stretching a rubber band taught. Eventually it has to snap. And snap it will, perhaps into bulimia, its opposite chaos.
I have felt like the coin flipped back and forth: chaos, control, chaos, control. It was exhausting and all I wanted was to be free. I had become that dangerous and unpredictable person that I didn’t trust. In the midst of my disorder I didn’t want either chaos or control, but I was afraid that if I didn’t control IT, then I would be taken over by IT.
During my last acting class, the teacher said, “The danger lives in your ability to get lost in it.” He was talking about an actor’s ability to get lost in the characters world and make it your own. The interesting thing is that you can’t get lost in the world and continue to have control over it. Getting lost is exactly that, GETTING LOST.
The same lies true for our emotions and our dark sides.
The danger of any disorder or dark emotion
lies in our ability to get lost in it,
literally to the point that it
consumes us and takes us over.
As actors, we train to become “dangerous,” by releasing control and letting the chaos of the world take us in.
In a disorder we vacillate between control and chaos, feeling crappy about both places, until we have found the middle ground. When I was penduluming between the two points, all I wanted was to be free.
Deep down we all want freedom- and the trust in ourselves that freedom brings. Freedom, I believe, is the most dangerous place because it’s where few people live. It’s the fine line at the center of the coin that sits equidistant between chaos and control. Most people don’t understand it so they are left wanting it and fearing it at the same time.
A life of contradiction.
Today, as you flip your metaphorical coin, may you be aware of the point at which the light and dark sides meet. As Robert Frost said so nicely: “He says the best way out is always through . . And I can agree to that, or in so far . . As that I can see no way out but through”
For me, I have found that freedom likes the light, and lies on the other side of the chaos.
Where does freedom lie waiting for you?