Are there ways to overcome control issues? You bet there are! By taking the 7 actions in this article, it is possible to break free from the urge and habit of controlling behavior.
7 WAYS TO OVERCOME CONTROL ISSUES
1.NOTICE when you are displaying (and thinking) Controlling behavior. Sometimes controlling behavior is subtle, and very much habit. Pay attention to your interactions; both your behavior, and the response of others to it. [See Understand More for specifics]
2.ASK YOURSELF 2 QUESTIONS: Why do I think control is important? What do I gain from control?
3. MAKE A FEAR (worry) LIST. It is important to actually write this out in sentence form: “If I don’t _____ (bad thing you fear) will happen.” It is much easier to see the difference between assumptions vs any actual evidence of something to fear, when you can look at it in writing. What is it you fear losing, or not gaining?
FEAR of LOSS or GAIN
Are your worries/fears based on what could happen? Or concrete evidence you have that it is probable? The majority of the time we are basing concerns on a worry-tangent of our own making.
4.LOOK AT THE ACTUAL RESULTS of your attempts to control: Did you really gain what you thought you would? (Most of the time the answer is no.)
5.LIST SPECIFIC DAMAGES caused by your behavior. Time you have wasted “commanding” without real results. The peace of mind you will continue to give away. The distance you created between you and people trying to control. Stress and anxiety you experience while micro-managing, ideal goals are not met, or anything varies from your preset assumptions.
6.CONSIDER these facts: You cannot truly control people, places or things. Any result perceived as complying with your demands is temporary, and came with a high price. Forcing compliance is situational. At best, getting results you forced is self-delusional power; a temporary placebo to mask the fears that are driving your behavior.
7. USE YOUR TOOLS: Mindfulness, Reframing, Acceptance
ABOUT THESE CONTROL ISSUES – OVERCOMING CONTROLLING BEHAVIORS
Control issues are about more than just wanting to get your way, they are about fear. Take a behind the scenes look at the most common control-chain-of-events that I’ve seen firsthand, when helping others over the years:
The control-ball begins rolling when a person becomes enmeshed with exaggerated feelings, brought on by their fears. (These fears are based on beliefs of assumption and expectations, not evidence, the vast majority of the time) Included in this tangle of amplified feelings are anxiety and worry. Anxiety and worry kick-off the delusion that preemptive defense or offense measures will keep distance between them and what they fear.
With their goal set, the controller takes the command to carry out what they see as absolute solutions. They persuade or demand compliance from others, and insist specific arrangement of their surroundings. Everything must match the efforts they have determined are needed to produce the outcome they have planned; for everything to go “ right”. This self made plan of action is the only way they feel their irrational fear will be contained. This is what controlling behavior looks like from the inside. It does not always look the same from the outside, however, the pattern of thought, and the feeling of urgency to control, is often consistent with this description.
Give Up Control?
Even if you honestly don’t see a need to overcome control issues, these 7 ways of learning how to kick control to the curb will still benefit your positive outlook in general.
Before you balk at the thought of giving up your control, you need to be aware of a reality that may surprise you: The power you think you wield with control is an illusion. Believing we have control over people, places, and things is a false perception; a temporary way of pacifying fears. Your effort and time had been spent on something that could not provide you with the feeling of security you were seeking. Relying on a precarious sense of security thatis based on an empty illusion, is about as effective in bringing you peace of mind, as the fabled *Emperor’s new clothes were effective in keeping him warm.
(*The Emperor’s New Clothes is a story by Hans Christian Andersen, wherein the Emperor is tricked into believing magical cloth, visible only to the wise, was used for his new wardrobe. You guessed it, there was no magical cloth, and he paraded naked in front of the kingdom. No one said a word about the obvious, until one child remarked he was nude, confirming the obvious and exposing, so to speak, the reality. Believing we can magically change realities, and control others by forcing compliance, is a lie we tell ourselves. Pretending something is accurate, does not make it accurate; and certainly does not make it effective.)
But What Do You Do About The Fear?
