Many years ago, I asked a shy, geeky friend of mine if he ever felt that he was being watched as he moved through his life, the decisions he made, the places he went, things he said, etc. I asked if he ever felt that he wasn't really in control of the things that he did, as though he were a puppet, and someone else was pulling the strings. That the things that pop into our minds are placed there by some higher being, that the things we do and the choices we make are actually dictated to us.
He said he understood the feeling of being watched, but he never felt that he wasn't in control.
I said that I often felt myself doing and saying things that seemed to come from nowhere, things I couldn't remember saying or doing even a few minutes later. He looked at me very strangely. I said that sometimes weeks would go by when I felt that every move I made, from brushing my teeth to stubbornly refusing to do homework, was being dictated to me by some higher being. It was almost like hearing voices in my head, only it wasn't voices, it was just a feeling, a feeling that I needed to do this thing, that I should say this and not that. My friend stared at me long and hard. We changed the subject.
Not too long after that, I told my therapist about that conversation. I had been hoping that my friend, whose childhood had been as socially miserable as mine, might have felt the same way from time to time. I was disappointed that he didn't. I was hoping someone might understand.
My therapist told me that this was a type of dissociation. It might have begun when I was a child, hearing my parents screaming at each other in the living room, while I played upstairs in the toyroom. I was bullied a lot at school, and there was a lot of conflict at home. Teachers were indifferent, children were cruel and fickle, and my parents were unreliable - supportive one minute, screaming at me or just not there the the next. I didn't have a "safe place" or anyone I could trust. Both my grandmothers and most of my neighbors were very religious, so the concept of God was planted in my mind very early. I created a protector, what everyone said God was supposed to be. I was told that we were supposed to let God run our lives. At seven, which is as far back as most of my memories go, I took that literally. The habit stuck.
I worried for a long time that I was delusional, that I was really seriously crazy. Since I never committed any crimes or tied to hurt anybody, nobody worried. Outside of a few broken hearts, I didn't do much damage, although those broken hearts were pretty dramatic at the time. Everyone I talked to, every therapist, every friend, everyone, told me I was fine, I wasn't crazy, I'd just been through a lot, and I needed to just talk things out and move on.
All these years later, I know they were right, but I also now see that people treated me with kid gloves. Nobody had the courage to say "Your parents were difficult, you were abused at school, you were raped in high school, you felt abandoned when your grandpa died." Nobody would use those words - nobody had the guts to tell it like it was. Everybody was so precious with me. Did they think I would break? Snap? If they didn't believe I was crazy, they must have thought I was on the brink.
Nowadays, I do feel that I am in control of my life... sort of. I know certain this-world things are out of control. I can't affect the weather. I can't hire myself. I can't cast myself. I can't make people like me. I can't change the past. However, I can monitor my speech, and I am in control of the choices I make. To say "no" instead of "maybe later." To say "I'm sorry" instead of "let me explain." To wear the warmer jacket, to keep my wallet in my pocket, to walk past the shoe store without looking in the window. Little things, that can have a big impact. I have that power, and I use it every day.
I still, however, feel that God is watching me. Except now, I think she's not so much worried as she is amused. Maybe I'm God's favorite TV show? Maybe I'm just what I was meant to be - one of millions of beloved daughters.