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Need to Control

Chapter 1 Handling the Need to Control 

Tools for Handling Control Issues

By: James J. Messina, Ph.D.
What are some reasons you feel the need to control people, places, and things in your life?

 

DIRECTIONS:  In your journal write down which of the follow items are reasons which are usually true for you when you feel a need to control people, places and things in your life.
 
  1. If you control other people, they will do what you want them to do.
  2. It's a way to keep everything orderly, precise, and predictable, so that you don't go crazy or insane.
  3. You hate to be out of control or to lose your control.
  4. If things don't go your way, then you feel you'll have to work harder or have to struggle to reorganize and correct them.
  5. You have a hard time seeing people you care for hurting because their lives are out of control.
  6. You hate to have people see your true feelings especially if they are angry, unpleasant, or negative so you struggle to control them and keep them in so as not to upset others.
  7. You are on the watch for being taken advantage of by others.
  8. You are afraid of being manipulated or led into doing something you really don't want to do.
  9. When you see something or someone who needs to be fixed, you often step in.
  10. You came from a dysfunctional or crazy homelife and you have no desire to repeat it in your current homelife.
  11. You have an image, dream, or ideal of the way things are supposed to be and you work at trying to get it to be that way.
  12. You are afraid that if you don't take care of things, things will never get done.
  13. You feel if you don't do it, then no one will.
  14. You are afraid that everything you have worked for will be lost, so you take control to ensure this doesn't happen.
  15. When you feel intimidated, you compensate by taking more control of the situation.
  16. You find it difficult not to help when you are presented with a person or thing which appears helpless and out of control.
  17. You tend to hold to an it's my way or the highway approach with people who don't do what you want them to do. You hope this will ensure they change their bad behaviors.
  18. You are frightened, scared, or nervous when things seem to be crazy or out of control so your first impulse is to take charge.
  19. You want everybody in your immediate life to be happy and you'll do whatever it takes to make it so.
  20. You know how hard life can be on those who go into it unprepared and unaware,  so you do whatever it takes to make sure the people you care for are not taken advantage of.
 

INTERPRETATION:  If you wrote down 3 or more, you have a tendency to overcontrol the people, places, and things in your life.

What are some ways in which you control people to do for you the things you could do for yourself?

 

DIRECTIONS:  Write down in your journal which of the following behaviors which are usually true for you.

 

  1. You act helpless, incompetent, or lost.
  2. You make the other person feel very important and essential in your life.
  3. You tell them reasons which are a lie why you couldn't get things done.
  4. You feel self-pity and act out the belief that you have done everything for everyone in your life so it's your turn now to be taken care of.
  5. You act tense, anxious, and stressed out and incapable of caring for yourself.
  6. You resort to threats of suicide or self-destruction to get others to care for you.
  7. You give others a set of conditions they must do for you before you will give them acceptance, care, or approval.
  8. You offer them rewards if they will do what you want done.
  9. You threaten others with withdrawal of attention, support, affection, or approval if they don't do what you want done.
  10. You withhold your involvement, attention, and concern if they don't do what you want done.
  11. You play on their sympathy and concern by being a pathetic martyr, overworked and unappreciated victim.
  12. You play on your physical or emotional illness, be it real or perceived, to get them to do for you.
  13. You play on their need to be needed to get them to take care of you.
  14. You play up to their guilt and overresponsible nature to get what you want.
  15. You act dependent in order to give the other a sense of importance and value in helping you.
  16. You fall apart when faced with having to do something which you would rather not do.
  17. You play up to a person who has a need to fix things that things have gotten so out of control for you.
  18. You promise to change or reform the behaviors the other wants you to change in order to get what you want out of the other, never meaning to change or reform.
  19. When you sense another person is pulling away from you, you feign a problem or need which you believe will get that person involved with you again.
  20. You act as if you have forgotten to do something which you know the other will do for you.

 

INTERPRETATION:  If you wrote down 3 or more items, you overuse control mechanisms to get people to do what you could do for yourself. Now find out if others are controlling you to do things for them they could do for themselves. Go back and write down those statements which are true for people in your life. If 3 or more are written down, then you are being overcontrolled by others to do for them what they could do for themselves.

How well do you control your emotional response to life?

 

DIRECTIONS:  Write in your journal, which of the following statements that are usually true for you.

 

