My control-issues come with perks, so why stop? Well, for starters, it’s hard work. Exhausting, really. Especially these days, when almost everything in our world feels so out-of-control. It’s Whack-a-Mole time for all control freaks. We’re driven to get – and stay – “out in front” of things. What’s trending; what’s impending, doom-wise.  But my own motivations have been more intimate lately. The urge to try to control shifting aspects of my personal life – what tweaks my happiness and wellbeing – is very strong right now. Which brought me to a face-off with my inner control-freak.

Even though I was raised in the “Do Your Own Thing” 1960’s, I aged-into an important awareness as an adult. Asserting my personal independence and personal freedoms is different from being a control-freak. The ‘freak’ kicks in when I obsess about controlling external events; and people I care about. Making certain that my own needs are met. For me, this kind of power translates as a sense of security.

Still, anyone who’s been employed in a dysfunctional work setting recognizes this distinction. When someone exerts power to correct a messed-up situation, it’s a no-brainer. This is where control-freaks can shine. If, that is, they have the wellbeing of everyone in mind. Instead of a “Me first, then you (maybe)” mentality.

I’ve learned my own painful life lessons about that mentality. As a Leader I sometimes made unilateral decisions that improved operations. But almost always there were unhappy trade-offs and so, unhappy co-workers. Also, the more control I had at work, the more I demanded it outside of work, in my personal relationships.

A control-freak creates rebellion, or submissiveness, in other people. It’s never a win-win dynamic. And no amount of satisfaction from being the one in control lasts forever. Sooner or later, I’m going to (and I did), have to face-off with the deeper, darker reasons behind my need for such control.

Growing up, I enjoyed a lot of independence. Like others of my generation, our free-thinking parents embraced the idea of kids being kind of ‘feral’. (Looking back, what we really needed were a few more physical & psychological guardrails.) The 1960’s was actually a pretty chaotic time to be raised in. I grew up wanting structure; predictability; control.

Wanting and needing to feel in-control is really about my own survival instinct. An impulse (reaction) that’s been needing an overhaul for a long time. During the pandemic, my natural control-freak tendencies went crazy out of whack – triggered into frantic “survival mode” by so many changes in my personal and professional life.

So, not just the physical-health fears we all faced when Covid hit. But I was triggered by being forced to just be still for eighteen months (and counting).

Stillness that allowed, required, enforced deep reflection. People I’m in close relationship with have been doing the same kind of reflecting; sometimes making erratic and upsetting moves that rattle my own need for stability and calm. It doesn’t feel good, acknowledging this, and yet I know I must.

It’s like standing naked in front of a mirror. No one else is around, but I feel vulnerable and exposed just the same. The only ‘control’ I have in this moment is to close my eyes and choose not to see. Which is so not — and never has been — my approach to upsets and challenges in life.

Still, it’s a new and unfamiliar emotion that fills me with uncertainty.

Can I find peace, some comfort, and even strength in this reality ?

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