Some people seem to exaggerate the importance of control.
Without being aware of it, they spend an excessive amount of time and energy trying to control their children, their spouses, their employees, and anything else that obstructs their goals. Those who seek control may hold some of the following underlying beliefs;
“Spontaneity is dangerous. It’s better to think first.”
“When I fail to predict things successfully, something scary and painful happens.”
“To prevent bad things from happening, I have to be prepared.”
“If I can keep my life under control, I can make it more predictable; I can prevent bad things from happening.”
“Security lies in making my life predictable and thereby preventing scary and unexpected things from happening.”
“Security comes from knowing what is going to happen and knowing what people are thinking, so I can prepare in advance. when I do not know these things, I feel vulnerable, scared, and powerless.”
“Since I am not a mind reader or a fortune teller, I can never feel secure in the present.”
“I cannot trust my judgement. What I thought was safe turned out to be scary and painful. I have to take extra precautions. One can’t be too careful.”
“My judgement isn’t good enough. I must depend on the judgement of others.”
“I must control in order to prevent the humiliating exposure of my inadequacy to cope.”
“It doesn’t pay to take a risk. It might hurt too much if I am wrong. I must control perfectly to prevent disaster. Nothing less will do.”
“It is my responsibility to protect others from disaster, too. It is for their own good.
“I know what’s best for other people.”
“It makes me angry when people don’t appreciate how hard I work at keeping them out of harms way.”
Many “controllers” learned at a very early age that security, predictability and preparedness were all interrelated, and that they could not have one of them without the other two. These lessons become the rules they live by and as adults they don’t even think about these matters.
We can change these rules by realizing that they are not rules at all:
We do not really have to make life predictable before we can live our life. We can catch ourselves exaggerating the importance of security, predictability and preparedness and stop it.
We can choose to focus our attention on our successful efforts to cope with the ups and downs of life, just like everyone else.
To live a life seeking control, is a mistake because:
It is a mistake to require ourselves to predict that something bad is going to happen. We are not fortune tellers.
It is a mistake to require ourselves to know what we cannot know. It is a set up for a lifetime of frustration, anxiety and stress. We have created a problem for ourselves. We cannot have a happy life in the present under these absurd circumstances.
It is a mistake to exaggerate the importance of preventing bad things from happening, even if we could do so. What was intolerably painful and scary as a child is more tolerable now that we are adults. We are more competent to take life as it comes.
It is a mistake to define security in terms of predicting the future. Our inability to do so only sets us up for inevitable failure and insecurity. This failure contributes to our pessimism and despair, and it confirms our feeling that we are out of control after all.
It is a mistake to spend our lives trying to control away disasters. While we are on “guard duty,” it is impossible for us to enjoy the gratifications that life has to offer us. We cannot let our guard down for a moment, and so life passes us by.
Our desire to prevent bad things from happening is no more than a “good intention.” It has nothing to do with the real problems of life; it only serves as a cloak to conceal our irrational fears from our friends and from ourselves.
Instead of wasting our lives trying to control our destinies, we can realize that our destinies do not have to be controlled at all. We can make a conscious choice to let go of our fears and accept our imperfections.
There is no way to prevent imperfect human beings from being imperfect. We can take reasonable precautions, but beyond a point, our good intention to ‘prevent’ becomes counter-productive. All humans have limitations and make mistakes. Our lives are to be lived to the fullest; we can choose to take them one day at a time and do the best we can with them.