‘Tis the season of ghosts, ghouls, goblins and freaks, but are you wearing your control freak mask year-round?
There are those of us who struggle with varying degrees of that need and/or obsession to exercise control over ourselves and others. The good news is that your scary little monster doesn’t have to haunt you, your family and your friends.
While some people may be aware of their controlling tendencies, others may not. In case you’re not sure, then you might be a control freak if…
- You insist that things should be done in a specific way,
- You are a perfectionist,
- You panic when you make a mistake and fear people will discover you are a total fraud,
- You are compelled to argue your point,
- You’d rather do it yourself than delegate,
- You are super organized,
- You prefer the same routine, and
- Your feathers get ruffled when things don’t go your way.
If there was ever a doubt as to my personal tendency to get hijacked by controlling behavior, it was recently laid to rest while assembling a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle with my significant other (“S.O.”).
In my head this project would be a fun and challenging way to spend time with S.O. and to cultivate our ability to work as a team. Within 5 minutes of beginning the project, it felt like a total train wreck.
I insisted that we sort all the pieces into piles based on their general color/pattern before beginning assembly. S.O. on the other hand, preferred to dive right into assembling the frame, and so he did.
I found myself becoming more and more annoyed as he made progress on assembling the puzzle while I continued the grunt work of sorting. To add insult to injury, he was benefitting from my grunt work, which only fueled my growing anger as I continued to insist we should sort everything first.
I finally had to sit back and take a breath, trying to calm my escalating physical reaction and snarky tone of voice. I sat there in full awareness that I had been hijacked by the need to control as evidenced by my overreaction to the situation.
Since then, I’ve tried to better educate myself about this type of behavior and learn new tools to keep my little gremlin in check. I’ve learned that some people are afraid of feeling a loss of control. I’ve discovered that I have a deep-seated need to manage all aspects of my life in an attempt to establish a feeling of security.
It is deeply rooted in fear. Fear of not being good enough and fear of ultimate rejection, which to the human nervous system is the equivalent of death. That’s pretty powerful stuff!
As things would go, I got over myself and continued to work with S.O. on assembling the jigsaw puzzle. We each worked in our own way and before I knew it, we were actually working together and making progress. S.O. even commented on how my sorting work was a good strategy.
Eventually, the beautiful park scene that had once been a thousand separate pieces revealed itself in all of its glory! Better yet, I gained insight and experience recognizing and working through the uncomfortable feelings associated with my need to try to control my environment.
Here are some tips and tools I’ve learned that help manage my personal little freak show:
- Develop an awareness of overly controlling behavior. You might enlist a trusted friend to help alert you when you are acting in a controlling manner.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings about instances in which you act in a controlling manner. Can you recognize a pattern, trigger, or root cause associated with the behavior?
- Accept that many things in our life are beyond our control. At the same time acknowledge that you are not powerless. You can choose to develop new habits that create stability where it counts, on the inside.
- Experiment with different breathing exercises like box breathing (Google it) or yoga to help you learn how to manage your physical reactions. Experiment with meditation, prayer, walking or other meditative type practices to help you manage your mental reactions.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Be kind to yourself, try to lighten up a little, and practice gratitude. No one is perfect and imperfection and risk are part of being human.
- Don’t be afraid to work with a qualified therapist if you need help understanding and managing your behavior.
That’s right, there are also many positives associated with personality types that lean towards controlling behavior. We are results oriented. Our foresight and ability to plan make us great at mitigating risk. We are both organized and efficient. People know they can count on us. Overall, we are pretty nice folks when we learn to effectively manage our little beast!
Is your controlling behavior affecting your relationships and your level of happiness? Can you think of a specific instance or instances when your controlling behavior negatively impacted your life? How might your life be different if you were able to develop tools and habits to help manage this behavior? Please join the conversation!