What is your desire to "control" trying to tell you?

Women's Circle, Managing Our Desire To Control Issue   

A funny thing happened in the last Women’s Circle… 

The topic was “how to deal with our desire to be in control” and half way through the night, I realized my own desire to CONTROL the outcome of the dinner. I wanted to make sure the night was perfect: that people would open up, feel vulnerable and have epiphanies— but how could I control that? How could I ensure the women would feel a certain way? I shared what was going on inside me and got immediate reassurance (thank you, ladies). 

Of course my intention was (and always is) to create an event that is enriching and inspiring. But my desire to control the night was rooted in fear. If the night wasn’t perfect (aka the way I had envisioned it) then it would be a failure. Would I be a failure as well? Would people don’t like me? ( that is one of my deepest fears).

The idea of “control” can be (and was) interpreted in so many ways by the women in the circle. To help me clarify my thoughts (and write this summary), I created two categories. 

Inner Control
Our desire to dictate our internal worlds—how we feel and what we think. 

Culturally, we put so much emphasis on positivity— being happy and optimistic are sought out virtues. I get it, having a positive attitude brings wonderful things into one's life. But have we created a dogma around it? What happens when, inevitably, our hearts and minds encounter “negative emotions” (envy, jealousy or anger)? No wonder we experience shame, guilt and an increase desire to control those unwanted feelings.  

From now on, I will make an effort to remember that what I feel or think is not all of who I am.  

Outer Control
When we find ourselves controlling other people, outcomes or situations. In some cases this is manifested as “perfectionism” or “stubbornness” i.e.: micromanaging calendars, colleagues or family vacations, trying to “change” our partners or wanting to be right (all the time).

I wonder if this happens because we assume responsibilities that do not belong us—we can’t be the therapist of our partner, even if the intention is to help them become "their best self". 

Often times we try to control those we love, is it possible that we don't trust they will “get there” on their own? Could it be that this is how we have learned to show we care? (As a parent of young kids, I have experience this many times). 

Our desire to control offers very useful information: it signals what is important to us and what we want. But when we obsess about getting "our way" and can't let go, it becomes a hinderance. 

We feel “off balance” and tense, with our minds clouded and busy. Feeling this way is tiring. Especially when what we crave is to feel flow, balance and peace.

I never thought that verbalizing my need to control would be so liberating. The part of me that likes to control can be gentler if I understand where is coming from. 

Things to experiments with

Every time you find the urge to control (be perfect or right), ask yourself: 

  • What is the intention of my Control?
  • What is it protecting me from?
  • What is the worse that can happen if I let go?