Finding control

May 31, 2020

Holding on to the little joys in our lives can be likened to holding on to a life raft

Control cannot solely be defined as either good or bad; that depends on the context. This includes how it’s used, what it’s used for and to what extent.

There are both positive and negative manifestations. There is feeling in control of your emotions, your life and your future. There’s ‘taking back control,’ a phrase that became a psychologically powerful one in heated political debates.

Then there are the darker undertones, such as being controlling or controlled. There is the lack of control, a term that has a different resonance now. When used in a negative sense, control or a lack thereof has the potential to cause ripple effects of anxiety, depression and panic. Current affairs are living proof of this.

The whole world is in the midst of a rocky and uncertain time. Unemployment is at an all-time high, mental health is deteriorating, each day feels radically and adversely different from the other and we can’t even seek comfort in the form of a hug lest we expose ourselves to a fatal and incurable virus. Necessary as these restrictions are, they can still feel intrusive, and given that virtually every aspect of this pandemic is being handled outside of our control, it is fair for people to feel threatened, insecure and afraid. This is all without taking into account additional disasters.

Earlier this week, in what felt like the first time in forever, media outlets had a story to cover aside from the coronavirus. A plane flying from Lahore to Karachi crashed minutes before its scheduled landing. Within a matter of hours, news of family, friends, acquaintances and public figures on board began to spread and heartfelt condolences to passengers started going viral online.

Living in Pakistan means you’re so exposed to news of deaths and tragedies that you may develop a bit of apathy towards them. This apathy, or de-sensitisation, can create a distance between us and the news stories, making them sometimes seem very strictly like just stories.

But stories are ultimately about people and sometimes those who are in pain. It can be tough to reconcile. Like many others, I felt politically disheartened and as though my already weakened spirit had plummeted thanks to forces I couldn’t control. I felt as though I was sinking.

It was during this time that I found that holding on to the little joys in our lives can be likened to holding on to a life raft. Mundan as they may seem, in times of hopelessness, these tiny victories have the immense power to bring a sense of motivation and optimism back into our lives. With everyday feeling more like a humiliating reminder of our helplessness, we must remind ourselves that we can still grow. In the face of an unpredictable future, it is important to find things that console us and inspire resolve. Be it a carefree conversation with a friend, the excitement of trying out a new recipe or the minor comedic relief from your favourite television show. These seemingly inconsequential things can serve as reminders that we can still do, shape, build and grow. To some extent, we can still control.

As a nation, this has perhaps been one of the toughest weeks we’ve had to collectively get through. The toll these multiple disasters have had on us may, at times, become apparent in our physical language. Right now, as I write this reflection, is one of those times. My heartbeat has hastened and my palms have started to sweat, but I’m relinquishing some control by telling myself it’ll stop when my body says it is right.

I’m also exercising some control by trying to make sense of my thoughts by typing them down, rather than lying in bed and allowing them to take over. During this, I remind myself of the little joys I experienced this week; meeting my baby cousin after a prolonged period of time, getting positive reinforcement from my employer, staying up until the early hours of the morning on a group call with my friends. I allow these to instill a tiny sense of hope within me.

In practice, this is probably what control should look like. It’s a constant push and pull between holding tightly onto my life raft and, at times, letting go — between swimming steadily against the current, and sometimes just letting yourself drift.

The writer is a graduate of SOAS, London, and is interested in social issues and popular culture. She tweets @ameeraanii

Finding control