Is being in control illusion or reality?
Five things that can identify a control issue – does this sound familiar?
- ou believe that if someone would change one or two things about themselves, you (and therefore they) would be happier and so helpfully point it out to them although the constructive criticism is really an attempt to get your own way.
- You struggle with ambiguity and not knowing something. Not the ‘why is my sister so vague about time’ frustration but things like why your partner is 5 minutes later home from work or getting to the station 2 hours ahead just in case you miss the first 2 trains.
- You micromanage others to make them fit your (often unrealistic) expectations. You don\’t believe in imperfection and you don\’t think anyone else should either – especially in others!
- You sit in judgement on others\’ behaviour and withhold attention until they fall in line with your expectations. You are also adept at fear mongering – presenting worst-case scenarios in an attempt to influence someone.
- Instead of just being yourself, you attempt to get others alongside by managing their impression of you.
Illusion or reality?
Life inevitably involves experiences that bring both pain and pleasure to everyone. Those who understand and readily accept this fact can be happier because they are fine that there are things outside of their control. We use the word ‘luck’, to characterise experiences to which we can’t link causal factors. In reality even those situations which we think have been caused by our efforts are usually brought about by a much more complex set of factors that are way beyond anything we can do by ourselves.
Our ‘control’ is actually the illusion of control. In relationships, controlling fails to provide the security that we crave, serves to perpetuate the insecurity and disharmony that we seek to eliminate and can make those around us very unhappy. Many of us carry these attitudes and behaviours with us throughout our lives, mistakenly believing that while things may not be going exactly the way we would like them to, the fact that they are going at all is due to the efforts that we’re making to stay in control.
It is always difficult for us to challenge our thinking or to recognise that some of our beliefs aren’t grounded in reality and so we keep reaffirming this thinking and become addicted to reinforcing it by whatever means necessary.
True intimacy depends upon both partners feeling safe, trusted, trusting, unthreatened, accepted, and cherished. Operating from an intention to control, rather than an intention to connect prevents us from having the kind of experience with others that we most deeply desire. Until we are willing to risk the kind of vulnerability and openness that deep connection requires, our controlling behaviours will impede rather than enhance our ability to be fully available to others.
You are only responsible for you. Rather than attempt to control others, it is better to start work on changing yourself. Learning to let go is not easy and have realistic expectations of yourself (rather than the unreal ones) and how quickly it takes to change beliefs and attitudes.
Some possible starting points are:
Be more realistic in your expectations of others.
Lets face it, my son is not going to stop messing around when he should be putting his shoes on ready to leave for school so I really need to not get wound up about it every day. It would be more constructive if I take responsibility for my own frustration and approach it from another direction. Maybe give him more time and offer him a challenge and reward if he can do it within a time limit. If it doesn’t happen, so what?
Never compromise your self-respect by altering your core beliefs
Practice being yourself and knowing what your core beliefs are. If you believe in honesty, don’t get dragged into a dishonest situation.
Practice being vulnerable with people you trust
Start small. Being vulnerable can begin with admitting you are afraid of missing your train or that you are feeling insecure about your partner working with someone attractive at work.
There are some things that you won’t know
The fact is that life is made up of a lot of unknowns. You could practice accepting little unknowns to start with. You will begin to see that not knowing can be quite helpful sometimes.