The Trichotomy of Control =
1) Things we can control.
2) Things we can’t control.
3) Things we can sort of control.
The hard part is telling the difference. And the harder part is becoming fatalist about #2.
We are a perfecting society. We strive to be the best, smartest, strongest, healthiest, kindest, loveliest, etc.
I adore self-improvement. I believe in self-improvement. Hence, this program.
But I abhor perfection. It is impossible and uninteresting. At best, perfection is boring, at worst, debilitating.
One: First, focus on identifying #2 from the Trichotomy:
Recognizing what we can’t control will free up brain space.
Write down three aspects of your body you might like to control, but you can’t. Make sure you can tell the difference between aspects you can’t control and actions you can control.
If you start to worry about them, look at the list again and tell yourself, “what is, is.”
- The size of a diastasis
- The grade of a prolapse
Two: Then, identify three actions you can control:
- Performing weekly exercises
- Calling the doctor
- Keeping a food journal
Whenever you feel like you have no control, glance at this list and take action.
You can write these lists anywhere you like. I prefer index cards. Some moms like virtual notes on their phones.
Don’t worry about making a separate list for Trichotomy #3 (things you can sort of control):
Technically, most things are sort of in your control. For example, having surgery is in your control because you can make the decision, but the outcomes are not in your control.
Furthermore, although the decision is in your control, the physical problems necessitating the decision are not in your control.
However, whether you commit to exercises that will help those symptoms is in your control.
But, if those exercises actually help is out of your control. And on and on.
Ultimately, surgery (abdominal or pelvic) is sort of in your control.
However, simply saying “surgery is sort of in my control” isn’t that helpful. The key is separating out the gray area into #1 and #2 so that you can stop worrying about what you can’t control and instead focus on what you can.
Making these distinctions also helps create agency. If everything feels “sort of” in your control, you might be tempted to either a) interpret this as you having no power or b) interpret this as you having too much power. Pick apart what “sort of ” in control really means and identify what you can do and what you can stop trying to do (like controlling outcomes).
Return to Week 11
- The trichotomy has been adapted from William Braxton Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. ↩