Once you comprehend how useless controlling behavior is, you understand it’s not worth the time and headache. But what will take the place of your imaginary security blanket of control, what can replace it? The veryreal comfort of practicing acceptance is your replacement. Practicing acceptance provides fact-based reassurance, and teaches you to ride the waves of life; this is what you will be accomplishing with the 7 ways to overcome control issues. When you can ride any wave that comes your way, you are not threatened by any wave that comes along. A very good thing, as you can’t control the waves. Beyond gaining an actual way to feel secure, you open the door for silver linings to appear. If you’ve been following this blog (or go back and read) you know that acceptance of realities and the gift of silver linings go hand in hand. They are a large part of what makes living life with a positive outlook so enjoyable.
TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF Are you displaying controlling behaviors?
Most everyone, to some degree, thinks about or attempts some type of control. The very nature of control (including self-control) is to match up what we literally experience with our internal beliefs. The difference here between healthy self-control and control issues: Control issues are based on the illusion that we have any say-so over the behavior of other people, places, and things; attempts are made at controlling what is not possible for us to control. This seems fairly simply; does that mean it’s easy to spot controlling behaviors?
Not necessarily; they come in many forms, a wide range of degrees, and are not always obvious. While it’s not so hard to spot threatening, obnoxious bully behavior, what about the subtle variety, nonchalantly chipping away from the sidelines? Disguised as seemingly mild suggestions, or a repeated seeking of sympathy, these less conspicuous types of control have the same components and result. It’s worth getting familiar with identifying even mild control issues, as when these more stealthy forms of control go unnoticed in our behavior, we can miss signs that we actually have a lot more going on inside that we think. When fears are left to simmer, and not experienced through mindfulness, it’s not uncommon to “suddenly” feel the discomfort. Keep reading here for a few of the less obvious indicators that control issues may be at play. An additional helpful resource for becoming familiar with different types of controlling personalities is: 30 Different Types of Controlling People where you will find 30 controlling personality types, with a brief synopsis of each. Give a bit of thought and pay attention to your actions; decide for yourself if there are any familiar indicators. If so, you may want to give the 7 ways in Speed Peek a try. Remember: The point of all this is to learn, grow, change as necessary, then begin again. There are new factors in our lives daily, which in turn means adjustment will be needed somewhere. Personally speaking, I’ve consistently found there is always something new to learn about myself. I like that; it’s never boring!
(CON’T ) 7 Ways To Overcome Your Control Issues: Notice when you are displaying (and thinking in terms of) controlling behavior. Sometimes controlling behavior is subtle, and very much habit. Pay attention to your behavior when interacting with others; both what your mind is thinking and your literal actions, as well as how others respond to your behavior.
DO YOU FIND ANY OF THE FOLLOWING DESCRIPTIONS SIMILAR TO YOUR BEHAVIOR, OR INTERNAL CRITICAL THOUGHTS?
Giving unasked for direction or advice? (“turn left and you’ll get there quicker”… “You look a lot better in the outfit you wore yesterday “… “Do you have to eat so slow/fast?”…”Put those in order first, that’s not the right way…”) Note: Even in a work environment, unless you are responsible for giving initial instruction, or the end product/time frame is not met and it is your job to discover the reason, why are you interjecting?
Delegating, with overly-detailed instruction on how you would do the task; expecting your instructions to be followed exact. Feeling or acting agitated when what you delegated is not done according to your instruction. [This can apply to teaching as well. While the fundamental of teaching is relaying information on a subject, and accessing how well it is subsequently known, it is a learning experience. Criticizing mistakes during the learning process is not the same as reviewing mistakes after they are made to assist in practicing the subject further.]
Making suggestions when all you need to do is listening. (Someone is telling you about a problem at work or home; you interject “oh, you should… Well, I would…”)
You were asked for advice, you gave advice, then you were irritated or angry if it was not followed. (Whether or not you make it known you are agitated.)
Disregarding any validity in opinions other than yours. You decide, voiced or not, that opinions other than yours are ridiculous, have no merit. (And you do not even care to try understanding why a different opinion could be had.)
Passive aggressive behavior. Such as saying yes to avoid conflict, and not following through on what was agreed to. Or, feeling/acting bitter or hostile about requests, rather than calmly declining to do what is requested.
Correcting people when their wrong. Constantly correcting others on their spelling, pronunciation, past event details, bad manners, inappropriate behavior? I don’t mean every once in a while, I mean, people hesitate to speak or move around you because they know some reprisal is coming.
Always trying to get in the last word; self-proclaimed expert on anything being discussed. Feeling the need to interject your correct answer on any and all topics; intentionally trying to show you are the most intelligent, or practical one in the room.
