Is being a control freak, freakish?

I want to share my thoughts on control.

It seeps into many coaching conversations as clients think that ‘having more’  or ‘not losing’ it is a key to having more confidence. When I think the opposite is true.

And I say ‘think’ because, control is something that I still have an intimate relationship with, and am therefore am exploring. It’s easier to spot in others than in ones own behaviour…right!?

So I am not coming from a ‘holier than thou’ ‘I got this sorted’ place in this week’s blog. It is still a work in progress for me, and I have made many changes that I want to share.

So, would you class yourself as someone who likes to be in control?

Or even say that you are a control freak?

I often ask this in workshops and at least 60% of the room will admit to it.

Which got me curious.

My understanding was that ‘freak’ meant unusual. Something unexpected.

But if 60% of delegates and countless clients admit to being a freak, then it’s not that unusual.

Judging by the amount of articles on ‘How to Stop Being a Control Freak’ it’s a very common behaviour.

So how can it really be freakish?

Now before I go on, I know that there are people whose lives are severely impacted by control issues, whether that be from themselves in the form of OCD or from someone else controlling their life/relationship. And if this is you, whilst some of the following may give some insight, my suggestion would be to reach out for the appropriate support.  Hub of Hope is a great place to find somewhere local.

If you are unsure as to whether you are in a controlling relationship please do some research.

Whether you are the controlled or the controller. And again get the help and support you need.

“A clinical diagnosis for control freak is to describe a person as suffering from obsessive compulsive behaviour. They have such anxiety from simply being in the world that they are compelled to micromanage it and the people in it,” Dr. Paul Hokemeyer J.D., PhD “Like all clinical diagnoses, this behaviour manifests itself in degrees. At the lowest grade is a person who is annoying. At the other end of the spectrum are people who become paralysed through the rigidity of their controlling behaviour and who ostracise themselves from the world. Most people however exist in the middle.”

And that is where I know I sit. Somewhere in the middle. And there seem to be many of use here therefore I questioned the term freak.

When I talk in more depth with clients about control and the possibility of them not being in control, there is a similar reaction that arises. Often it’s a visible or audible ‘twitching’ the face contorts and the breathing changes. Expletives are often expressed. I have seen these behaviours  before. Felt them personally…whenever I have attempted to give up something I was addicted to; drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sugar.

Those of us that want control are not freaks, we are addicts. Or more precisely, it is the thinking mind that is the addict. Needing to be in control.  It is a craving desire and seems to stem from the assumption of what might happen if we are not in control. It’s fear based. A similar reaction can happen to withdrawal from substances, be them as strong as illegal drugs or everyday as caffeine.

The thought of me going to a party without alcohol 10 years ago would have been out of the question. Too scary. I was too insecure.

I also would have laughed at the thought of not having a least one bar of chocolate a day. The sugar fix helped me avoid any emotional thinking that was surfacing.

And me not being in control of a conversation and therefore it veering off on a topic I know nothing about… too much! I was just as much addicted to control as I was sugar….OK full disclosure….I’m still working on both!

And they both are based in fear! Fear that I will have to face something uncomfortable without them.

Something that the thinking mind works actively to not do.

There have been substantial changes over the last few years for me and there are ‘steps’ that I have put in place to loosen my control grip. These are not the only way or the only answer, but they are a start.

  1. See it

We first need to be honest with ourselves and see our behaviours. Where and how does control show up in your life?

Notice daily.

Look at the impact these controlling behaviours have on you. Physically? Mentally?

Be clear for yourself on the specifics of the behaviour too.

As I said one of my habits was needing to control the conversation out of fear of not knowing where it might go. The impact on me was exhausting! I used a great deal of energy trying to come up with conversations and keep talking. Then more energy was wasted after the event when the self doubt kicked in and abusive thoughts. No wonder I was tired so often!

Also be aware of the impact your control addiction may be having on others. NO SELF ABUSE required in this, just pure observation. Be aware. See it!

2. Small steps

When you are looking to change, small steps are the best starting point. They are more likely to stick.

Once you have noticed the behaviours and are clear how they impact all…including you…then choose one area where you are controlling and decide on a different approach.

So for me, when I realised what I was doing in conversations I decided to ask a question and then shut up, see where the conversation would go. Yes, I was uncertain when I first started. And uncomfortable. But I soon noticed, that the ground stayed beneath my feet and the sky did not fall in! So I relaxed and now, I even find it easy to say when conversation veers into areas I know nothing about, and ask for further information!

What is a small step that you could take?

3. Reflect

Notice every time that you did the small step. You’re not looking for everything to go perfectly btw – that’s more controlling thinking. What you are looking for is that you stood back, or delegated, or simply didn’t do what you would usually do.

A client who is taking these small steps likes to be in control when it comes to the Christmas tree, and how it is decorated. Last year, as part of her small steps, she took deep breaths and reminded herself, that one day her kids will not want to decorate the tree. And it’s fine. The impact of this one small change (after the confused glances from family) was a more joyous festive time than usual…and no arguments!

You can only make these changes to controlling behaviour by noticing that you are doing them in the first place. Be kind with what you find, as from those insights you can make lasting change!

And as ever, if you would like 1:1 support with this or other life changing matters, please do get in touch jules@juleswyman.com and we can set up a complimentary coaching conversation.