What If You Let Go of Your Need to Control?
There is a popular story about a corporate executive who proudly declared to his professional coach that he had learned how to control everything that went on in his department.
Sensing that the executive truly believed he had mastered the art of control, his coach asked if he’d ever walked on an ocean beach. When he said yes, his coach asked: “Picture walking on your favorite sandy beach, beautiful ocean waves rushing up toward your bare feet.”
“Got it. I know the beach. I can picture it now,” he said.
The coach continued. “Now turn and face the waves. With your well-honed ability to control, stop just one of those waves from coming to shore.” He looked at her with a frown on his face. “Well, that’s ridiculous.”
“You said that you have a well-honed ability to control.” He said, “Okay. Message delivered.”
When we use control, it becomes a strategy to manage our environment and what is happening around us. The need to control often arises from feeling fragile about our own self-worth. We tell ourselves that if we can control things “out there,” then our inner self-worth will improve. This is the ultimate in disempowerment, because we give our power to external circumstances and other people over which we have no control!
The list of what we want to control is long. We try to control our emotions by numbing and repressing them, which disconnects us from ourselves. We try to control how we look, being right, winning approval, and so much more. Each person is different and uses control in unique ways.
Looking through the lens of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer can help you become more aware of your controlling habits. When in the Rescuer role, for example, you fool yourself, thinking that you can solve other people’s problems by being overly pleasing, fixing, and accommodating. You think you are being helpful, but it really is a backhanded way to assert control of others.
In the Persecutor role, you lean against and take control by judging who or what is to blame for what you don’t like. Your assertive behavior might be overt, or you may silently think thoughts about winning, dominating, being right and “one up.” Because most of us feel uncomfortable owning the part of us that plays the Persecutor role, we may become unconscious to the clever ways we exert control.
In the Victim role, control can, again, be subtle because we may not be aware of how we have adopted controlling behavior. While you may feel powerless and think you have no control, it is in giving up your responsibility that you paradoxically become controlling. You insist that you have no power and demand that others or the situation must change before you change. How controlling and madding to those who live or work with you!
Loosening the universal need to be in control is a life journey. We deceive ourselves when we think we’re in control. A friend recently shared seeing a t-shirt that read: “Relax. Nothing is Under Control.”
All we can control is our response to life’s events. That is why the opposite of Victim is Creator, the foundation of The Empowerment Dynamic. When we live from our Creator essence, we focus on taking responsibility for the only thing we have control over—our thinking and actions.
In the week ahead, become more aware of what you can and cannot control. When your need to control arises, stay curious just one more minute. In that minute, realize that whatever you want to control is just a thought, and you can let it go.
And what if you did let it go? Your life would become lighter, more joyful, and an opportunity to choose personal freedom.