What’s Your Sign?

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Full disclosure: I know close to nothing about astrology. I have no idea how planets retrograde or what it means for all the signs. I do, however, follow Thought Catalog religiously, and find its zodiac posts to be alarmingly accurate. The above assertion fits me to a T: I don’t stress easily, but try to control me and I’m instantly claustrophobic. Not physically, of course, but emotionally – down to my core, I feel suffocated.

Horoscopes are vague. They’re intended to be broad enough to apply to everyone yet specific enough to strike a cord. At the very least, they get you thinking. Conforming, being told what to do, and meeting deadlines aren’t just anxiety-inducing to us Sagittarians; we as human beings crave autonomy. We inherently desire the ability to make choices consistent with our own free will.

According to the self-determination theory, human aspiration relies on three core psychological needs: autonomy, competency, and relatedness/the need for social connection and intimacy. In other words, we need to feel that we are free to make our own decisions, that we’re capable and thriving, and that we’re connected to other people. Satisfy all three, they say, and find your bliss. Restrict them, however, and you’ll experience more than just claustrophobia.

Constraints on our autonomy can both destroy our sense of happiness and spark retaliation. Throw incompetence and isolation into the mix and you’ve got the perfect storm. Interestingly (and sadly) enough, that is exactly what one experiences when they have dementia. Luckily, we can do something about it.

For whatever God forsaken reason, it seems as though our instinctual reaction when a loved one starts deteriorating is to completely take over. Are they drinking enough water? Have they gotten enough sleep? What about their diet – are there three square meals a day? Coffee’s out of the question, as are sugars and red meats. Che cazzo?! Innocently and with the best intentions, we as caregivers assume total control. What we don’t realize, however, is that our authority may do more harm than good.

Research shows that the desire for and assertion of power are sometimes misconstrued; its appeal is not, in fact, to control things but rather to control oneself:

“Power as autonomy allows one person to ignore and resist the influence of others and thus to shape one’s own destiny. … Generally, when people say they want power, what they really want is autonomy. And when they get that autonomy, they tend to stop wanting power.”

The Atlantic: People Want Power Because They Want Autonomy

When it comes to dementia, we so naively take the reins and are confused by the reaction. We use tough love to set new standards and enforce rules with no real bearing. Could nonna benefit from cutting ice cream out of her diet? To some degree, I’m sure. Would nonno nap less after breakfast if he skipped the nightly news? Yes, most likely. Odds are he’d also fight your bedtime.

Put yourself in their shoes. Try to think objectively of what is necessary and practice patience and acceptance. When your influence is required, be mindful of its implications. After all, wouldn’t you be pissed if someone messed with your routine? Sagittarius or not, I bet you would.

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