Are you aware that trying to control what you can’t control makes you feel anxious and unhappy?
Have you ever noticed how bad you feel when you try to control things you can’t control – such as others and outcomes?
Larry consulted with me because he was often miserable – despite running a successful business and having a lovely wife and two daughters, whom he adored.
It soon became apparent that Larry was deeply addicted to controlling everything – his own feelings, how others felt about him, how well his employees performed, what his wife did for him, how well his children did in school, and whether or not anyone ever took advantage of him. His primary intent in life was to be in control and not be controlled.
At the beginning of our work together, I informed him that in the Inner Bonding process, there are only two intents to choose from: the intent to learn about loving yourself and others, and the intent to protect against pain, with some form of controlling behavior. Larry could easily see that his intent in life was to protect against pain with his non-stop controlling behavior. He had never linked his misery to this choice. He could see the irony – that, in his attempts to protect against pain, he was making himself miserable.
“Larry, would you be willing to try an experiment? Every time you feel miserable, ask yourself, without any self-judgement, ‘What am I trying to control?”
Larry agreed to try this.
In our next phone session, Larry told me, “I think I’m on to something here. I’m amazed at how much I try to control and how bad it makes me feel. I’ve always believed that my anxiety and unhappiness was coming from something outside myself – my wife, my kids, my business, my employees, my friends or lack of them. I’ve believed that if only others gave me a lot of attention and did what I wanted, I would feel happy. It’s very eye opening to begin to connect my unhappiness with my own controlling behavior. Actually, it’s empowering! I think I’ve always felt like such a victim – others were not giving me what I wanted and needed to feel happy and good about myself.”
“Larry, did you become aware of how you try to control your own feelings?”
“Well, I became aware that I am constantly judging myself and that this makes me feel awful. Is judging myself controlling?”
“Well, go inside and ask yourself what you hope for by judging yourself.”
“I think I believe that judging myself will get me to do things right and then others will like me.”
“So by judging yourself, you are trying to have control over your behavior, in order to control others’ feelings?”
“Yes, I think that’s right. But it makes me feel miserable.”