Kid mode

Control is the child’s basic tool.

As kids we have no power, no ability to take care of ourselves.  We need big people (like parents) to do that.  And we use control to make sure those big people do their job.

We learn this before we have language.  We learn it the first time we cry and mom picks us up and feeds or rocks us or changes our diaper.  “Hey,” we realize.  “What I do affects what she does.”

And the urge to control is born.

We spend childhood learning thousands of ways to control big people:

Want mom to love you?  Don’t talk back.

Want dad to be proud of you?  Get straight A’s.

Want teacher’s approval? Do your homework.

Want to avoid being bullied?  Appease the tough kid.

This is how we navigate early life.  For kids there’s no other way.

Of course at some point we’re supposed to develop some power — the ability able to stand up for and take care of ourselves.

But many of us don’t.  Many of us (especially if we’ve been abused or traumatized) stay stuck in kid mode.

We keep relying on control to get our needs met and manage relationships.  We keep seeking approval and avoiding conflict.  We hide who we are, bury our true feelings, and try our damnedest to be whatever we think others want us to be.

Most of the time we do this without even realizing we’re doing it.

And that’s the basic problem of all control addicts.

They’re stuck with the tool of a child to cope with the life of an adult.

2 responses to “Kid mode

  • Kristie

    On the eve of Christmas Eve, I am weary, I am weary of being controlled by the narcisstic man in my life. Albeit, as of January 1, he will legally be an ex, his control and manipulation reaches the depths of my soul…through our children. What is to be such simple holiday arrangements are only made upon his terms, with the children in the middle as his pawns. Each and every attempt I make to remove the children as I see their duress, he finds another way to manipulate and control. Tears stream down my face as I see the angst of the children. I attempt to exert control and set boundaries with a man who has refused to communicate with me for 11 months. I have. I desire for small talk, or depth even. For I know he is not capable. I just want him to treat me as a human being, instead of a ghost of his past. Only through the children will he make arrangements. They are weary also. My efforts are met with yet another force of narcisstic passive-aggressive behavior. Beaten I drop to my knees, feeling helpless yet again.

    I will meditate on forgiveness, on love and peace this holiday season. No matter, he will never feel what they feel, to change for the better. I long for acceptance of who he truly is, releasing the longing for whom I thought he was when I fell in love.

  • Steve Hauptman

    Kristie, despite not knowing much about your situation (like how long you’ve been married, the ages of your kids, or whether you’re in any kind of therapy) I think I understand how you’re feeling right now.

    I’ve worked with many spouses who have survived what you’re going through. And that experience leads me to (a) congratulate you on escaping from this marriage and (b) suggest you stand on the brink of remaking your life, if you choose to.

    The key is self-care — switching your focus from your abusive soon-to-be-ex to yourself, your feelings, your needs, your options.

    It also means getting really, really good at distinguishing between what you can and can’t control, and between what you should and shouldn’t.

    Understanding that difference can make the difference between feeling helpless and feeling empowered.

    There are posts in the Monkeytraps archives that can help with this. Below are links to three that are especially relevant:

    Off center:

    Seven kinds of power:
    Part 1:
    Part 2:

    And come back here in January, when I’ll begin serializing my book MONKEYTRAPS: WHY EVERYBODY TRIES TO CONTROL EVERYTHING AND HOW WE CAN STOP.

    I’ll be encouraging all my readers to comment on the ideas it presents, and to dialogue with me and each other about how to apply them. You are welcome to join that conversation.

    I wish you a new year of peace and healing.

    ~ Steve

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