I think about the kinds of things that drive people crazy, and it dawns on me that there are four kinds of people who deal with stresses. I base my analysis on the two basic things people can try to control: themselves, and that around them. The four kinds of people are defined by what they try to control, and the results thereof.
A Chess Master has complete and total self-control and attempts to wield control over everything else. These rare people tend to amass great power, because they do not let anything affect their emotional states, whether success or failure. They harness everything toward their whims, and they always seem to come out on top in the end.
I’d classify Donald Trump as a chess master, because he seems in complete control of himself, and he exercises sufficient control over everything around him that we often don’t even recognize that control.
The flower children attempt to control absolutely nothing. They let their emotions run free (though they often self-medicate with illegal drugs), they do whatever they feel like, and they expect to be left alone. They drift through life, buffetted about by fortune but unchanged by anything that happens.
The flower child state is very ephemeral, because at some point they will either reach the hedonist paradox (and fall into despair) or they will run afoul of the law. Either they must yield, or the external controls must yield, and as a result almost everyone will attempt to seize some kind of control.
The control freak has no self control, but wants to control everything else. Control freaks tend toward perfectionism, because they hope that a perfect result will bring them inner peace. They’re gross consumers, because they hope that a better external reality will produce a happier inner reality. They are authoritarian, because they get a small thrill when they exert power over others, and they again hope that a superior external reality will bring them inner peace.
We all know many control freaks, and I personally believe they’re the majority of Western individuals (particularly among Millennials). The spread of nihilism, the destruction of culture and tribal integrity, and the general lack of meaning in the world deeply disturbs people. However, because they also believe that they’re fine just the way they are and cannot change, they never attain inner control. Thus, they try to change the world because they hope that will make them happy.
The stoic releases control of the external world but strives for total control of himself. Classically, stoics believed that all events were predestined by the Fates, and no act of man could ever escape the ultimate plan. Because stoics cannot control the world, they strive to control their own emotional states and reactions to the events that occur.
We might seek to rank the four kinds of people in terms of overall happiness and peace. Of course, we would place the Chess Master on the top, because they do not experience highs when good things occur or lows when bad things occur – they have control over their emotional states. As such, they do not need power to bring them happiness or inner peace, but by virtue of their inner strength they naturally seize greater control over the external world.
Next would naturally come the Stoic. Stoics may not have control over the events around them, but neither do they seek such control. They master their inner control, and as a result manage to be happy and content at all times and in all situations.
Next would come the Flower Children, but as noted that state tends to be transient. So long as they are at peace with their lack of control, and they do not come in conflict with the external world, they can be at peace, but any change to that equilibrium would destroy the state.
Finally, the absolute worst situation is the Control Freak. They are in a constant state of misery because they are unable to assume happiness and peace, and they spread that misery by seeking to control everything else. Stoics and Flower Children change nothing, and Chess Masters tend to spread their own strength and control to others, but control freaks spread their own inner states all over.
I leave you with this old poem:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.