Change must begin somewhere – let yours start here!
… Or so many people think. In fact, feeling like one is IN control is necessary at least in the context of your own well-being. I personally, have a few ‘control issues’ and proclaim them loudly now that I have an understanding of how they manifest and why they are part of my personality makeup.
Why do we develop ‘control issues’?
Most of the time we can trace ‘control issues’ back into childhood to a time when we may have ‘felt’ that there was chaos (term used lightly), perhaps emotional chaos and we tried desperately to find something in our lives – in our environment – that was within our control – that we could manage in order to feel safe.
For me, it was during the time my parents divorced and we had to move away from my childhood home. In fact, we moved 3 times that year as my father tried to establish some security. Mom joined the Army and couldn’t have dependents with her at the time, dad left us with an Aunt I had never met and I felt very alone. I learned then to find situations in my life that allowed me a sense that my life was stable – in control. It is actually a healthy defense mechanism when used during crisis (and this was a crisis for my young 12 year old self).
‘Control issues’ become unproductive when we carry them into adulthood where the chaos and crisis are absent but the behavior remains. They manifest in many different ways and can be unproductive and ultimately, unhealthy – especially in the context of relationships.
1. A young woman is turning 25 and is not yet engaged to her boyfriend of 5 years. She gives him an ultimatum to propose by her birthday or she will leave.
2. A recovering alcoholic demands that his wife promises not to consume alcohol at a bachelorette party weekend where he will NOT be present.
3. A woman develops anxiety when she is forced to take a detour on the route she typically travels to work.
4. A businessman who has a panic attack while sitting in an airplane that is delayed on the tarmac due to weather.
All of these examples could be related to feelings of ‘not being in control’ of an environmental (personal space) situation. Notice that in all cases the ROOT element is related to a FEAR of something.
1. Fear that she will never be married or will lose the man she loves
2. Fear that his wife’s drinking may weaken his own resolve
3. Fear that she won’t be able to find her way back to the route she knows
4. Fear that he will miss his meeting
Understand that ‘control issues’ are part of our automatic flight-or-fight response to FEAR… we feel afraid and we take control in an effort to eliminate the feeling. It is another DEFENSE that we learned in response to a feeling common to many of us. The only problem is that we continue to use that defense when we feel fear and it is often an inappropriate response; square peg – round hole.
In what ways do you experience ‘control issues’?