Friday, January 28, 2011

Control Freak

Sometimes when I'm meeting with people they will tell me that their significant other (or kids) has told them they're a controller (or a control freak). Often they can't believe it - how could they say such a thing? Most people see themselves as caring very much for these people and they can't understand how their loved ones could see them this way. Perhaps you've had these labels applied to you?

When clients share this with me I like to help them to test if they are guilty of controlling or not. First of all, I help define controlling for them:

Controlling - using control behaviors.

Control behaviors - behaviors which are used to influence someone else's decision making, but in a way that does not respect their right to choose their own destiny (or without accepting the person's freedom to say no.) Control behaviors include demanding, angry outbursts, manipulating, guilting, pressuring, nagging, lecturing, bribing to control, silent treatment/withdrawing to control, etc.

Whenever we use these behaviors, not recognizing other people's rights to say no/choose their own actions, we are trying to control them. If we try to get them to change without controlling, it is influencing. People ALWAYS resent control behaviors. It is built into our DNA, we resist other people not respecting our freedom. When we trying to control others we damage our relationships with them, build resentment, and act in an unloving way towards them (control and love cannot go together). Because people make their own choices anyway (even if they feel controlled, they still choose their actions), control is always an illusion. You can't control anyway, so why try?

God doesn't control us . . . because he loves us. Control and love cannot co-exist. You can only control yourself (and that's really tough). We think controlling actions work but they don't. We may have someone go along with us in body, but not in their heart. And of course it's the heart that matters in the long run.

One of my clients has begun using this info on control at work (where he is a supervisor) and it is transforming his life. It's remarkable actually. He's way less stressed (and angry), has won the respect of his co-workers, and is teaching others. He's a recovering controller. Like me! My favorite control behavior to use was manipulation (makes sense coming from a counselor right?) but I've used them all. I pass on this info to others because it was very helpful for me. I'm definitely not perfect, but I'm recovering slowly. How about you?

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