This is part two in a blog series. If you haven’t read part one (Psychology in bigfooting – FEAR) yet, please do.
Today, I’d like to talk about control.
When we feel fear of any kind, the natural human reaction is to attempt to gain control of the situation. When we are in actual danger, gaining control can be a helpful response. If that semi-truck is barreling down on you, jumping out of the way is a way to regain control of your safety (fear of being run over). If you are living an unhealthy lifestyle, making better choices in what you eat or how much you exercise is a healthy response to real potential dangers (fear of negative health consequences). On 9/11, passengers on Flight 93 attempted to take control of the situation because they knew they were in danger. That was a healthy response to a real danger.
But things get sticky when we attempt to control one another due to perceived dangers in interpersonal relationships. It makes our relationships unhealthy. If a significant other is manipulating us with guilt because we didn’t go to the company Christmas party with them, they are attempting to control our emotions and behaviors (fear of showing up alone or not having us involved in their life). If a friend has different religious or political views than we do and we get in a heated argument with them, we are trying to control their beliefs (fear of being wrong, of not being respected, or of feeling invalidated by someone whose opinion we value).
When we attempt to control others, we are not controlling ourselves.
That’s an important concept. Our ability to manage our own emotions, our own fear, leads us to a place of peace in which we don’t attempt to flex muscles we don’t have in trying to control another. Control of another is an illusion. We might be able to manipulate someone in the short term, but the “controlee” will balk eventually. The feelings of mistrust and insecurity which come as a result of allowing ourselves to be manipulated for another’s benefit manifest in subtle ways, eventually destroying the other’s hold on us. In some cases, depending upon how self-aware we are, we may never even understand what’s happened… we just somehow break free.
The bigfoot community at large – which includes researchers, witnesses and the “peanut gallery” (those who don’t do actual field research or have never been a witness but simply sit behind their keyboards and opine on what everyone else says or does) – is a perfect example of dysfunction at work. In the bigfoot community, people bicker all the time in an attempt to control one another. Public forums are rife with conflict and discord: individuals arguing about who did what to whom (trying to control public perception and reputation), about whether to kill a Sasquatch or not (trying to control other’s thoughts and actions), about whether Sasquatch is “human or ape” or “paranormal” or “flesh and blood” (trying to control one another’s beliefs through semantic argument), threatening each other with lawsuits, public humiliation or breach of trust (manipulation through fear in order to silence another), and even threats of physical violence from time to time.
When an individual harbors perceived fear of which they are unaware or which is not managed from an internal locus of control, they will inevitably turn toward controlling and manipulating others in order to “deal” with their fear. (They’re not dealing with it. They’re coping with it. Addressing something directly is dealing with it. Coping mechanisms are indicative of dysfunction – unaddressed fear.)
What is ironic about this is that in the process of trying to manipulate others, we give our control away to them. When our locus of control is not firmly internal, it is external. We try to manipulate public perception because we care what others think of us. We try to control other’s ideas and beliefs and actions because we fear those things. At that point, we’re not really in control, are we? Like I said, controlling others is an illusion.
The way we inherently interact with fear and our desire to control others in our personal lives also affects our interactions with the Big Guys in the field. Remember: You can’t leave your personality at home.
It may not be readily apparent, at first glance. But the truth (the WHAT) can’t hide from the question “Why?” if you ask it enough times. To get to the underlying root or cause of an issue (the WHAT), I find asking “Why?” repeatedly is a useful tool. Let’s try it:
In the field, researchers often try to control their interactions with Sasquatch. Why? Because they go into the field with an agenda. Why? Because there is an underlying fear that causes them to have an agenda in the first place.
For instance, a researcher might really want to prove Sasquatch exists. Why? Because he’s put his ego on the line with friends, family, coworkers or peers. Here’s the what: He has a fear of being ridiculed, of being wrong. So he goes out and tries to prove that Sasquatch exists by attempting to gather evidence – perhaps at all costs. His judgment, at this point, is clouded by the desire to prove his critics wrong and himself right. His locus of control is no longer internal – his behavior is affected by the external perception of his friends, family, coworkers or peers in the community.
Here’s another scenario: A researcher may have dreams of being “the one” to solve the mystery once and for all. He wants to shoot/photograph/videotape a Sasquatch. Why? He believes that doing so would afford him status or fame. Why is that important? That question finally leads us to the what: He has a fear of being perceived as insignificant or irrelevant. His locus of control is external – public perception of him controls his actions.
Sometimes, people get upset when I say that researchers have an agenda. They feel offended, deny, minimize or justify it, or accuse me of making a “straw man” argument, as if I’m somehow passing judgment on them rather than simply stating a fact. But the very point of “research” is to study, to collect evidence. Ask any bigfoot researcher what their goal is. A research “organization” without a goal, without a game plan, is not “organized”. Another word for goal is agenda. “But I just want to know whether it exists or not!” A researcher without a goal, without an agenda, without a camera, without an evidence collection bag, isn’t a researcher. They’re a would-be witness.
