The three questions

 
Fifth in the series
Notes on Recovery
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After refocusing, the next thing a recovering control addict needs to learn is how to practice.
Practice starts with three questions:
1. What am I trying to control here?
2. Have I been able to control this before? 
And if the answer is No,
3. What can I do instead?
These are essential questions to ask ourselves when stressed, because they remind us that (a) stress is what usually triggers our controlling, and (b) our controlling usually produces more stress.
Not always easy to answer, though.   Because each is a trick question.
What am I trying to control?
Control addicts answer this by looking outside themselves, at externals.  I want my spouse to stop criticizing me.  I want more money in the bank.  I want my son to pass Math.
But don’t be tricked.  Remember that what we really want to control is feelings.   Your spouse’s criticism hurts you; lack of money makes you feel insecure; your son’s grades are embarrassing.  So what you really want is to eliminate hurt, insecurity and embarrassment.
That’s good news, since feelings tend to be easier to manage than externals.
Have I been able to control this in the past?
Same trick here.  Focus on feelings.
Say you tried to control your spouse’s criticism by apologizing, appeasing, or retaliating.  Did any of that leave you feeling less hurt or angry?
Say you tried to control your finances by working harder, worrying more, or nagging family members about their spending.  Did any of that eliminate your insecurity?
Say you tried to control your son’s grades by yelling, punishing, or standing over him while he did homework.  Did any of that reduce your embarrassment?  Or just create more tension and conflict?
If your honest answer to this second question is Yes, terrific.  Problem solved.  Keep doing what you’re doing.
But your answer is No, it’s probably time for a less controlling solution.
What can I do instead?
Here the trick is to remember that there are three alternatives to control: surrender, responsibility and intimacy.
I’ve already explained what these words mean here (briefly) and here (in more detail).
They’re ways to feel better without having to control people, places or things.
Let’s see how they look in actual practice.
Next: Practicing surrender


* * *

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