When I first opened my private practice I needed clients, so I went into local high schools to give talks about parenting.
Everyone’s favorite talk was titled “How to Parent Your Child Through Adolescence Without Committing Murder.” Each delivery generated new clients.
But most of them weren’t parents. They were teenagers, nervous and sullen, dropped off in my waiting room by Mom or Dad with a tag tied to their toe:
Fix my kid.
I jest. Well, partly.
Adolescence brings out the worst in many parents, for a reason which by now should be obvious: it challenges their sense of control.
Before this they could convince themselves they were in charge. Eat your broccoli, they’d say, and Junior complied. It’s late, come in now, and here comes Junior.
Or they could kiss the booboo and give Junior a hug and Junior would stop crying and hug them back. Problem solved.
Then Junior hits puberty and everything changes.
The kid starts acting strangely. Refuses your broccoli; won’t even touch your dinner. Comes home late, or not at all. Stops giggling at your jokes. Acts like you’re a moron. Rude, defiant, loud, silent, stubborn, irresponsible, self-centered and incredibly sloppy.
Mom’s baby has morphed into an Orc.
This predictable family crisis is called separation and individuation. It’s a psychological threshold kids need to cross. Once they do they start detaching from their parents, develop their own identity, express their own views and values, and start feeling and functioning like grownups.
All this is essential to healthy adult functioning. Without it, no matter how old or how big someone gets, inside they feel incomplete and childish.
But many parents misunderstand separation and individuation. Even those that do understand usually find it uncomfortable.
And to parents with control issues, it can feel like an earthquake.
Some misread this normal developmental stage as disrespect, disloyalty, rejection, parental incompetence, or a sign their kid no longer loves them.
Some misinterpret it as psychopathology. They start hunting for signs of substance abuse, or Googling bipolar disorder.
Some panic. Often these are people for whom parenting was the one part of life where they felt somewhat in command, could expect to be respected and admired, listened to and obeyed. To such parents a child’s defiant No can feel like being tossed into deep water without a life preserver.
Some react with hurt, anger, judgment or withdrawal.
Some try to regain control by imposing new rules, demands or punishments.
Some become emotionally or verbally abusive.
Some become violent.
Some fight with their spouses about it. Some get divorced.
Some get depressed, or develop anxiety disorders.
Some drink, drug or overeat.
And some enter therapy.
Where, if they’re lucky, they start to learn alternatives to monkeyparenting.
Leave a comment | tags: addiction to control, compulsive controlling, craving for | posted in compulsive controlling, control, dysfunctional controlling, narcissistic families and control, parenting problems and control
The urge to control is part of our hard wiring.
Because it is wired into us to
..~ seek pleasure and avoid pain,
..~ imagine a perfect life (one that meets all our needs and makes us perfectly happy), and then
..~ try to make those imaginings come true.
The word controlling covers all forms of this imagining and trying.
Our trying may be large (building a skyscraper) or small (killing crabgrass), complex (winning a war) or simple (salting my soup).
It may be important (curing cancer) or petty (trimming toenails), public (getting elected) or private (losing weight), essential (avoiding a car crash) or incidental (matching socks).
I may inflict my trying on other people (get you to stop drinking, kiss me, wash the dishes, give me a raise) or on myself (raise my self-esteem, lose weight, hide my anger, learn French).
All this involves seeking some form of control.
We’re controlling nearly all of the time.
We control automatically and unconsciously, waking and sleeping, out in the world and in the privacy of our thoughts.
From birth until death.
The only time we’re not controlling is when we can relax, and do nothing, and trust that things will work out just fine anyway.
How often can you do that?
We’re forming two online study/support groups for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time. One group is for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work. Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested? Write me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 Comments | tags: addiction to, compulsive controlling, control, control - idea of, craving for, monkey mind, unconscious controlling | posted in (1) law of addiction, codependency, codependency, control, control addiction, definition of control, meaning of control, personal development, personal growth
The ability to dictate reality.
That’s how I define control.
It’s not a definition you’ll find in any dictionary, and probably not how you define it.
But it’s essential to understanding everything that follows.
Dictate means rearrange or edit according to our preferences. Reality means, well, everything — everything outside us (people, places and things) and inside us (thoughts, feelings, behavior) too.
Defined this broadly, the wish for control stands behind just about everything we do consciously.
Plus most of what we do unconsciously (feel, fantasize, worry, dream) as well.
We seek control in order to get reality to behave as we want it to.
We seek control because we want to make the world adjust itself to us, instead of vice versa.
We all want control in this sense.
Not just want, either.
We crave it.
Control is the mother of all motivations.
Every human ever born has craved it and chased it.
Because it’s a craving that is literally built into us.
We’re planning an online study/support group for readers who want to explore these ideas with me in real time. Also coming, a group for therapists who want to integrate these ideas into their clinical work. Both groups will be small, eight members at most, and meet weekly. Fee is $50 per session, and group members may purchase Monkeytraps (The Book) at half price. Interested? Write me: email@example.com.
2 Comments | tags: addiction to control, compulsive controlling, control, control - idea of, craving for, definition of control, meaning of control, motivation and, unconscious controlling | posted in addiction to control, codependency, control, control addiction, definition of control, laws of control, personal development, personal growth