Control means the ability to dictate reality — to edit people, places and things according to our needs and preferences.
It is the single most important idea in our lives.
Because, more than any other, the idea of control shapes our emotions and behavior, our relationships and personalities.
Because what we believe about control — even when we’re unaware we believe it — determines how we feel and how we act.
~ If I think control is always a good thing to have, I’ll feel deprived whenever I can’t have it.
~ If I think control is always necessary, it will become my priority, and I will seek it regardless of consequences.
~ If I believe my safety depends on having control, I will feel anxious or panicked or overwhelmed whenever control is impossible.
~ If you and I both want control at the same time, we’re going to have a problem.
On the other hand,
~ If I remember that control is often impossible and/or unnecessary, I’ll feel less driven to seek it in all situations.
~ If I know I can feel safe even when I don’t have control, I’ll work harder at learning healthy alternatives.
~ If I’m aware that humans get addicted to control, I’ll be more careful about when and how I go about controlling, and feel more satisfaction when I am able to cope without it.
~ If I know that controlling can wreck communication and destroy relationships, I’ll think twice before trying to control you, or using it to solve problems that crop up between us.
Whenever I meet new clients I listen carefully for their view of control, since more than anything else it summarizes how they see themselves and their relationship to reality.
The more they experience reality as threatening or doubt their ability to cope with whatever life hands them, the more they see controlling as both good and essential.
The safer they feel, or the more they trust their coping ability, the easier it is for them to see controlling as a problem, or to to imagine feeling safe and happy without control.
My job as their therapist almost always amounts to helping them move from the first camp into the second.