Tag Archives: control addiction

A sense of control

Another thing we control addicts tend to get wrong is the difference between actual control and what I call a sense of control.

I’ll explain.

Like you, I want to feel certain feelings.  I also want to avoid feeling others.

For example, I want to feel column A and avoid column B.

~~~ 2 columns

And so on.

Sense of control refers to those moments when we feel only the items in column A.

It’s in those moments that our internal universe seems to be under our command.

And we hunger for those moments.  We hunger for happiness and safety, confidence and love.  Those experiences are what we live for.

In fact, our whole lives are arranged in an attempt to repeat these experiences as often as possible.

Think about it.  Doesn’t every choice you make boil down to an attempt to answer questions like What will make me happy, not sad?  Comfortable, not uncomfortableConnected, not alienated?

Our preference for Column A experiences is rooted in survival instinct, and so hardwired into us.  That makes it the inevitable basis for all our conscious choices, and all our unconscious choices too.

And often we conclude that what will enable us to choose comfort over discomfort is to get actual control — control of the external world around us.

And that’s a valid conclusion sometimes.   Of course I’ll feel better if

~ My car stays on the road (instead of hitting that tree),

~ The boss raises my salary (instead of firing me),

~ My kid aces English (instead of failing it),

~ This attractive woman agrees to have dinner with me (instead of slapping my face).

All these experiences, and a million others like them, leads us to conclude that the way to get a sense of control is to get actual control.

A natural conclusion, but a flawed one.

Because one (the internal feeling) is a goal.  And the other (control over the external world) is just one means to that goal.

They’re.  Not.  The.  Same.

And it can be dangerous, self-defeating, and crazy-making to conclude that they are.

Please don’t

[] REMIND #5 (Please don't)

Children should

[] REMIND #3 (Children should be seen)

Meet me, already

Meet your inner monkey (final),,,enlarged


Coming December 2015.

Sample chapters here:



Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.netx

(THE BOOK) Chapter 10: Choiceful and compulsive

There’s one more distinction to make.

It is closely related to the last one, but essential to understand in its own right:

Controlling may be choiceful or compulsive.

Choiceful means both conscious and freely chosen.  Compulsive means driven by anxiety, to where a person essentially loses the ability to choose.

Most dysfunctional controlling is compulsive.

Compulsive controllers are people who see no other way to feel safe or secure than by trying to control people, places, things and themselves.  And who keep on controlling despite all evidence that the control they seek is an illusion.

Another word for compulsive is addictive.

Compulsive controllers, then, are addicts:

People who feel driven to control.

Who are unable to stop, even when their controlling is inappropriate, unhealthy or impossible.

Who’ve lost control of their need for control.







One classic symptom of control addiction is enabling.

Enabling is anything you do to solve a problem that ends up making the problem worse.

Like trying to put out a fire with gasoline.

Or scratching a rash left by poison ivy.

Or trying to get an alcoholic to stop drinking by hiding their booze or nagging them to enter treatment.

Or trying to improve communication with your kids by forcing them to talk to you.

Or trying to improve your marriage by reminding your spouse how disappointing and inadequate he/she is.

The forms it takes are infinite.

What they all have in common, though — and what makes them so difficult to stop — is that they gratify a short-term need.

The need to do something.

We hate feeling helpless.  We hate facing the fact that some problems we simply cannot solve.

So we cling to the illusion of control.

Maybe this time it will work, we tell ourselves.

Or Maybe if I try it this way.

Or This is too important.  I can’t do nothing.

Pass the gasoline.

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