Do you know someone who needs to control their environment, as well as the people in it?
It may even be you!
People who need to control everything in their lives live in a perpetual state of fear.
This is not to judge or criticise this behaviour, but it’s to understand why, as humans, we do this.
As a child, they probably suffered huge disappointments that kept them on their guard. If they were a child of divorce, for instance, they learned that love is fleeting and that people can't be counted on to keep their promises. If they were the child of an alcoholic, or if there was high conflict in their home, they don't really know what it means to be emotionally safe. If one (or both) of their parents was physically or emotionally unavailable, they learned not to expect much from people. Or if they grew up in a home where money was a constant source of strife, they probably became determined to make their own way in life and to never allow themselves to depend on others.
All of these scenarios can, and usually do, result in controlling behaviour.
Ok so let’s be really honest here, is this you? Are you controlling? We never actually like to admit it because we usually think it’s others not seeing the world as we do, therefore it’s OTHERS who have an issue not US.
Here’s a fun quiz to find out if you’re a bit of a control freak (although you probably already know the answer).
For each question, choose a number on a five-point scale, to show how accurately you think the statement describes you. Use 1 = Rarely or Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often. Write your number on a piece of paper, then add up your score and consult the interpretation scale at the end. (Note: the even-numbered questions indicate personal control and the odd-numbered ones indicate control over others.)
Be as honest as you can. As you answer each question, imagine that someone who knows you well is looking over your shoulder - what would they say? Would they agree with your self-perception?
The Control Freak Quiz
1. Do you "help" other people drive the car - tell them what route to take, when to turn, where to park, remind them that the traffic light has changed? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
2. Do you devote a lot of attention and energy to keeping your personal environment organised? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
3. Do you give people a lot of "shoulds" and "oughts" - unsolicited advice, suggestions, and "constructive criticism?” 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
4. Do you have lots of personal rules, routines, rituals, and ceremonies? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
5. Are you the one who takes over and orders other people around when the situation seems confused or chaotic? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
6. Do you dislike depending on others, accepting help from them, or allowing them to do things for you? 1 = Rarely; Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
7. Do you insist on "being right," having things done your way, or having the final word? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
8. Do you "over-plan" simple activities? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
9. Do you find it difficult to admit making mistakes, being wrong or misinformed about something, or acknowledging that you've changed your mind? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
10. Do you become angry, irritable, or anxious when someone or something makes you late, when things don't start on time, or things don't go according to plan? 1 = Never; 2 = Seldom; 3 = Sometimes; 4 = Often; and 5 = Very Often
Another great way to determine if you're too controlling is to ask yourself if your relationships feel competitive rather than complementary. Is there a lot of needless bickering or a desire to be right? If so, the only option you have, is to change yourself. Change the way you approach the relationship, and you will get a different result.
Interpret Your Score:
41 - 50: yep, you're a control freak.
31 - 40: you probably have some control issues.
21 - 30: you can live and let live.
10 - 20: are you being honest?
So how did you score? Ok, I’ll admit it, I have some control issues myself!
So what’s wrong with being a bit controlling?
Nothing—if you spend most of the time alone. But if you want to be happily married, or have your kids/boss/colleagues/partner/family like and respect you, being controlling probably won't get you there. I know it may not be as easy to hear, especially if it has developed into more serious conditions, like OCD. (Just for the record, OCD is a completely different ball game, so if you believe you have OCD, this may require specialist help, or unconditional acceptance from yourself and your loved one’s.) The key is, is to WANT to change. If you are quite happy with being controlling whether you or others like it or not, then it is your choice.
At the heart of your need to control is fear and your inability to trust. To have true unconditional love and great relationships in your life, you will need to give up control.
I know it's a tall order, however it can be done. First we need to rid of the belief that if we give up control, then somehow we become subservient, weak or we open ourselves to others controlling us. If we had more self respect and trust in ourselves, then we won’t need to control other people or situations to keep us safe. Remember, being controlling is just a habit we have learnt in our younger years to keep us safe. Letting go of control is truly liberating, because we make a personal statement that we trust ourselves and our loved one’s and it breaks us from the chains of our past.
One way to change a habit that doesn’t serve you is the use of mantras. You will need to repeat your mantra over and over again, every day for at least 12 days for it to redirect your brain into a new pattern. Let’s use the example of wanting to slow down more and not be in such a hurry. So you come up with a short, easy phrase that represents the change you want to make—such as, “I choose to slow down”—and you repeat that phrase every chance you get throughout the day. You can say it while you’re driving in a car or when you’re in the bathroom. You can say it when you’re doing the dishes, walking, or waiting in a queue. On any given day, there are a myriad of opportunities to repeat the simple phrase in your head. Over time, your brain will reset itself. In this case, slowing down will become a more natural state.
To be less controlling, then, you might say to yourself “I choose to say nothing” when your partner/kids/boss/parents say something to which you disagree. Instead of choosing the behaviour you think has the most potential for conflict, talk yourself into doing the opposite of that behaviour by creating a mantra that pushes you in that direction. It’s all about forming new habits. It can be difficult to get rid of a bad habit, but if you develop a new habit, it will eventually replace the old one and you won’t need to think about it anymore.
Another way to reduce your controlling tendencies is, for one week, do everything opposite to the way you would normally do it. Hmmmm that sounds a bit scary! However if you do this, it will rewire your brain into new ways of being. When your husband / wife / partner / kids / boss / friend / parents say something with which you disagree, say something like, “That’s interesting.” When you would normally interject your opinion, don’t. When you would normally complain, say something positive. When you would normally instruct, ask—preferably with a please or a thank you. When you would normally say no, say yes. You get the idea.
Then, sit back and watch what happens. You'll be amazed.
So my message for you this month is to put a stop to your control freak streak, and decide today, right now, to face your fears. What are you afraid of that makes you feel the need to take control? What happened in your past that made you skeptical of love or to get your needs met? Once you can see why you are controlling, and that it was only your brilliant defence mechanism protecting you, then you can start to release the hold it has on you now. When you have loosened your tight grip and you have let go, new opportunities and possibilities will present themselves to you. Bit by bit, little by little as you let go, surrender and trust, knowing you are safe and loved, a whole new amazing life will open up for you. Once you have shaken off the hold your controlling habits have on you, then not only do you release yourself, but your loved ones too.
This is liberation.
This is true FREEDOM.
GO FOR IT!