  1. You allow yourself to be free, open, and expressive to the feelings you are experiencing at the moment.
  2. You usually do not try to hide your feelings, be they positive or negative.
  3. You are usually able to accept the consequences of others' response to your positive or negative feelings.
  4. You are able to freely express your anger, in an assertive confrontation mode with no raging, yelling, screaming, ranting, or raving at other people.
  5. You do not avoid letting others know if you are angry with them and yet you don't blow your cool in the telling.
  6. You can show enjoyment, excitement, and enthusiastic feelings when the event appropriately calls for such a response.
  7. You are able to openly cry and grieve a loss event in your life.
  8. You are able to do anger workouts over old, unresolved anger in your life so as to free yourself of the emotional burden and drain these repressed and unresolved feelings have on your emotional energy.
  9. You are able to express your violent rage and anger outbursts privately so that you can return to people in a more composed way to let them know in a healthy assertive way how angry you are.
  10. You are able to analyze your emotions at the time and to see if they are congruent or in synch with your thinking and actions. If they are not, you are able to figure out why and what to do about it.
  11. You are able to not allow self-pity to be a driving force in your attitude about freely giving of your time and energy to accomplish what you want out of life.
  12. If people in your life are acting out of control, you are able to freely express your feelings of disappointment or disagreement and yet not get hooked into being out of control with them.
  13. If you feel intimidated by another person, you freely admit your feelings to yourself and choose not to let this person control the way you think, feel, or act.
  14. You are able to admit feeling powerless over those things out of your control to change, fix, or rescue.
  15. You are able to feel at ease and have serenity in letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life.
  16. You do not feel you are alone in having to deal with the pressures of life because you feel you have a Higher Power over to whom you can hand the uncontrollables and unchangeables which you feel powerless.
  17. You feel detached from the behaviors, actions, and negative aspects of the people in life for whom you care a great deal and yet are not able to fix, rescue, or change.
  18. You are able to feel good about yourself with no guilt or remorse when you feel detached from the people with whom you have had toxic relationships in the past.
  19. You do not let fantasies, dreams, traditions, or promises of the way things are supposed to be interfere with your rationally experiencing life the way it really is.
  20. You have no need to be invisible or on guard so as not to be vulnerable to feeling hurt or pain, because you feel it is better for you to be vulnerable in life to experience authentic human growth.
 

INTERPRETATION:  If you wrote down less than 17 as true for you, then you need to work on control of your emotional life so that you cease to use overcontrol of other people in your life to feel good about yourself. You need to handle your own feelings and not give others the power to affect the way you feel or express your feelings. Your feelings are something which you have the ability to control and change. They, along with your thinking and actions, are the only controllables and changeables you can influence, alter, or change.

What is locus of control?

For the purposes of this book, locus of control means where you place the power to influence how you feel about yourself and others. It is important

  • to determine if the locus of control is external or internal
  • to figure out if you are susceptible to being controlled by others.

 

External locus of control is giving other people, places, and things the power to influence your feelings about yourself.

 

External locus of control places approval, recognition, acceptance, reinforcement, and affirmation of self-worth into the hands of other people, places, and things. Unless others approve, recognize, accept, reinforce, or affirm your worth, then you feel worthless, non-approved, unrecognized, not accepted, and non-reinforced. This makes you susceptible to being controlled by others' thinking, emotions, and actions.

 

Internal locus of control is giving yourself the power to influence your feelings about yourself.

 

Internal locus of control places self-approval, self-recognition, self-acceptance, self-reinforcement, and self-affirmation of worth into your own hands. In this way it is only up to you and your own efforts at self-love and self-care to feel worthwhile, valuable, competent, skillful, creative, knowledgeable, and capable of living your life for yourself and not controlled by others. You are then fully responsible for your own thinking, emotions, and actions in life.

 

Locus of control is a power issue. If you give others power over you, you overemphasize external locus of control in your life. On the other hand, if you empower yourself, you emphasize internal locus of control in your life.

 

In order to handle the control issues in your life, it is better to emphasize internal locus of control so that you are able to let go of the need to control and change others and concentrate on controlling and changing yourself.

What are some myths and realities about control?

 

Myth: The more I exercise control on others, the more control I'll have in life.
Reality: Because others are free to accept or reject your control, the resulting dynamic tension between the controlled and controller creates a circumstance in life which is more out of control than you first desired. The more you let go of control over others, the more control you will have over your internal locus of control.

 

Myth: I am not controlling people when I am helping them or trying to fix things for them.
Reality: You are controlling them, however, when you are fixing or helping them and they are not taking personal responsibility and control of their own lives as a result of your assistance.

 

Myth: If I manipulate others to do what I want them to do, this is not controlling them.
Reality: You are exercising them to do what you want because they are not out of their own free will deciding to do what it is you want them to do.

 

Myth: I am not controlling others if they are unintentionally intimidated by me and go along with what I want them to do.
Reality: If you are unintentionally placed in an external locus of control position by others, they have put you in a position of power over them. You are in control over them even though you are not aware of this at the time.

 

Myth: I should be in control of everything that is important in my life.
Reality: Unfortunately you are powerless to control most people, places, and things in your life since you can only be fully in control of your internal locus of control and your own thoughts, emotions, and actions.

 

Myth: I should hold onto and help the people in my life whom I see are having problems taking care of themselves in acceptable, self-responsible and self-controlling ways.
Reality: The more you try to hold onto these people, the harder they will pull away or the weaker and more dependent on you they will become. It is better to become emotionally detached from their problems and let them solve them on their own so that they still can relate to you in a free and open way.

 

Myth: Other people will condemn me if I become detached from the people close to me.
Reality: It makes no difference what others think about you. What is important is helping the people in your life to become more self-responsible and self-controlling of their own lives.

 

Myth: I should never let go of those things I am trying to control and change because if I do I'd be considered a failure.
Reality: Your struggle to control and change things outside of your internal locus of control is going to wear you down and possibly break you. You will be healthier, happier, and more in control of your life if you let go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables in your life.

