Written by Dr. Eric Perry
Image Credit: Pixabay
“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” ~Thomas Kempis
Many of us attempt to do the impossible on a daily basis. In an effort to prove that we have control over our lives we try to control everything in our environment including the people around us. Essentially, we are trying to control our inner life by controlling the external world. The world is seen as predominately unsafe and unstable unless we are in complete control. This view may be a reflection of the inner chaos and fear that we may be suppressing. Over time, our inner conflicts will begin to seep out and manifest itself in a number of ways. Perhaps you mask your need for control by micromanaging your spouse or in the rigidity of your child’s after-school schedule that accounts for all of their “free time.” If you are not able to control your surroundings you will begin to limit your interactions with the outside world to events and people you can control.
Unlike a work environment where you may be responsible for managing a workforce, trying to control individuals is like trying to control the unwanted weeds on a lawn. People will always find a way to do as they wish when you are not looking. The truth is, no one likes not having control over their lives and at the same time, no one wants to be controlled. Perhaps you were raised in a chaotic environment where your feelings were invalidated and you never felt safe. As an adult, you now need control in order to feel validated and secure. Having control over others allows you to distract yourself from having to deal with unresolved inner conflict. This need for obsessive control is exhausting and will limit the quality of your life. If you do not make changes to your behavior and learn to cope with unpredictability and change soon, you will begin to fear to interact with anything new. By limiting yourself to things and people you can control, you are building a social wall around you.
Here are some suggestions to alleviate your need to control.
1. Redefine yourself
Take the pressure off yourself. Establish that you want to be in control but don’t NEED to be in control. Give yourself permission to relax and stop policing others.
2. Respect others
Accept that other people have their own wants and desires. With some limitations, this includes your child. Allow your child to explore their boundaries in order to learn more about themselves and the world they live in.
3. Adapt your vocabulary
Eliminate the words “should,” “need” and “ought” from your vocabulary and include the word “adaptability.” Stop telling those around you what they need, should and ought to do. Try to limit the use of these words. Instead, when asking someone to do something try to make it a suggestion and give them some options. Realize that it is never too late to adjust to new conditions in your life. Adaptability will allow you to have more flexibility in your life.
What is going on in your own life that you feel you need to control? Perhaps you are projecting (Click here to read my post on Psychological Projection) your lack of control onto other circumstances in your life. Your need to control may also be a result of your upbringing where perhaps you were overcontrolled. It may be helpful to seek professional help from a mental health professional to identify the underlying cause of the behavior.
5. Relinquish the control
Let go of the control and after a while, you will see that it was not the end of the world. By gathering empirical evidence that the world will function properly without your control you can begin to relax. The truth is we do not have much control over many aspects of life. It has its own pace and rhythm and we are just along for the ride.
6. How does it make you feel?
Ask yourself, “How does my need for control make me feel?” The need to control everyone around you and your environment is exhausting. So much time can be spent on trying to make things a certain way while we forget to live in the moment.
7. Positive reinforcement
Make a list of the events that have worked out when you were not in control. Have you been a passenger on an airplane and landed safely? Have you made it to an appointment even when you thought the traffic would make you late? By making this list you can see that much of life is really not in our control.
By accepting that you cannot control all the circumstances in your life you can let go of the self-created tension and anxiety. By not lingering in the pains and fears of the past and the unpredictability of the future, you can learn to live in the present moment. You may find that by relinquishing your need to control others your relationships with them improves. People will always resist being controlled. Nurture the belief in your ability to cope with change and trust yourself.
Thank you for taking a moment to visit my blog. I hope you enjoyed this post. I would like to hear how you deal with your need for control or if you have someone in your life who needs to control you. This post is not about individuals who seek control through psychological manipulation because of a personality disorder such as NPD (Click here to read my post on Psychological Manipulation).
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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