Twenty-five years of practicing therapy have led me to four conclusions:
1. Human beings are addicted to control.
2. This addiction causes most (maybe all) of our emotional problems.
3. Behind this addiction lies the wish to control how we feel.
4. There are better ways to manage feelings than control.
These are the Four Laws of control.*
Adult children really need to understand them and how they function.
Because at the root of all the adult child’s emotional problems — anxiety, depression, addictions, struggles with relationships and communication and intimacy — is a dysfunctional and futile pursuit of control.
“This is very simple to understand,”Janet Woititz writes, explaining why adult children over-react to changes beyond their control. “The young child of the alcoholic was not in control. The alcoholic’s life was inflicted on him, as was his environment.”
Living in an unsafe unpredictable environment is so scary that such kids grow up addicted to chasing what they never had — a sense of safety and structure and peace of mind. And they do this mostly by trying to control people, places and things.
Of course, Woititz is describing children of alcoholics.
But can’t the same can be said of all children, regardless of background?
What child has control?
What child isn’t largely helpless in the face of his parents, his environment, and forces beyond his understanding, much less his control?
What child doesn’t grow up as an adult with at least some unfinished business?
Which is why I say we are all adult children.
Let’s look at how this affects us.
*The Four Laws are explained in detail in Monkeytraps: Why everybody tries to control everything and how we can stop (Lioncrest, 2015).