The Illusion of Control

Control:  A desire to restrain the efforts of other and being unaware that I have no power or control over what others do. ( From Blocking Techniques)

Control: verb.  to regulate or direct; to exercise authority over; to restrain.  Webster’s Mew World Dictionary

Control:  verb 1. (To hold in check) Constrain, repress, master.  2. (To direct)  lead, rule, dominate, direct, determine, conquer, conduct, administer, supervise, run, coach , head, dictate, ,manage, influence, prevail, domineer, constrain, charge, subdue, push, coerce, oblige, train, limit, officiate, drive, move, regulate, take over, “rule the roost,”  “crack the whip,” “ call the signals.”  Webster’s New World Thesaurus.

Growing up, my family and home seemed to be in a constant state of disorder, discomfort and filled with unending tasks to kept the six children and two adults moving forward from day to day.  As the oldest of my siblings, I learned early to focus on other’s needs, problems and issues.  I took on the job of making everyone happy and keeping the peace.  If there was a problem, I must fix it right away or better yet, I leaned that I could take action to prevent problems, by managing and coercing my siblings and their behavior.

I craved recognition and validation from my parent s and received little.  The attention or responses I did get were focused on how I could do my task faster or better, or “Why didn’t you….?”  Thus, I began to believe that if I worked very hard, very quickly and very efficiently and if I controlled my environment and scope of responsibility, then I might get an “Atta girl or Way to go!”

I could survive a long time on a small amount of recognition.

My parent’s expectations were that there be a schedule, that the house be in some order and that there bye some level of quiet and no fighting.  In order for me to achieve these goals, I began to manipulate and control, give orders, direction and repeat myself over and over to get the results I wanted.  In my need to control, I lost my creativity and found that I began to suffer from option anorexia.  There were only one or two ways to make something happen and I didn’t try anything else.  I didn’t ask for help or ideas as after all, my way was tested and it worked.  My control behaviors kept me sane and they became my internal set of rules.  I found that I had lots of rules.

These controls habits moved into adulthood with me and they moved here with me from When I am focused on controlling people, processes and things, I become emotionally unconnected.  I work myself to exhaustion.  As I begin to feel tired, I look for quick fixes to give me a physical or mental boost and the fix I seek is taking on another project that I can control.  This projects fills me with the hope that I will get some recognition so that I am able to feel good, valued, recognized, human and that I can offset feeling abandoned, angry, tired, anxious or whatever else I am feeling that is uncomfortable and I don’t want to take responsibility for  or feel.

Recently, I created a situation which negatively affected a team of people I work with.  I volunteered to participate as a facilitator in a group learning activity.  I had been the recipient of the group learning activity in the past and felt sure that I could present the learning material and facilitate the learning exercises.  Then I volunteered to team up with another member to do an oral presentation.  In the period of time while I was working with my two respective partners, on the two different presentations, I became focused on the fact that I had to be successful in these presentations.  I wrote long detailed notes for the group learning activity and exercises.  When I actually presented with my partner, I was overly focused on the directions and notes I had written, and emotionally disconnected from the participants.  I was no longer spontaneous.  I was rigid and mechanical in my presentation.  I possessed no flexibility.  My voice was a monotone and my overall attitude lacked energy.  Fortunately for the participants, my partner was emotionally connected, spirited, energetic and more flexible and she salvaged the exercise by drawing in another more experienced and emotionally connected facilitator.

My partner in the oral presentation of an article fared no better.  Again I wanted to be successful and lauded by my peers for the contribution I was making.  As I began to work on my portion of the presentation I began to feel unsure of myself and I became blocked to the material.  My creativity disappeared.  I leaned on my partner for feedback that what I had written and was going to present was on target.  I wrote several drafts and went over them with him.  I expressed my neediness by requiring extra time and meetings to go over the material. In my need to gain recognition, I became emotionally disconnected from my working partner and the richness of the material we were to present.  I failed to recognize that I was over my head with this assignment and went ahead anyway.  I was so invested in seeking recognition that I controlled my process and failed to ask for help.  It never occurred to me that I could ask for someone else to take over the presentation.  I felt a great need to be perfect, to be accepted and to be recognized.

By controlling, I create a cycle which cuts me off from relationships and people.  I stop feeling my feelings.  I no longer recognize boundaries for my self or for others.  I direct and become autocratic.  I allow people to assign me more projects or I volunteer for more.  I affect the people I am around in negative ways.  I am so tired or over-stimulated and so disconnected that I can’t remember details and I call people for information that they have already given me.  I misplace things, items, and notes.  I take much longer to process information and directions.  I become needy (which I fail to recognize) and seek reassurance that I am doing something “the right way” instead of making a decision, taking action and taking responsibility. I fail to recognize that the other person(s) I am working with or spending time with have ideas, concerns or needs and I disregard them. My attitude becomes negative and I become critical and judgmental. I fail to take care of my self by eating on time, by resting, by taking breaks, or relaxing.  I give up the activities I find relaxing.

Today I realize that my control behaviors were and are related to long standing feelings of abandonment, futility, powerlessness, and helplessness. These control actions have become familiar to me and they are habitual.  I begin controlling around people. Places, and things, that are not my responsibility. I realize how harmful these behaviors are to others and how destructive these behaviors are to me.  I realize that my attitudes and actions amount to dominance.  I am beginning to recognize that when I repeat myself over and over , I am no longer expressing myself, but using words to control others.

Today I can learn what is and is not my responsibility.  By understanding that “I can’t control it”, I give myself permission to take care of myself.  I can ask myself “How important is this? I can increase my efforts to keep the focus on myself. I can do only my part.