Questions I ask myself, to help me discernwhether or not I’m displaying, or wanting to display, controlling behavior:
Why do I want to say something in the first place?
Do I want to interject my opinion, at that moment, because there is something the person can change, at the moment, that will benefit them?
Think through what you feel like saying, then ask yourself the question: To what end? Playing this question through can be very telling about your motives.
Am I helping in the moment with something the person has expressed wanting? Or am I asking them to march to the beat of the drum I prefer?
GOALS: -Understand how the problem of Control Issues relates to Fear and the Solution -Get familiar with 3 types of Fear, and identify a specific one of your own
INSTRUCTIONS: -Read how Problem, Cause and Solution relate -Read through 3 types of fear (below) -Make an Anti-Challenge Fear/worry sheet
HOW PROBLEM, CAUSE and SOLUTION RELATE to overcoming control issues
Problem: Controlling Behavior Cause: Believed Consequence – Based on Fear Solution: Reframing
The graphic below, and text that follows, demonstrate tracking the cause of many control issues, in order of occurrence. Stages where the cognitive technique of Reframing can provide solutions to the problem are marked in red type, in the graphic.
A controlling person will try and force their surroundings, and the behavior of others, into compliance with what they believe should take place. Their focus is on anything they can do to meet their predetermined goals or objectives. ⬇ It is believed by the controller, that failure to meet the goals, etc. will result in a negative consequence for them ⬇ Goals and objectives are set in response to a perceived threat, or opportunity, based on their assumptions. These assumptions , are viewed falsely as facts, or probabilities. ⬇ The controlling person arrives at these assumptions (believed to be facts or probabilities), based on their learned or personal past, experiences. ⬇ Fear is an emotion that occurs automatically when we believe something will be harmed. Such as, needs withheld, losing what is thought to already be in our possession, or physical danger.
“The root instigator of control issues is fear.” If we took this sentence out of context, one might presume we need to do away with fear. No, no, no…remember: Fear is an emotion, and emotions are instinctual; we do not get to decide if they crop up, they just do. Besides, the first listed type of fear is something you want around; it’s your internal alarm system and keeps you from harm. Even the second can provide learning and growth. With any irrational fear, reframing, mindfulness and practicing acceptance can help you see your fear in clear light; taking a lot of the “scary” out of it.
Primal fear: The type that is necessary for fight or flight. This is our instinctual alarm system, preparing us to protect ourselves from harm we sense coming our way; even life or death situations. (It is not a bad thing for your legs to want to run if a rhino is charging towards you.)
Failure generated fear: While this type of fear is less easy to understand the necessity of, it can strengthen your positive outlook. Fear generated by experiencing failure, when looked at safely through the practices of mindfulness and reframing, allows us to see our limitations. Learning to be okay with permanent limitations frees us up for our attention to things we can enjoy, or change. Identifying adjustable limitations, gives us a realistic place to start improving, if we want to.
Fear centeredonanticipating loss and failure: This is what I referred to as self-centered fear. It is a distorted perception of value, where the value we interpret is centered on what we have and what we want. This is where control issues come into the picture; we try to direct or force people, places and things, with the intention of trying to get what we want or think we need, or cling to what we believe we have.
FEAR vs SILVER LINING COMPARISON If you happen to know me, you know “I like doing this one!” Silver linings are like little magic presents for me to find, and can be hiding in plain sight! The point of this exercise is to become acquainted with a “looking mentality”, and keep the thought handy. The opportunity to find silver linings can happen anytime, anywhere. A little “trick” I use to keep fresh, is think of it as a challenge I watch for: Whenever someone else, or myself, is having a bad day, and the list of what went wrong starts going, I take each negative thing and hunt for the good. A caution: You usually do NOT need to share this with the person complaining/venting to you, unless you are certain they are “asking” for you to find the positive. Many times people just need an ear, not to hear how lucky they are to have their vehicle broken down on the side of the freeway. Let them feel through their bad day. But by all means, if you are able to talk about the positive side of your bad day, *do! This can actually plant the seed for them to consider looking for their own silver linings. (*Providing you are sincere in what you are saying, and you don’t go on and on about it.)
FEAR/WORRY vs SILVER LINING COMPARISON (use for more than just 7 Ways to Overcome Control Issues!)
