Have you ever been called a “control freak?” It’s ok to admit. Many people have, or are struggling with this very sensitive issue.
To some degree, control is a good thing. It helps us organize, make decisions, and lead. But there is a fine line between healthy control and unhealthy control. So how do we know the difference?
Healthy control helps us to do well with, and for, others. People with a strong sense of healthy control are often the organizers for charitable events, projects at work, and even family gatherings. Healthy control brings people together, and allows them to be at their best.
Conversely, unhealthy control has just the opposite effect. It manifests itself in hyper-perfectionism, critical and hurtful comments, and dominance. It breaks down our relationships with others, and doesn’t allow anyone to be at their best.
When control gets to this point, we have to ask ourselves what ownership we have in the current situation, and then begin taking steps to fix it so that we don’t lose important people from our lives. We also need to be honest with ourselves and admit that our behavior is not about the “other people” we’re trying to control; it’s about us.
Renowned psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw states that “control is about a need that you’re trying to fill, or fear that you may have. When a person is trying to control all the external chaos in their world, they are really trying to quiet their internal chaos.”
We know on a rational level that it isn’t possible to truly control the world around us, and so we need to free ourselves from that idea. The best thing we can do is, to first, be honest with ourselves, and acknowledge our own fears that are driving our unhealthy behavior. We must also be willing to admit we may have a need that is not being fulfilled in a way that is meaningful to us.
Many who have struggled with unhealthy control have found it helpful to practice setting intentions or saying positive affirmations on a daily basis, such as:
- I commit to flexibility and detachment.
- I allow myself and those around me the freedom to be themselves.
- I release the need to judge or criticize.
- I express myself honestly while releasing any need to impose my will or beliefs on others.
And if/when you notice yourself becoming emotionally attached to a set point of view, take a deep breath and quietly remind yourself to come back to a more centered place. If you’re finding it hard to take these steps, you may need to seek professional guidance from a health care professional, clergy, or even a trusted friend or family member, who can help you see the bigger and brighter picture.
Only when we are truthful about our feelings and behaviors will we begin to let go of the unhealthy need to control the world around us. Truth does, indeed, set us free.