This month here on middleSage our topic of choice is “The Best Advice I Never Got”. We’ll be talking about the lessons we learned later in life, lessons that would have saved us a whole lot of heartache had we learned them earlier. In the spirit of “I wish I knew then what I know now”!
Today I’m talking about Losing Control. No, I’m not talking about throwing caution to the wind, or letting go of your inhibitions or even farting in church. I’m talking today about losing the need to be in control at all times. I have long held a love/hate relationship with control. Coming to terms with that has been a slow evolution in my way of thinking.
Being in control all the time offers the illusion of having everything just the way you want it, but it’s exhausting and in the end we know you can never really have everything as we wish, so it’s a real set up for disappointment. I found myself wanting…longing for someone to help!
Good Therapy had a explanation of the need to control that seemed to suite me to a tee.
Control issues are characterized by a person’s need to micromanageand orchestrate the actions and behaviors of others. Control is most often a reaction to fear. People who struggle with the need to be in control often fear being at the mercy of others. Control issues can develop from traumatic events that created a feeling of helplessness and chaos, thus causing a person to crave control in a disproportionate and unhealthy manner. In some cases, control issues may be a result of being neglected or abused. If a child is abused physically, verbally, or sexually, they may reach a point at which they feel the need to regain control. Many survivors of abuse do not control their abusers, but lash out in anger or hostility, or use confining and restricting emotional strategies, to psychologically control others in their lives. The need to control is an often overwhelming and exhausting need that can wreak havoc on relationships, careers, and overall quality of life. Discovering the source of the fear is the key to confronting the control issue. By understanding why a person needs to feel empowered and in charge of situations or people in their lives, they can begin to see that their fears, although real at the time of their loss or abuse, are distorted and unrealistic in their present lives.
What Can Cause Control Issues?
Reasons for control issues may be related to number of different things including:
Traumatic or abusive life experiences
Failed or failing relationships
Low or damaged self-esteem
A person’s beliefs, values, and faith
O.K. Three out of Four of those fit me! I’ll let you guess which ones.
A surprising piece of advice about control came from a therapist I was seeing almost 18 years ago.
I started seeing this therapist many years ago because my first grandchild was born with terminal brain damage. My biggest concern was that my daughter not turn out to be like my mother who also lost her first child. My mother didn’t have the proper support and help during her grieving period and she turned into a bitter, narcissistic, and joyless woman. I didn’t want that for my daughter, so I sought help to be the proper support system she was going to need.
After many therapy sessions, I had invited the man I was going to marry to attend one of my counseling sessions so he could help me support my daughter. At the end of the counseling session, I thought we were just chatting, but I realize now the therapist hat never came off. The therapist looked at my husband and said, “She’s (meaning me) had a tough journey so far, it’s time for you to pull the sled – do you think you can do that?” My husband dutifully nodded his head. She then turned to me and said, “And you have to learn to let him!”
I was going to this therapist to learn how to help my daughter, we never talked about control. Just my life so far. But she could see right through me, and this piece of advice sinks in every time I feel myself fighting the need to control a situation.
When I retired from my professional career and dabbled in retail to just keep busy – it was sometimes a tough transition to not be the person in charge and just do the task at hand. I was used to seeing (and being) the big picture, planning 6 months to a year out, being the “go to” person that had all the answers. I controlled most situations in my professional career….dabbling in retail I just made sure my tennis shoes were tied, and there weren’t any wrinkles in my tee shirt. I was taking direction from people younger than my children. I worked hard to find a balance between “owning” the task at hand and going above and beyond, and just putting in my time – which didn’t come with even the tiniest amount of satisfaction. It took me a couple of years and working for a really great retail giant (Apple) to find my comfort zone. The fine people I worked with at Apple gave me a sense of ownership without the need to control…it took almost a year before I embraced it, but once I did, it was the best experience I ever had. What a great feeling to be part of a team!
Growing up, I had an ever present feeling of impending doom. I learned early on and quickly what I had to do to avoid…the doom. Control. What took me years to perfect, has taken about that long to forget. There is no team work in control. There is no camaraderie in control. There is no laughing until your sides hurt in control.
If I am surrounded by people who respect the boundaries that I worked so hard at finding, there is no impending doom. Disappointed isn’t the same thing as impending doom. I can live with the occasional disappointment.
I can live better if I let him pull the sled, and he’s been pulling it for almost 18 years!