Why are we driven to be in control? Is it some sort of human instinct or survival mechanism? Probably, but it consumes an awful lot of time and energy. Some people have a greater need for control than others and many of the reasons people seek control are valid. If you grew up with very little control, for example, you may actively avoid situations where you feel powerless. For instance, experiencing abuse, trauma, and/or abandonment can contribute to the need for control. Control is a way to avoid vulnerability and insecurity. Control freaks often struggle with tremendous fears and insecurities that drive them to want to be in control of their environment and people who live in their space. Control provides a sense of security, power, and stability which are often very important. However, seeking to be in charge of all aspects of life can be exhausting and overwhelming, not to mention, alienating to the people around you.
Relationships can destruct when both parties are vying for control. Most couples have conflict over control-related issues. It doesn’t matter if it’s related to finances, parenting, or bad habits, no one likes to be told what to do or how to do it. In fact, people may do the opposite of what is suggested even when they know you’re right just to avoid giving up control. The harder you try to get someone to change the less likely they’ll change and the more frustrated and disappointed you’ll become. Trying to fix, rescue, problem solve and caretake are all examples of control. We rationalize it by saying “it’s for their own good” and “I’m only trying to help.” The reality is that we want to control their behavior and correct their problem by telling them what to do differently. It doesn’t work!
So what does work? Sometimes nothing works and you have to decide whether the behavior(s) warrants accepting it and learning to live with it, or occasionally, whether it warrants disengaging or terminating the relationship. We are all guilty of trying to help someone we love, myself included, and occasionally find ourselves more invested in their change than they are. I’ve talked about the paradox of control; relinquish it and you’ll have more control. Easier said than done. For me, I work on giving control to God and trusting in his plan for my life. Last week’s blog talked about letting go and often that’s what needs to be done. We need to allow others to fail, experience hardship, and work through their emotional pain without our intervention. We can be supportive, compassionate, and encouraging, but fixing the situation can be detrimental.