Having a sense of control is an innate human characteristic. Except for a small percentage of highly creative, abstract thinking individuals, probably the vast majority of us want to have some certainty in life.
Predictability in outcomes makes you feel secure and plan for the next steps. Having things done a certain way or “my way” brings those predictable outcomes. At least, you’d think that is the case. It could be to direct your child or an employee or a co-worker to do a task your way.
Along with doing things or asking things to be done your way, comes controlling behavior. Such action is usually not explicit; it gets embedded into our everyday thoughts, feelings, and actions and we lose awareness of our personality and drift towards a “controlling type” style.
What drives controlling behavior and how can you wiggle out of it?
Care and concern for others drive controlling behavior – This applies in particular to the family realm. You like your spouse to follow your advice, and you like your child to follow a particular instruction set. You do this because your life experience has shown it to work or at least have a reasonable chance of success. Your care and concern for your family members make you overbearing.
Letting go of the steering wheel is hard. I mean literally. I’m sure you know of individuals who sit on the passenger side of the car and drive the vehicle through their instructions!
Learn to trust and monitor. Intervene based on the criticality of the situation and be selective. To me, as long as someone stays on the road and avoids the ditches, that is good enough. The drive may be a bit bumpy, so what, it is not the end of the world.
Insecurity – On the opposite side of concern is insecurity. Fear and anxiety drive control. Your childhood experiences, your perception of the world create subtle instructions within you and get delivered through your thoughts and actions. You want to avoid negativity in outcomes but your thoughts keep thinking of the worst case, and you end up attracting negativity. To overcome, you go into overdrive and become even more controlling.
To come out of insecurity, there is only one way – cultivate faith. Trust your confidence. Our perception does not necessarily mean it is a fact.
Perfectionism – We make perfection the enemy of good or even great. If you are building a space ship, of course, you need perfectionism, but we extend that to even mundane things of our daily life. Perfectionism comes at a cost, and in our case, that is control.
Decide if you can live with an outcome that is for the greater good. Articulate the pros and cons. Question yourself, is it worth to stress out and make everything perfect?
Opinion – It is tough to stay away from providing advice and the need to have an opinion or say something in every aspect of someone’s life. We feel it is our role to help the other person through our advice.
A good friend of mine recently underwent surgery, anybody who met him or called upon him had tips on how he should live his life. Thankfully, my friend had the maturity to just listen, nod his head, at the end he took decisions that worked best for him. He knew to filter out opinions.
The feel or need to help does not have to be the primary ally to maintain a relationship.
It is good just to let the other person be who they are, and give them the permission to ask you for help and advice when needed. I know you may feel helpless or even guilty when you are not helping or offering your opinion. Get into the mode of a “no advice” policy at least a couple of times a week with your loved ones, family, friend, and co-workers. See the difference.
Let go of control a bit and see the freedom it brings to you.
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Picture Courtesy – Gerd Altmann