I’ve been on plenty of organized bigfoot research trips. I was a researcher for 20 years. Researchers attempt to collect evidence in an attempt to prove that Sasquatch exists. It’s not that there is necessarily a nefarious intent. It’s just that there is an INTENT/GOAL/AGENDA period. Long-term witnesses usually just passively experience Sasquatch. They make themselves available to MUTUAL INTERACTION, take what they get, and don’t force the issue – unlike researchers, who are out there to achieve a goal. Therefore, researchers rarely understand when a witness says, “I know they exist. I don’t need to prove it to anyone…” because that is the opposite of their intent.
Occasionally, witnesses end up trying to control their interactions with Sasquatch, too. Here is a scenario I’ve seen several times in the 2+ decades I’ve worked with long-term witnesses: A witness comes forward, having had multiple interactions with a Sasquatch on their property. Until now, their interactions have been successful because they didn’t have an agenda… they allowed the Big Guys to remain in control. However, they naively begin posting on public bigfoot message boards about their encounters in order to share their understanding of the subject and are immediately bombarded by the peanut gallery with demands for “proof” or “evidence” that their stories are true. (The critics on the board are FEARFUL of believing the witness without proof, so they attempt to control the witness by manipulating them into gathering evidence, posting photos, etc.) The witness, feeling ridiculed, usually does one, or several, of the following:
1. The witness states, “I know they exist. I don’t need to prove it to anyone.” They continue to get bombarded until they get sick of it and leave the forum. They have maintained their internal locus of control and have not allowed themselves to be manipulated. The critics, however, will give them a place of honor in the “hall of shame” and they will be the butt of running jokes from then on. (I’ve seen this happen to many witnesses I know, unfortunately.)
2. The witness gives in to the demand and posts a photo or two. The other forum members dissect the photo, find it unworthy, and continue their demands. At this point, the witness usually responds with either #1, #3.
3. The witness goes out into the field in their habituation area and begins trying to collect evidence to silence the critics. Now that the witness has allowed their locus of control to shift outwardly to the critics, they begin to attempt to control their interactions with the Sasquatch. The critics have successfully manipulated them into having an agenda. Their behavior reflects this as they attempt to take photographs, put up camera traps, and collect evidence. Their behavior has shifted from that of a witness (a passive participant) to that of a researcher (someone with an agenda) and the habituation suffers.
4. The witness, tired of presenting evidence that is not “good enough” for the critics, begins to hoax evidence in desperation. The critics see through the hoaxes – the witness is ridiculed and dismissed entirely. Nevermind that the witness really did have ongoing interactions. They are now labeled a hoaxer and a “hoaxer” they will forever be in the minds of the critics.
Now, let’s look at #1 again. “I know they exist. I don’t need to prove it to anyone.” There is a powerful message in that statement – and one that speaks directly to our topic of control.
Control is not the antidote to fear. Acceptance is.
When we are faced with something that frightens us that we cannot control, such as another person’s ideas, beliefs, behavior… the healthiest thing we can do is accept that and move on. Sometimes, we can move on with that person. We can simply accept that they feel differently than we do, respect that, and continue our relationship. Sometimes we cannot. If someone is interacting with us in a controlling or unhealthy manner, we can accept that (have to, really, because we cannot control them) but we can remove ourselves from the situation if that is the healthiest decision.
Another thing that helps us to stay in control of ourselves while not controlling others – in other words, maintaining healthy relationships with ourselves and the world around us – is boundaries. We’ll talk about that in the next blog post.
As always, your comments are welcome below.
As we delve deeper into this series, I want to provide you with a few of the key concepts we’ve discussed so far and a little more information on them that you might find useful:
Fear – Fear is the primary emotion behind secondary emotions such as jealousy, anger, insecurity, intolerance, distrust, hate, arrogance.
Dysfunction – Relationship dysfunction occurs when fear is not directly addressed; rather, knee-jerk reactions or coping mechanisms come into play and we attempt to control others rather than controlling our own emotions and behaviors.
Emotional Quotient – Also known as Emotional Intelligence or EQ, this concept describes our emotional maturity. People with a high EQ take responsibility for their emotions, control themselves rather than attempting to control others, deal with disappointment, fear and anger in a healthy manner, communicate effectively, maintain healthy boundaries for themselves and respect the boundaries of others. It has nothing to do with IQ. People with a high IQ can have a low EQ and visa versa.
Locus of control – An internal locus of control comes from taking responsibility for our emotions, thoughts and behaviors (responsibility or “the ability to respond” ). When we have an internal locus of control, we are in control of and responsible for ourselves. An external locus of control leads to feelings of helplessness, blaming others, and feeling like a perpetual victim. Read more here.
Acceptance – Wikipedia describes acceptance as “a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. The concept is close in meaning to ‘acquiescence’, derived from the Latin ‘acquiēscere’ (to find rest in).” Acceptance allows us to find peace in situations that are beyond our control.