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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The illusions of control - A take on controlling/controlled people

To any of my faithful readers who've ever been accused of being a controlling person or a control freak, don't worry.  Regardless of what anyone else thinks, you aren't truly in control anyways.  So, the claims of others to that effect, don't fully matter anyway.

In a way, you are being accused of trying to do something you probably don't or wouldn't succeed at anyway.  I firmly believe that control is largely an illusion and that to the extent we have control, it is short term and passing.  On January 5th of this year (2017), I was once again reminded of just how illusory control can be.  On January 4th, I was thinking about getting another year or so out of my 2006 Ford Focus before I would buy a new car.  By shortly before 8am on January 5th, I was staring at the reality that I would need to buy a new car imminently.  Another driver's failure to control her car, led to the destruction of my car, something whose timing I couldn't have predicted. That being said, just because we don't always have control over life's events doesn't mean that we should just throw up our hands and 'cast our fate to the wind'.  Rather it means we should factor in some uncertainty and keep in mind that despite our best plans, we have to be flexible enough to adjust them if the need arises.

But I digress. Regarding relationships, in order for control to be seriously attempted, there has to be someone who could feasibly be controlled.   That is to say, there has to be someone who is tends to be controlling and someone who tends to 'fall prey' to a controlling person.

I am going to ponder the delusions, illusions and mindset which I believe controlling people and 'controlled' people to be be under.

CONTROLLING PEOPLE
  • Often they live fear-based.
    • It may be cliche to say controlling people are often driven by fear, but many cliches are true.  
    • The fear may take a number of shapes.
      • Fear of humiliation.  Obviously, you inherently have control over your own behavior as you have free will and can make choices.  However, those that you perceive that represent you--employees, children, spouse, family--are external to you and they have free will also.  So, as the thinking of a 'control-freak' goes, I will be judged based on those around me, therefore, I must do everything I can to pressure them into conforming to my standards of acceptable behavior.  
      • Fear of making a costly mistake/missing a deadline/losing it all.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to be wound too tight.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to be too conservative or risk-adverse.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to second guess too much.
        • Their fear can cause themselves and/or others around them to micromanage.
        • They can't read the minds of others, so they can't 'take a chance' of failure.  This is especially true when if the other(s) have EVER 'failed'.  Even if they risk failure when in control, they have more 'certainty' as to success.
  • Often they live all about them or narcissist-based.
    • A controlling person I believe tends analyzes everyone and everything as to how it affects them.  How does it make me look or feel?  How does it help, hurt or inconvenience me?
    • They do not want to deal with the feeling of uncertainty that giving up control seems to unleash in them.
    • They often seem to need to positive validation tied to success at whatever situation they are 'taking-charge' at.  That is to say they seek situations to run or control (and therefore people) so they can get the praise associated with 'success' at them.
      • Instead of quietly seeking to do the right things, they seek to the opportunity to make sure others see it.
      • It can be a symptom of an underlying low self-esteem.
      • Instead of being comfortable in their own skin, they require more and more confirmation of their goodness or worth.
  • Often they are 'groomed' to be controlling.
    • They have either seen or felt the affects of when one isn't in 'control'.  They don't want to feel that.
    • They have often been 'taught' or learned from influential people in their lives that they can't count on others and that they have to be in charge.
  • Often they have rationalized their controlling nature.
    • MARTYR complex - Thinking they are just doing "the Lord's work", even when they have pushed others out of the opportunity to help.  
    • SOLOMON complex -Thinking they are just doing what is best for all parties. Justifying their behavior based on what they deem to be best for all, rather than asking or accepting the input of others.
    • HERO complex - Thinking or worrying that without them, things may not go off right.  That is to say, the situation "requires" them. 


CONTROLLED PEOPLE
  • They often live fear-based
    • They worry about being rejected totally.
      • Thinking if they stand up for themselves, the other may dump, fire or similarly completely reject them.
      • Thinking perhaps that they do not deserve better and/or cannot find better.
    • They worry about being partially rejected.
      • Thinking if they stand up for themselves, the other may withhold positive attention and/or ridicule them.
      • Once again thinking they don't deserve and/or cannot find better.
    • They mistake keeping the controlling person happy as being 'accepted' by them.  In reality, such a mindset can often lead to rejection by the controllers as they don't respect them anyway.
  • They are often what I call "negative narcissist". 
    • Think they can't do it right anyway.
    • Think they deserve what they get.
    • Think they can't please the other(s) anyway.
  • They are often 'groomed' to be controlled.
    • They have had their voice shut down at some point by a controlling person, often a parent, from an early age.
    • They have been often told or implied that they are not capable aka are a failure.
      • Too ignorant
      • Too clumsy
      • Too weak
      • Not as good
      • Too much of a risk
      • Too mistake prone
    • While sometimes they may lack initiative and seem to 'crave' being controlled, often it may just be that they are just beaten down by being shut down and/or being implied that they are a failure.
  • They often rationalize their controlled nature.
    • PEACEMAKER complex - They are the peacemaker and/or don't want to make waves stir up trouble or make life more difficult for anyone.
    • HELPFUL complex - They want to be seen as being helpful and not argumentative.
    • EMPATHETIC complex - I should be more understanding of the other, given their situation (tremendous workload/responsibility they have, victim of abuse, etc.)
      • You can be understanding without allowing yourself to be walked all over.
      • You have to remember that often times you didn't cause that situation or problem for them (or at least were not fully responsible), so while it is okay to empathize, it is not okay to let it be a tool to control you. 

This is not meant as a comprehensive study or take on controlling people (and controlled people), but really a discussion piece on what I see in these people/situations.  As they say, "You Mileage May Vary" (YMMV).  

The world is full of leaders and followers.   Inherently, neither role is necessarily a bad thing.  Being a leader doesn't inherently mean one is a 'controlling' person no more than being a follower inherently means one is a 'controlled' person.  It is often times the mindset behind why they are taking that role and how they are treating others.


LEADERS/FOLLOWERS:
  • The best leader leads because he or she wants the best for those whom they lead, not to satisfy a craving for power/validation.  That is to say they lead not because they wish to control others, but rather they see a need that they can help with and it concerns them enough to 'take charge'.
  • The best followers follow as they realize they want to help, but realize that 'too many cooks spoil the broth'.  They are content helping behind the scenes and not getting 'leadership' credit.  They may share the vision of the leaders and realize that they can help out with the vision.  That is to say, they follow not out of a need to be validated (by the leader) or out of a sense that they don't deserve better or even out of a fear that they can't lead.  Instead, they understand that being a follower is a role.
  • Leaders can be followers at times and followers can be leaders at times.  It really depends on the needs of the situation and the strengths of the parties involved.
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My takeaway on this subject is to recognize your role, why you are in your role, recognize your need to be respected, but also to respect others.   We have to understand that we can't control everyone and everything nor should we want to.  Life is full of uncertainty.  We can't live with complete uncertainty, but we also can't expect to live no uncertainty.   While it is important in many cases to minimize uncertainty, it cannot be at all costs.  We cannot control others for our own selfish needs, nor can we allow ourselves to be controlled for our own selfish needs either.  We have to respect that each of us has a role.  We have a time and place to lead and a time and place to follow.  We have a voice to be heard and we have voice to be silent and to hear others.  Based on our gifts, the types of roles and the size of our voices may be different, but we should not let it devolve into a controlling situation.

While respecting our own needs, we need to be able to take ourselves out of the picture and let our role come naturally rather than be forced.  I believe God will, if we listen, direct us to our roles making it not so much of a matter of control, but rather doing or being open to the right thing.

Just some thoughts.  I've hope you've gotten a little out of this posting.