• Control Issues: You Can Run But You Cannot Hide

    Control Issues, Drew Rabidoux, LCSW, Therapist

    I happen to work a lot with women who find out they have some control issues. It might dawn on them when they are in a new relationship and their partner isn’t doing things as they would.  It also might happen when they break under the pressure of stress because they have taken way too much on at work.  It might happen when they have kids and they have difficulty with helicopter parenting.

    What I’m trying to say to you is, you can run but you cannot hide.  Sooner or later you will have to confront the control issues.  Your body will always tell you.

    It manifests in a fatigue that you cannot shake, a discomfort in your stomach, a short fuse, neck pain, feeling resentful, maybe even developing an ongoing health issue.

    I will never forget when my favorite boss died at the age of 47.  She dropped dead at her organization’s Holiday Party. She was the picture of health; yoga fanatic, healthy eater, great marriage, and amazing mother to 2 kids. I was constantly in awe of her. She had moved into a new job where she was Executive Director of a non-profit that assisted poor children and families in Queens. Hurricane Sandy had just devastated Queens and her job became much harder. As people gathered at her funeral I heard them talking about how hard she worked. How she had gotten up several times a night to respond to emails.  How she couldn’t sleep knowing that there were families that needed her help and there wasn’t enough time in the day or staff on her team to respond to them. The official cause of death was a heart issue but there was no doubt that stress and lack of caring for her basic needs (sleep for one) had been placed on the back burner.

    We could say that Hurricane Sandy didn’t cause her death but it definitely contributed to it.

    I’m not saying that a control issue is going to cause your death, I want to be clear about that.  What I am saying is that you can enhance your life and your health by taking a look at them. The impact of Hurricane Sandy did not fall squarely on the shoulders of my former boss, but in some way she felt that it did. Do you take on entire problems that other people could help you with?

    You can be the best role model for your children and give them valuable guidance and at some point, they are going to be on their own. That is when they will use what you taught them and you’re going to have stand back and let them.  The heartbreak, the disappointment, the sadness, all you can do is be there for them, which requires little effort from you.

    Your partner is going to have to do things on their own. There are some things you cannot micromanage, you have to believe that they have your best interest at heart.

    You will need the support of your colleagues and you may have to train a supervisee to take on tasks that you don’t have the time to take on anymore.  Let them. Just because it might not be done exactly your way, doesn’t mean it is not the right way.

    How do you know you have a control issue?

    1. You would rather do something yourself because someone else won’t do it as well than you. Tell me, what would really happen if something is not done the way you wanted?  The outcome may be something that is different than you thought, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And the win is that you just took something off of your already full plate.
    1. Your partner/spouse is not doing things the way they should be done. Whose should is that?  Who is going to suffer the consequence?  If it’s something that will impact them if not done well, leave it to them to do.  Natural consequences are usually the best lessons in life and the best part is you don’t have to do or say anything, they just happen.  In other words, you don’t have to say “I told you so” because you didn’t have to.
    2. You have anxiety when things don’t go your way and it interferes with your sleep, eating, or you might be self medicating. Do you get extremely agitated, nervous, maybe even panic attacks when something is out of your hands? Do you drink to calm down?  There might be an underlying issue that has to do with the need to control something or the outcome to something.

    Therapy can help. Taking a look at why you need to have control is important. Are there patterns or common triggers that cause you to search for control?  Did you feel without control as a kid and now you have to have it as an adult?  These are things that you need to explore because simply just trying to let go of control is not a long term fix. You have to heal the reason for needing the control. That’s where therapy can help.



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