 

Myth: If I love someone, I should always be there for them even if they become a little dependent on me for a while.
Reality: You're a person who could possibly love a person so much that you contribute to that person's inability to become self-responsible and in self-control of life. In reality your love may make the person overdependent on you. Love is learning to let go of the uncontrollable and unchangeable people in your life.

 

Myth: When people are helpless, I should step in and take over to help them get on their feet.
Reality: People might appear helpless to you but they often have inner reserves of competence, skills, and ability to solve their own problems. If you take over their problems for them, this might disable them from being productive problem solvers and agents for their own change. By always taking over, you encourage their overdependence on you.

 

Myth: When things are not going the way they should, I should take control of the situation to make it the way it's supposed to be.
Reality: You are being irrationally led by your dreams, fantasies, tradition, and promises of how life should be. In your idealism you can become so overcontrolling as to ensure the opposite desired reality will occur.

 

Myth: I should take care of things because they will happen the way they are supposed to.

Reality: A caretaker works hard at being sure that everything is the way it is supposed to be for everyone. This over-controlling behavior succeeds in disabling people who are being cared for and then things are never the way they are supposed to be. You never get what you really want when you are overcontrolling.

What are the steps to handling the need to control?

In order for you to be better able to handle the need to control, follow these steps.

 

Step 1: First, identify what control issues you need to work on in order to have the ability to let go of the need to control. To identify the issues, use the topics from this book to help you identify what you need to work on. Write in your journal the issues you need more work on.

  • Intimidation
  • Idealism
  • Need to fix
  • Caretaker behaviors
  • Accepting powerlessness
  • Letting go of the uncontrollables and unchangeables
  • Developing detachment
  • Unconditional acceptance and love
  • Overdependency
  • Manipulation
  • Dealing with suicide
  • Survival behaviors
  • Developing self-control

 

Step 2: Identify how you overuse control in your life and identify the irrational reasons why you do this. In your journal review the reasons you identified as to why you control people, places, and things and then identify what irrational, unhealthy thinking explains why this is so.

 

Step 3: Next identify how you control others to do for you what you could do for yourself. Identify in your journal the items you identified in the second inventory of this Chapter and then identify the irrational, unhealthy thinking that explains why this is so.

 

Step 4: Next identify how others control you to do for them what they could do for themselves. Identify in your journal the items you identified for others in the second inventory of this Chapter. Then identify your irrational and unhealthy thinking that allows you to let them control you in this way.

 

Step 5: Next identify how you control your emotional response to life. In your journal respond to the following questions which are based on your responses to the third section of this Chapter.

  • How well do you control your emotional response to life?
  • How much power do you give to other persons, places, and things to affect your thinking, feelings and actions?
  • How often are your feelings out of control? How does it make you feel to recognize your feelings are out of control?
  • What irrational thinking underlies the over or undercontrol of your emotional life?

 

Step 6: Next you need to determine where you currently place the locus of control in your life. To do this, respond to this inventory by writing down in your journal which of the following statements are usually true for you.

  1. You are able to maintain control of your belief in yourself as a good and worthwhile person despite what others tell you about yourself.
  2. You accept and love yourself unconditionally at all times even in the midst of troubles, problems, failure, and pressure.
  3. You give no one but you the power to influence how you think, feel and act.
  4. You do not need other people's approval, recognition, and acceptance in order to believe in yourself as a good and worthy person.
  5. Your self-esteem is strong enough that you rarely are emotionally affected by what people say to or about you.
  6. You are not affected emotionally about the response others give you when you assertively let them know how you feel even if the feelings are angry or negative in nature.
  7. You are able to openly assert your anger and negativity in a constructive way with others.
  8. You are not intimidated to say how you feel by the loss of approval or loss of acceptance from someone who might not like what you have to say.
  9. You do not feel dependent financially, emotionally, or physically on any person other than yourself and thus feel free to speak freely and let others know what you think, feel or do.
  10. You are able to openly admit when you have made an error or mistake or when you have experienced a failure in life.

 

If you were only able to identify 7 or fewer of these items, your locus of control is more external than internal. If you had a healthy internal locus of control, you would have checked all but one or two of the items. If your locus of control is external, then you need to work at strengthening your belief in yourself by self-affirmations and self-esteem enhancement work. Begin to tell yourself:

  • I am a good person who needs only my own approval, recognition, and acceptance.
  • I accept and love myself unconditionally.
  • I am a worthwhile person deserving to be respected and given a chance to succeed in life.
  • I am a good person on my own.
  • I can make it on my own if I need to.
  • I will work at controlling and changing only me and my outlook on life.
  • I am the source of approval and recognition I need to succeed.
  • I think I can be less controlling of others.
  • I know I can be less controlling of others.
  • I know I will be in more control of my own life.

 

Step 7:  Next you need to rid yourself of the myths about control. You need to accept that the less control you exercise over other people, places, and things the more control you will have in your own life.

 

Step 8:  You next need to work through the next 14 chapters of this book.

 

Step 9:  If you find you still are having problems with control issues, return to Step 1 and begin again.