In watching a short BBC story about North Korea (Surprising images from inside North Korea), I was reminded of the need for control – and how it looks very similar in North Korea (and similar places) and in ourselves and our own lives.
North Korea is a country run by fear and they feel a need to control their citizens and anyone visiting. As the photographer in the video says, he could only visit approved locations, he had to stay in special hotels for foreigners (sometimes as the only guest), his “guides” were in the rooms next to his and emerged as soon as he opened his door, and so on.
In other words, North Korea is behaving as a terrified person. Everything needs to be controlled, often harshly. And if it’s not, there is the fear (I assume) that everything will fall apart. (That may be true. The totalitarian regime may well fall apart giving space for something else to emerge – perhaps a South Korean style modern democracy.)
Most of us have probably met people who seem a bit like this. Who tightly try to control a situation. Who seems terrified of things going “out of control” in themselves or their life.
And, if we are honest, we can probably find it in ourselves.
When am I acting like North Korea? Can I find examples of…. A time when I felt I needed to control a situation? When I desperately wanted to present a certain image of myself while keeping less savory parts hidden? When I felt a strong need to maintain a certain image? Or to maintain things the way they are? Or to avoid certain experiences I was terrified by?
In a sense, that’s the gift of North Korea. It shows us how a tightly controlled country – run by fear and through fear – looks. And, if we allow, North Korea can be a mirror for ourselves. When am I like North Korea?
What do I fear would happen if I am not like that? If I am more authentic and real and allow others to see me as I am (in all the humanness)? If I allow situations to unfold as they do with less of an attempt at tight control? How would it be to try it?
Some additional thoughts:
Why is North Korea the way it is? Of course, there are clear historical reasons (the war and connections with China etc.). Mainly, the leaders are terrified of giving the people are more free rein because it would – almost certainly – be the end of the current regime. There is a lack of trust that it would be OK or perhaps better than it is currently. Again, that fear may be justified since the few who benefit from the current regime most likely would benefit far less from a more liberal society and a democracy.
Again, that’s similar to us. We may fear that without a tight control – or attempt at control – in some situations and with some parts of ourselves, things would go haywire. We may fear to lose respect or admiration, or the image of being a certain type of person, or some perceived advantage, or perceived control over someone else or a situation.
So in exploring this, we need to address the fear, and we need to gradually find trust in ourselves – what’s in us, and in life in general. Mainly, we need to learn to trust that we are OK as we are – warts and all.