Control feels nice. It helps us predict the future. It makes it so that we are safe. It makes it so we are Right. It makes us comfortable and confident.
When you don’t feel like you have a sense of control, you often feel very uncomfortable. (As a side note, a useful mindfulness exercise would be to notice times when you don’t feel like you are in control, and then observe how your body feels while accepting the reality of feeling uncomfortable.)
We can become very controlling in order to make it so our environment doesn’t threaten us. Control can look like a whole lot of things. It might be little things like ignoring an email or phone message. It might look like staying home from a social event so you don’t get upset. It might look like someone who is extremely organized. And there are a ton of other reasons (not control) that can explain all of these above behaviors.
Control is about function. If the function of your behavior is to make it so you are in charge, or so that X doesn’t happen, or so that you are Right, then you are “doing” control.
Sometimes people use control on themselves. They might do this by managing themselves so hard that they don’t allow any openness to experience, or so that they don’t allow an experiential connection to their body. They might limit the pain, symptoms, struggles or thoughts that they allow awareness of.
You can see why a person would want to control their painful experiences. Nobody likes to feel pain.
But here’s the rub. The more pain you hide from and the more difficulty you ignore, the more limited you are in all of your emotional experiences. You can’t feel only happiness and nothing negative. It simply doesn’t happen. If you want to feel deep and abiding happiness, extremes of joy and a magnitude of love, you must also be open to feeling the other side. When you shut down your access to emotional experiences, you shut down all of them. You can’t selectively shut down your feelings.
So controlling your own experiences often results in limited ability to experience.
Controlling other people’s feelings is experienced by them as invalidating. That is, they feel as if you are telling them that their experience, their ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. is unacceptable and should be different than it is.
When a person feels invalidated, it is painful. It is a form of relationship-destroying behavior. It creates distance.
You can think of it this way:
When you are so attached to an outcome that this particular outcome becomes more important than a person’s freedom of choice or a person’s potential growth, then you are being controlling. You are not respecting the other person. You are paying the most attention to your own comfort and needs for safety.
Can you see how being controlling is part of being offended? Can you see how it results in shoulding on others?
There’s a way out.
We’ll talk about that next week.