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When Your Need for Control is Out of Control

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

The triple whammy syndrome:

  • Perfectionism – demanding things be done flawlessly.
  • Obsessiveness – holding on to thoughts way too long.
  • Rigidity – being inflexible, unyielding, uncompromising.

Heavy stuff! Calls for a bit of levity, don’t you think?

Is there a difference between a Rottweiler and an overly controlling person? Yup, a Rottweiler eventually lets go.

As you might imagine, the triple whammy syndrome makes living and loving extremely difficult. So, if your need for control is out of control, listen up so that you can loosen up.

  • Get Back to Basics
    The most basic thing in life is the rhythm of breathing. Take a few moments to do nothing except focus on taking a deep breath - inhaling slowing, exhaling slowing. Take three more deep breaths. Feel your body and mind relaxing. Tell yourself that it’s okay to let go of your concerns and responsibilities – at least for a few minutes. If you did this exercise, you’re already feeling more relaxed. Doesn’t that feel good?
  • Accept ‘What Is’
    Western philosophy emphasizes the importance of being in control while Eastern philosophy emphasizes surrendering control, accepting ‘what is.’ There’s a time and a place for each of these belief systems. Many of us need to be reminded that not everything is in our control. We need to accept what is. And stop berating ourselves (and others) for what has happened.
  • Delegate Control
    If you have a strong need for control, you probably feel overburdened, overstressed. Yet, you hesitate to let someone else take over because that person won’t do it the ‘right’ way. Yet, many things don’t have to be done only one way. Just like there are “50 ways to leave your lover,” there are many ways to do laundry, prepare a meal, respond to a request.
  • Focus on What’s Realistic, not Idealistic
    While perfectionism in the abstract may seem like a virtue, in real life it’s often a curse. If your need for control is strong, lots of times you’ll be upset with yourself and others. So, try to seek accomplishment, not perfection. With some tasks you may want to put in mega effort to make it a first-class accomplishment. Others, however, just have to get done and out of the way. No gold star necessary. And still others, if you really think about it, don’t have to get done at all.
  • Accept Yourself - With all of your Flaws
    Quick—think of 5 things that are ‘right’ about you. Now, think of 5 things that are ‘wrong’ about you. Which of these questions was easier for you to answer? If you’re more aware of your vices than your virtues, do yourself (and others) a favor by reversing that pattern. Not only will you ease up on yourself but, since we tend to treat others as we treat ourselves, you’ll ease up on what you expect from others.
  • Do Something Differently
    Prove to yourself that you can do things differently by deliberately changing how and when you do a task. Take a new route! Respond to a request in a different way! Say ‘yes’ to something you’d typically say ‘no’ to! When you’re always in control, life is predictable, safe - and boring. So, try surrendering the control. You’ll find that most things will turn out just fine. And in the rare situation when it does not, trust that you’ll be able to meet the challenge, becoming stronger and wiser as a result of the experience.

Okay; you’ve read the article. Now how many of these ideas will you put into practice? I know, it’s hard to do. Or, maybe you don’t believe doing any of them will make a difference. Who knows, maybe it won’t. But, I have observed that if you practice these behaviors over a period of time, you’ll begin to relish your relationships, take pleasure in your work, and love your life’s journey. What could be better than that?

Copyright © 2018: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.
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