Ok, So, I try to control all the time.
I do this so I don’t have to face the truth. Whether it’s about the reality of who someone else is, the reality of the situation, or what is really going on inside of me, I'd rather hide, react, or force.
Earlier this week I choose to be offended by my husband in the car. I gave him the cold shoulder, a tone, and I phrased things in clever enough way that allowed me to maintain a facade of innocence while trying to push his buttons at the same time.
Controlling behaviors are fear-driven, soul-quenching, faith-killing, connection-deprived, authenticity-squashing, and relationship-stealing.
And, they are understandable. These beliefs and behaviors are normalized, taught to us, and embedded deep within our culture.
Even knowing all the negative consequences control feels so… necessary. Sometimes the thought of not controlling feels like…risk. Too much risk!
Let’s dig a layer beyond the surface. What was I trying to control while in the car with my husband?
Ultimately, I was trying to make him feel like I felt; I was trying to control his feelings. And I wanted to make him want to apologize to me.
Earlier, I had GIVEN him control of my feelings by deciding to make his choices mean something about me. I decided to take his choice (to treat me a certain way) personally and feel offended by it.
Alternately, I could have decided to let his choices mean something about HIM. I could have decided that no matter what I did, his choices aren’t my fault or my problem but instead who he is at this moment— just a man. Maybe tired. Maybe impatient. Maybe with bad habits. Maybe needing help. Maybe sensitive, just like me. Maybe reacting to something, just like me. Instead, I made it all mean something much bigger and powerful.
I gave him control of my emotions and then in revenge, I tried to control his.
This is how it works: If you believe I am the one causing your feelings, you really NEED me to behave in a certain way so you can feel good, happy, satisfied, secure, loving, or patient.
If I don’t behave how you would like me to, or how you think you need me too, or how you think is best for me; you will be unhappy, stressed, angry, unloving, insecure, anxious, or miserable. Either way, at the end of the day you believe it’s me that made you happy or sad, guilty or mad, stressed or refreshed. You put your well being in my hands and made it my responsibility. No one wants that; no one can handle that without hurting you.
Whose feelings do you feel responsible for?
Take a moment to imagine being in this person’s presence.
- Maybe it’s a teen and your really uncomfortable with their anger towards you so you avoid “making them mad” at all costs.
- Maybe it’s your own parent that you bend over backward for approval, hiding things about your adult life or even living a whole lifestyle you don’t actually want.
- Maybe it’s someone who hurts you but you’d hate to be rude and draw a boundary so they don’t think negative thoughts about you.
- Maybe it’s friends you are afraid to be judged by.
- Maybe you just say a lot of yes’s while gritting your teeth to make others think you're amazing.
Take a moment to recall in YOUR body what it feels like when are putting pressure on yourself to create or manage the feelings inside of someone else. Do you experience freedom, safety, and abundance in this relationship? Is there a spirit of honesty and authenticity present? Do you feel any resentment?
How do you think others experience you?
Within this common belief system, you have to be controlling! Your well-being depends on it. It feels like survival. It will be an impossible habit to let go of without changing your belief system.
Without this system, who will manage your emotions? Who will make you feel good? Who will motivate you?
When you learn to believe that you are responsible for all of your own thoughts and feelings, and everyone else is responsible for theirs, you have a new world of opportunity and freedom.
You can allow others to be as they are without it ruining your joy. In this belief system, you are free to unconditionally love others— truly without conditions! You can treat them with positive regard even if they don’t “earn it” by being good as you define it.
You can be clear about what your value system says is good or ok behavior and can have real solid boundaries— and you will be OK when others don’t like or disagree with you.
Other people can do what they want and you can let them. You can think nice things about them because you decide to. You can leave. You can compromise from an honest place. If they are in your care you can give consequences without shame or judgment. You can decide to not invite someone over. You can say no. You won’t have to lie or pretend or convince yourself. You can say, “It’s not ok” when it’s not.
You can let other people have a chance to learn to manage their own emotions because you won’t be holding them— and they can learn to be empowered too.
Read more on creating emotions with “How to be offended (or not)” and “where does #firstworld pain come from?”
I know how challenging this work can be. I also know the payoff is priceless and support makes all the difference. That's why I offer free 30-minute mini-coaching sessions to my blog readers. Shhhh!!! Check out my calendar here.