Fourth in the series
Notes on Recovery
Our need to refocus comes from realizing the real reason we try to control stuff:
We’re trying to control how we feel.
We’re especially trying to manage anxiety.
Think about it.  What scares you most?  Criticism?  Failure?  Rejection?  Abandonment?  Humiliation?  Physical pain or discomfort?
That’s what you feel most compelled to control.
Compulsive means anxiety-driven.   Whenever I act like a control addict – for example,
~ hide my real self from other people,
~ hide my true feelings from myself,
~ try to impress, coerce or manipulate others,
~ insist things be done my way,
~ caretake friends or family members,
~ worry endlessly about the future, or
~ try to make my environment just as I want it to be
– I’m being driven by some anxiety about what will happen if I don’t do these things.
Recovery means finding another way to manage this anxiety.
Which is where refocusing comes in.
When I refocus, I shift my attention from Out There to In Here.  I redefine the problem from some external trigger (X looks mad) to my own reaction (I’m scared of X).
I  step back from that reaction and realize that, to feel safe again, I really don’t need to control X.  I just need to change my reaction.  If I can do that, X’s anger stops being a problem.
Changing my reaction to stuff is what allows me to stop trying to control it.
Next: The three questions

* * *

Previous posts in this series:
(A sort of preface:) Tricky
1. Bottom 
2. Power
3. Plan B




8 responses to “Refocusing

  • Linda Robinson

    I think that there are things in life that cause anxiety, that we need to control. Sometimes these things become overwhelming. Juggling managing the house(s) (not just cleaning & food shopping, but landscaping, repairs, etc.), bills, cars, & work for example. Those are everyday responsibilities that cause anxiety. Then add preparing personal income taxes for 4 people, estate taxes, estate acct. taxes, managing finances in a totally new financial situation (after death of a spouse), making major life decisions out of financial need (selling a house, buying or renting a house), & you feel pretty much buried. Now add grieving the deaths of 4 of the people that you loved most in life, & life becomes almost paralyzing.

    I realize that responsibilities need to be prioritized & addressed individually over time, but having to handle them all is absolutely anxiety provoking. Is attempting to manage all of this considered ‘compulsively controling’?

  • Steve Hauptman

    No, I don’t think all controlling is compulsive. Much of it is necessary and healthy. I won’t stop controlling my car when I’m driving, and if my kid gets sick I won’t just surrender to the disease process.

    But there’s a big difference between this sort of controlling and the unhealthy sort — attempts to control what can’t or shouldn’t be controlled. When we overcontrol feelings, for example, it ends up making us anxious, depressed or addicted. When we try to control other people, too, it tends to screw up our relationships, make healthy communication and intimacy almost impossible.

    So those of us who realize we have control issues need to do some self-observation, and decide where our controlling has become more of a problem than solution.

    One way to do this is by asking ourselves three questions, which I’ll be posting about tomorrow.

  • Linda Robinson

    Thanks for clarifying that Steve! I know that i personally waaaaay overcontrol my feelings & need to work on that, but at least attempting to control the rest is considered necessary! Phew…

  • The three questions | Monkeytraps

    […] refocusing, the next thing a recovering control addict needs to learn is how […]

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    […] After refocusing, the next thing a recovering control addict needs to learn is how to practice. […]

  • Stating the Problem | Clare Flourish

    […] In Doctor Who (The Bells of St John) the chief human slave could call up her fellow slaves on her tablet, and adjust their qualities- intelligence, empathy, whatever- with a slider. Hormones don’t seem to work that way: Dr Lorimer suggested testosterone for motivation, adjusting oestrogen for lability, but I don’t think it is that simple, though I remain open to suggestions from the endocrinologist. Cognitive behavioural solutions seem more likely. Initially, I put my increase in lability down to being taken off oestrogen, but actually I was pretty labile before then. The main issue with my emotional reactions seems to be that I fear them. I anticipate getting angry and frightened, which I anticipate will make me react impulsively, show my feelings, and look foolish. Or I feel that my anger and fear will be so unpleasant at the time and in retrospect that I need to avoid them. I want to control my feelings rather than external events. […]

    • Steve Hauptman

      I think that’s the main thing we all want — to control our feelings — and that whenever we try to control externals (people/places/things) it’s because we think external control will enable us to do that.

      I also think most of us are excessively scared of our feelings. Much of this comes from needing the acceptance and approval of other people, and believing (often with good cause) that being emotionally open will jeopardize that.

      So we spend our lives between a rock and a hard place. How do I have you without losing me? How do I have me without losing you?

      Frankly, it’s a bitch. But I think it helps to remember you’re not the only one struggling with it.

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