The Control Illusion

The Control Illusion

Like many of the great facets and qualities of the Human species, the ability to control, create and be conscious occur in a paradox.  As ways of engaging with a challenge they are essential, but when they become survival-driven they are devastating and self-defeating.

In our house move, building relationships and being responsible was at the same time helpful and positive in keeping possibilities on the table. But it also was our way of controlling the process and blind-sided us from recognizing the warning signals that all was not what we thought it to be.  Several times people warned us about possible issues, and we refused to consider and investigate these for fear of breaking and damaging the relationships we had built.  Also, our building relationships with one party led to another feeling excluded and not valued, and thereby stopped them from alerting us to the danger signals they saw which turned out to be legitimate.   Our ego stopped us from considering that the relationships we had built were not as robust and inclusive with all parties as we thought.

Arthur Koestler, in his book “The Ghost in the Machine” 2, shares with Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle the view that the mind of a person is not an independent, non-material entity, temporarily inhabiting and governing the body. Heralding the idea of Bohm & Krishnamurti’s “Wrong Turn” fifty years later, Koestler concluded that the human race, owing to some “faults/defects” during evolution, may be marching to its early end.

Koestler also offered the idea of the Holon to illuminate the dichotomy between parts and wholes and to account for both the self-assertive and integrative tendencies of an organism. Holons exist simultaneously as self-contained wholes in relation to their sub-ordinate parts, and as dependent parts when considered from the inverse direction.  They are self-reliant units that possess a degree of independence and can handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions, i.e., they have a degree of autonomy. They are also simultaneously subject to control from one or more of these higher authorities.  The first property ensures that holons are stable forms that are able to withstand disturbances, while the latter property signifies that they are intermediate forms, providing a context for the proper functionality for the larger whole.


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Tony TurnbullTony Turnbull is a vastly experienced manager and consultant. He worked for 25 years in the consumer products industry in supply chain, HR and product launch functions and spent the next 25 years consulting to top international companies. His approach focuses on how individuals and organisations can achieve breakthrough improvements through building powerful working relationships. Tony has a passion for innovation and is continually inventing new leadership approaches that keep his clients performing at the edge of their capabilities.

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