None of us like to think of ourselves as controlling people but I really feel that this battle for control is one that so many of us are fighting on a daily basis.
In order to change things, we need to get honest about our own compulsive drive to control the people and situations around us. This might be something seemingly simple like dictating the restaurants we go to with friends, or what time we eat. It might be that we are heavily invested in giving “advice” to friends or family to be ‘helpful’ and then ending up feeling betrayed when others don’t do what we want. When we struggle with control, we also struggle to build intimate relationships with others and to trust. If you choose to try to control someone, the intimacy will disappear. If you choose intimacy, you won’t be in control. Control and Intimacy are opposites. You can only ever have one or the other.
So many of us attribute our controlling behaviours to trying to manage our stress and anxiety levels. I 'need' to do (fill in the blank) because otherwise I'll be stressed/overworked/late/unhappy/disorganised etc.
Actually, it’s the need to control that fuels our stress and anxiety levels. We resort to trying to control our external worlds when we can’t control our own emotional states. For example, have you ever noticed how you feel compelled to re-organise your whole wardrobe after an argument with a close friend? Or have you started a full-on exercise regime after missing out on another opportunity? Recognising where these behaviours are showing up in your life is often the first step.
The wish to control others comes from a deep-rooted wound within and so often people don't investigate that, instead we project our fears onto external people and things.
The compulsion to control serves as a defensive and protective function against our own feelings of vulnerability, which we associate with powerlessness and shame. We will avoid feeling vulnerable at all costs and it is this fear that is really driving our controlling behaviours. When we acknowledge this fear, we are able to reflect and change these destructive behavioural patterns. In very basic terms; we cannot possibly control everyone and everything even if we wish to and so we need to let go. Let go of controlling others and ourselves. We can still take responsibility and be free and joyful…control isn’t our only option.
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