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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In times of crisis she calls herself names.
“I’m so stupid,” she’ll say. Or “I’m crazy.”
But when I offer her a diagnosis – suggest she has an anxiety disorder, say – she rejects it:
“I don’t like labels.”
Puzzling. What are stupid and crazy if not labels?
It reminds me of something many addicts say when I suggest medication:
“I don’t want to need a pill to make me feel good.”
I hear this regularly from people already dependent on pot, street drugs or alcohol.
How explain this inconsistency?
To some people, accepting a diagnosis or medication feels like a loss of control.
I sympathize. Nobody likes to feel defined or directed by somebody else.
But resisting diagnosis and treatment usually leaves such people feeling neither freer nor stronger.
Not more in control, but more helpless.
Another reminder of what I call the First Paradox.
The greater your need to feel in control, the less in control you’re likely to feel.
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