Control is a sticky, tricky subject. To be called "controlling" is bad. Yet it's normal to want to exert some control over your life and circumstances. Where's the line? How do you know when you are trying to control too much? Can you tell when you're straying over the line into wanting to control something that you don't have the ability--or right--to control?
I invited Casey McGee, owner of Upward Hound Dog Training and administrator of the Academy for Dog Trainers, to talk with me about control.
Before she became a dog trainer, Casey ran court-ordered groups for men convicted of felony or misdemeanor battery. As she describes it, control is "a means to an end that I feel entitled to."
It's the entitlement piece that can trip you up. It implies a very clear definition of a desired outcome, one you really want to hold onto.
What will you do to get it/keep it? What permission will you give yourself to achieve it?
In the case of abusive spouses, they feel entitled to control their partner's behavior.
In dog training, there are trainers who use heavy-handed techniques because they "need to know the dog will always do it right."
Willingness to use pain, intimidation, or fear changes us internally. (Check out the Tea Consent video for a simple analogy about how and when to back off.)
Abusive partners and force-based trainers are more extreme examples of control. Smaller instances crop up in your day-to-day life.
Have you ever worked for a micromanager? Met a person who needs to have everything just so? Dealt with a client who made unreasonable demands? Control, control, control.
Perhaps there are a few areas in your life where you are attempting to control things that are out of your control.
The truth is, you don't have nearly as much control as you might like, but learning to use it wisely will lead to greater peace of mind and better outcomes.
If you think that you are teetering on the edge of being "controlling" in certain areas of your life, learning to hear your judgments and reframe your thoughts is a great way to turn things around.
If you cross the line into behavior you don't like, ask yourself, "What made me think it was okay to do that?" That will help you identify the entitlement piece of the puzzle.
From there, identify an alternative behavior and practice it!
And the flip side of this is, if you find yourself dealing with a person who is trying to exert control over you in safe but annoying ways, carefully consider your options and establish boundaries. The UNLEASHED Resilience community can help with that. Small changes in how you respond can make a big difference.
(Note: If you are in danger from an abusive person, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online or at 1-800-799-7233. Help is available.)