Coping by Controlling

Recently I realized something about myself. I had always known deep down I was very particular, I liked and sometimes needed things to go or look a certain way and it would cause me stress if it wasn't. Basically I realized that I am a little bit (or a lot) of a control freak. It wasn't until over the weekend a small minute situation arose that was out of my control and caused me to spiral that I decided I needed to look deeper into what it meant.

What I mean by looking deeper was I was taking time to pause, reflect, and connect to myself and the emotions that were surfacing and here's what I learned.

1. We control because things are out of control.

This might seem obvious to some, but for those of us who grew up with situations that were upsetting and out of our control, it is an unconscious behavior that only serves to protect us. We think that if we can control situations and outcomes that we will be safe when in reality, we are causing ourselves more stress. We keep ourselves stuck in the fight or flight because we are almost expecting something to happen. We feel safe when we do things that our in our control such as cooking, eating, or cleaning which sometimes turn into obsessions.

2. Attempting to control every aspect of our lives actually restricts our ability to enjoy the moment.

When we are so focused on what we need to control, we are not living in the moment, quite far from it actually. When we are living in the past or the future, we are totally taking ourselves out of our ability to enjoy the moment and to really enjoy life. Our minds run "shoulds' and "shouldn'ts" out of fear and this keeps us even more stuck. Often these "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" stem from social situations where we perceived we did something wrong. Which presupposes that we are not actually attempting to control situations, we are being controlled by the way we think others perceive us.

3. We attempt to control situations because we are afraid of being judged.

We can't control what others think, but sometimes we try to. If we just try to control the outcome of something, then we don't have to be afraid of what others may think of us. We do what we think others think we should do, we act like we think others expect us to act, and sometimes we become people who others expect us to be. Not allowing ourselves to be seen as who we are and being afraid of judgment not only contributes to low self-esteem, but also are factors at play when it comes to social anxiety. When we are worried about what others think of us not only are we not accepting ourselves for who we truly are, but we are giving our power away to others. In short, giving our power away is when we do things, say things, or act out of alignment with who we truly are. Some of us give our power away to others our whole lives without even being aware. This could look like not speaking up and setting a boundary, not making decisions out of fear, and many other circumstances.

To sum it up, control is just a fancy way of acknowledging that we have some inner work to do. It also allows us to make sense of some behaviours we have and where they may stem from. Ultimately control happens when we struggle to allow or accept things as they are. Our need to "fix" or be in control kicks in to protect us. This can be from years of conditioning, old beliefs, and memories that are trying to remind us that it can be different. The past plays out in our present in different ways and this is only one of them.

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