Control is a funny thing. Sometimes we want to control everything and we can’t. Other times we believe we have no control and we have. The reality is that all that we can control is ourselves our own thoughts feelings and behaviour. Perhaps more importantly we can control how we respond to the world around us.
‘ It’s not what happens to us that is important, it’s what we make of it: ‘Epictetus AD 50 – 135.
I’m working with a client at the moment and he wants to control everything: his team at work, his older children, his wife, everything. However when he tries to control his wife, she does things behind his back. When he tries to control his older children, they sabotage his plans. When he tries to control his team they call him a bully.
The less he feels in control, the more he tries to control. It’s a vicious circle which has negatively affected his career and his personal life and he is a breaking point and is experiencing severe symptoms of anxiety.
When we sat down and wrote all the things he wants to control in his life and looked at the reality. He began to realise that all he could control was himself
! We then wrote down all the things he could influence and that was a much longer list!
After more discussion when he was younger, his parents spilt up and he felt lonely and rejected so his unconscious had developed excessive control as a strategy for survival. It is almost as if this response, which is kind of understandable had outlived its usefulness for him today as an adult.
Sometimes it’s good to believe you are more in control or you might not go to that job interview or take a risk in a new relationship. It’s also good to not be in control as it forces us to see things differently, make different choices. So in evolutionary terms having and not having control have been useful in getting us to where we are today – taking risks – or we’d still be in caves!