When you’re under the gun

“O.K. If that’s the way you want to play it. But when the gun is in my hand, we’re gonna have this conversation again.” Meg Cobrun (played by Mira Sorvino) in The Replacement Killers

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks for me. In particular, there’s been a number of things going on in life that are out of my control.

Similar to what I’ve said about being sick, it’s hard to feel like you have that calm stability at your center when things are being done to you that you can’t control.

And so again I’m looking at the question of how to hold space with what I’m feeling and not let it redefine me. Or, another way I suppose of saying it: how do I deal with these situations I can’t control and not lose the sense of being in control of myself and my life entirely?

It’s a bigger challenge than you may at first think. When, like me, you’re naturally energized by being in control, being out of control takes your energy away. Be in that situation long enough and you can start to feel like you never actually had control and that this weakened, put-upon person being pushed around and bullied by others is who you really are.  Similar to the extrovert forced into isolation, or the introvert unable to withdraw to recharge, you’re cut off from your natural source of energy.

But because we who like and need to be in control view these times as weakness or failure, there’s no real discussion about how to deal with them. And we have to deal with them: no one can be in control all the time. But lacking any discussion on how to handle them, we face a greater risk of them transforming from setbacks into true failures and permanently (or nearly so) cutting us off from our source of energy and vitality.

For me, it’s a real struggle. It’s a challenge I’ve only recently identified for myself. It certainly goes a long way to explaining why I was in such a bad way when I left my old job: I had been powerless and bullied for years (just as I had growing up). In many ways I’ve only just recently truly recovered from that experience: that’s over two years of healing time.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had my first real taste of that kind of fight once again since that healing. And so now the question is, how to deal with it and not lose what I’ve gained.

What I’ve come up with so far is that, much like with being sick, it starts with accepting the reality of things you can’t change: understanding that there are always things in life that one person can’t control (especially in a culture as bureaucratized as ours). Then, trying to hold on to that sense of yourself as best you can and try to steer yourself through the situation as best as you’re able so that once through you can return to that place of calm stability.

The best, most inspiring example of this that I’ve seen is in the 1998 film The Replacement Killers. At one point, John Lee (played by Chow Yun Fat) has kidnapped Meg Coburn at gunpoint to force her to make a false passport for him. When she starts to indicate resistance, he points the gun at her and cocks it. At this point, she accepts her lack of control gracefully while still asserting her ultimate control by indicating that they’ll have this conversation again when the roles are reversed.

It’s only a moment in the film but it’s delivered with calm and stability that indicates an acceptance of temporary circumstances while maintaining a firm sense of one’s self and power.

I can’t claim to be dealing with current events quite so well. It is, after all, a movie so perhaps no one really does. But at least it gives me something to aim for.