Did you know that we’re hardwired to want control? Yet our efforts to control others end up leading to conflict, and our attempts at controlling situations generally lower our chances of success. When we attempt to control others, we inadvertently send a message that we feel they are inadequate in some way. The less control we have over ourselves and the more inner turbulence we’re experiencing, the more control we feel the need to exert. Control issues typically are accompanied by perfectionism, as well.
So what can we do about it? Here are some tips for getting off the Control Freak Train:
- Establish a basic starting point. Observe yourself, writing down situations in which you feel the need for control. What were you thinking and feeling? What emotions are at the core of that desire for control? (Hint: usually it’s fear.)
- Deal with unwanted emotion. Identify. Label. Challenge illogical thoughts with logic.
- Manage and let go of unreasonable expectations. Things can’t always be the way we want them to be. People are going to behave the way they’re going to behave, despite what we think is best for them. Be flexible when things don’t go your way. Be prepared for the chance that you may not get what you want, or that others may not behave the way you want them to.
- Remember that the only person over which you have control is… You. No one else can control our thoughts, emotions, and behavior; we have no control over others’ thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
- Let emotions ride along with you. If you attempt to push them down or ignore them, they’ll only come back to bite you later. Remember that commercial where the patient has a disease following her around, interfering with her life? After she took the drug being advertised, the disease just rode along with her. Let your negative emotions do the same - “I’ll allow you to come along with me, but I’m driving.”
- Acceptance and celebration of who we are is important. We need to accept not only the reality of painful situations, but the emotions that go along with them. Trust that you will know the right things to do when the time comes, and that everything works out in the end.
Change the things you can, and accept the reality of what you can’t. Accept the world and others for who and what they are and not what you want them to be.