Some people feel a need to control everything. Others, well, they can’t seem to get control.

So what’s up with control?

Control itself is about the ability to influence or facilitate the course of events. When one knows what is happening or coming, even if bad, control at least brings a sense of certainty.

If one grew up in a home with unpredictability, perhaps a challenging parent, someone with anger issues or a drug/alcohol problem, in those homes, one may never have known what to expect next. With that, some folks learn to keep their head low and not rock the boat. Others, seeking to provide for their own certainty may seek to manage that which they can, but to as great an extent as possible.

From a chaotic home then, you can actually have two diametrically different outcomes (amongst others). Keeping one’s head low, one doesn’t really manage anything but just seeks to get through the moment. This person experiences no control and is subject to the vagaries of life, hoping that things just go well, but with limited problem-solving skills when they don’t.

Conversely, by seeking to manage whatever one can, this person can appear to overreach and manage things, even those the responsibility of which belongs to others. This can create conflict in relationships when one’s own solutions don’t necessarily fit the needs or wants of the other.

In both instances, people are acting out of fear of a poor outcome stemming from an upbringing of uncertainty. This is not to say there aren’t other issues underlying matters of control, but that this is not an uncommon cause.

Either way, there are things to manage more constructively:

  1. Therapy can provide the insight to better understand what may be contributing to how you experience control. For many folks, just coming to that understanding is enough to help them shift their style.
  2. For those who seek to control, learning to let go and see how things progress, particularly under the guidance of another, although scary, can give a different experience to counter that which was learned from childhood
  3. For those who feel their lives are out of control and they have little to no agency (input into outcomes affecting their lives) learning to problem-solve and implementing strategies to take risks can help them better tackle the vagaries of life versus feeling adrift to the whims of life.

If control is an issue one way or the other for you, reflect on your past. If unsure and unable to view your history clearly, then a therapist can help you explore as well as learn more effective strategies for coping.  

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