Context: when someone thinks they are in control but they aren’t. Like a captain steering his ship in a storm. The captain is trying to control his ship but it isn’t doing any good because the ship is being tossed around by the waves.
You may use the idiomatic expression in vain
If you do something in vain, you do not succeed in achieving what you intend.
The captain tried to control his ship in vain.
To be doing something totally pointless, fruitless, or futile; to be wasting one's time doing something that will not or cannot come to pass.