FEAR-SILVER LINING COMPARISON Draw 2 vertical columns – one line per fear or worry. In left column list fear, inserted into this sentence: “If I don’t (the scenario you would dodge fear with) <insert your fear will happen.”> In the right column across from fear, list one or more positive silver-linings; approach your search for the positive with a glass–half-full mentality. Or make up a feasible ‘good thing’ that might happen. Insert into this sentence: “If I don’t (the scenario you would dodge fear with) <insert something positive that could happenwill happen.”>
EXAMPLE: “If I don’t stay up all night and make sure the suitcases are packed, <we will arrive after the lunch reservations on the coast>. “If I don’t stay up all night and make sure the suitcases are packed, <I know I won’t be tired, and will be able to take pictures on the way. Even if we miss the lunch reservation, we will arrive in time for sunset maybe, or a lamplight walk on pier?! Even if we don’t catch any of those things, we will arrive safe, and have had fun getting there; because I won’t be cranky and tired.>” No matter how silly this sounds, I highly suggest you try this, even if it’s in your head. The point is: You cannot tell what the future holds. If you cannot predict it, good or bad, and you are going to wonder about what’s around the bend anyway, why not make it a good thing? The only thing you have to lose is worry; which has no basis to begin with, right? You are not “predicting the good”, you are learning to be okay with whatever happens. If you’ve been able to dream up the bad “what ifs”, you are capable of dreaming up the good “what ifs”.
MELLOW MOSS Never will I forget this May morning four years ago; tucked-up in the thick foliage of a canyon, north of Big Sur. I remember thinking that the night before had surely been the highlight of the trip; golden hour was a 3D dream. Gosh, I can still see it: To the east was the last light of day, slipping its hand over the hilltops, lulling the landscape into a hushed state; preparing it to be tucked in by a blanket of ocean fog. Oh, that fog, I swear it was alive! It might have been the extra excitement of my first night in a forest canyon, just a stone’s throw from the ocean, but I don’t ever recall witnessing fog move at such speed before! Stout and agile, it was moving so fast that I barely had time to focus the camera for a few good shots.
Regardless of how mesmerizing the rolling fog had been at nightfall, it didn’t hold a candle to the magic of the next morning’s sunrise. Not that I actually saw the sun crest the hills of the canyon as I had planned to, what with the thick brush and trees surrounding the cabin on stilts.
I had tiptoed outside an hour earlier, before any light came to the sky, intent on finding a good vantage point for the sun itself. Oh boy, what I found was so much better! Once light broke, and the varied kaleidoscope patterns of filtered light, started falling on the wild flowers in every direction, it was enough to send me skipping! Oops, I suppose I should stop with the daydreaming for now though, and get to the featured picture, eh? (I’ll leave it, for the moment, by just saying that I was completely enchanted by this isolated cabin. I want to return, I need to return. I think I had better return, or it will haunt me; I know it will.)
Alright, back to the featured picture: This photo was taken a bit after dawn, at the location mentioned above. If you look close enough, you can see a bit of the morning fog/dew collected in drops; they look suspended in-air, because they’re resting on webs. (There were plenty of spiders in my magical fairyland, by the way, which is another story.)
I chose the frame Mellow Moss for this article, because the extreme contrast between this tranquil morning in Big Sur, and the sometimes chaotic mornings I have in everyday life, brought to mind what this article is about: The difference between the serenity of practicing acceptance (going with the flow) and the stress and anxiety that come with trying to control what I can’t; which of course, is anything past the end of my nose.
But what clinched the tie-in for me, was thinking back to the surreal, Big Sur sunrise morning, and realizing: Had I been hell-bent on my preconceived idea that I must photograph the sun cresting the hills, I most likely would have been down the road somewhere, in my car, with a good chance of still not finding the shot I had planned in my mind. On top of it, missing the magic at the cabin.
I had an agenda for my time at the cabin, just as I do in my everyday life. And just like most days in my everyday life, when I saw it would not pan out as I thought, I went with the flow, and found my silver lining. That’s the beauty of looking for silver linings: They only appear when things have not gone according to plan, and you only see them if you’re looking.
Image: “Mellow Moss” f/5.6 – 1/250– ISO 400 focal length 300mm Canon EOS REBEL XT May 2015_ Big Sur, CA, US
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