I’m learning that I feel a very powerful urge to control every aspect of my life. I know it seems silly that I never realized this, but I really didn’t. I thought most of my issues were just plain old anxiety or stress, which it was, but it all stems from the need for control.
The thing I try to control the most? Other people’s happiness. I realized that I’ve been doing that ever since I can remember. Trying to keep my 5-year-old sister happy through our parents’ ugly divorce and subsequent hideous interactions with each other throughout the years. Making sure my Mom was happy with her new life. Making sure my Dad wasn’t going to go off the deep end. Making sure my husband is happy. Making sure my kids are happy. It goes on and on and on. And I didn’t even realize I was doing it and I certainly didn’t realize how it was affecting…my happiness. Because guess what? I have no control over other people’s happiness.
I was talking to my therapist (who is ah-may-zing by the way) about one of my biggest fears that keeps me up at night: Matt and I will die, Olivia will be left alone in a horrible nursing home, not understanding what has happened or why I’m not there for her, crying all day long and miserable. Now, I know that this is irrational and very unlikely to happen but it still is a major worry for me. My therapist looked and me and said “You’re trying to control things from the grave!” And I laughed. Because it was true but I didn’t realize it. I have no control over when I die or what will happen after. I can put things in place to ensure she’s taken care of, and of course she’ll be loved, but I have no control.
It’s been liberating for me to realize that this is the source of my unease. I need to stop controlling every little thing. It’s pointless. Just like worrying. It’s pointless and yet I spend most of my time engaging in it. As most of you know, it’s super difficult to quit trying to control your life and maybe even more impossible to quit worrying. But I’m sure as hell going to try. I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders just to know where all of my issues stem from.
The hardest part about this whole process is learning to just be in the moment. If you live in the moment, there are no worries, there is no need to control, there is nothing but what is happening right now. Right now, my daughter is loved beyond belief; she’s happy as can be; she’s amazing. Right now, my kids are loved and they know it. Right now, my husband and I are more in love than ever. Right now, we have a roof over our heads, food on the table and jobs. Right now, we are healthy. Right now is all that matters.
Right now is bliss.
Okay, I love this post for about 14,000 reasons. Don’t worry, I won’t list them all. 🙂 I had a similar epiphany a while back, except my therapist said it was co-dependence. I can’t be happy unless everyone else is happy, so I try to MAKE them happy…. hence, the control. Blew. My. Frickin’. Mind. Yo. Anyway, fast forward a few years, and… I’m still working on it. I take comfort in the excuse that there are worse faults than wanting others to be happy. 🙂 Enjoy your journey and all the lessons along the way!
I’m right there with ya. This post spoke to me on so many levels. My need to be in control leads me into so much anxiety because I simply can’t be in control and I hate that! I too am working on it. I’ve ben working on it for long enough that I at least recognize the signs and can check myself or not fly off the deep end when someone else checks me. Glad you have a kick ass therapist to help you through it!
I do this to some extent too! I think that whether it is divorce, or a parent sick & dying, when something tragic happens in your childhood this behavior can arise. I just don’t want anyone to feel the pain I did as a child so I try to fix people. People can’t be fixed. They can be loved and supported but that is it. Can’t control much. I love this post too! Keep working on it. I am glad you have come to this realization and that it brings you some peace. Miss you & hope to see you soon!
I have the book called the “Shack”. Its religious, but its amazing with concepts similar to this. Many of the passages talks about living for today, not for yesterday or what is to come, but for today. It was “God” telling the main character to do this and that humans waste so much time on regrets and worrying about future. You should read it my friend. I have the hard copy of it, if you’d like to borrow it 😉
What a great discovery! I recently realized that I process/feel encouragement as pressure. It’s warped! But just knowing that has made a big difference. 🙂
I have a similar need for control and excess of worry. Have you read about or talked to your therapist about mindfulness? It sort of comes out of Buddhism and meditation, but it’s basically about learning how to be in the moment.
Oh….I really needed to read that. Love.
I’m a total control freak! Mine is from my dysfuctional childhood, it’s my coping mechanism. But I will tell you it has begun to wear on me and I’m exhausted!!
Oh my heavens, do I understand!
There is a song by my most favorite punk band that’s called “No Control” – you don’t have to be a punk rock fan to appreciate these lyrics:
Questions that besiege us in life are testament of our helplessness
There’s no vestige of beginning, no prospect of an end
When we all disintegrate, it will all happen again
If you came to conquer you’ll be king for a day
But you too will deteriorate and quickly fade away
And believe these words you hear
When you think your path is clear:
We have no control
(Sounds bleak, with the deteriorating and whatnot – I believe the band is actually referring to the grand scheme of the world, that the world goes on with or without you, whether you’re a king or a commoner, etc etc – but I have always loved these lyrics. I have had such control issues in my life, and I love the reminder that we cannot control the world or even our own circumstances at all times. You have to let go. Now, that’s something I’m still working on…)
My marriage to control is one I am trying to break. It’s about living, loving, and eventually letting go. I am still learning.
Grateful you wrote this post.
Enjoyed reading this so much as I struggle recently in the same area of life and just realized it about a year ago. It’s something I have to work on every single day because sometimes I don’t even realize I am trying to control things. Thanks for posting this 🙂
I am learning this same lesson. The other day I was bawling and when confronted by my husband, I realized that it was because I was trying to make other people happy which is not possible. I want to fix everything for everyone. I am trying to let go a little (a LOT) and have more faith. Boy is that hard. I am glad that you have found someone so wonderful with whom to work. You’ve inspired me.
It’s very difficult, isn’t it Traci? We can keep each other in check. 😉