How do I let go of my need for control in my relationship, circumstances, and life ?
What causes someone to become controlling?
There are many reasons as to why a person becomes controlling. While everyone is different—with different backgrounds—I do believe that every single person on this planet has some kind for desire for control.
But there are some of us who take it to extremes, which leaves us feeling anxious, depressed, and unable to live our lives freely and joyfully.
The reasons as to why people are controlling can range from how they were raised, to something painful that happened in their past that causes them to mistrust. Mistrust is one of the many symptoms of control, and something that can cause harm in your own life, as well as become a relationship killer.
Learn about how to Rebuild Trust in Your Relationship.
Along with reasons from our past that cause a need for control, it can also be apart of our personality. If you are a type A person, you are more likely to have a need for control in your life. What you need to control is dependent on the person.
Some people struggle with wanting to control their job, their partners, their children. Some people go so far to want to control everything and it disables them to experience joy in their lives. Fear cripples them, and before they know it, their life is lived in isolation—unable to love or be loved in fear of getting hurt.
C.S. Lewis had a little something to say about that.
How do I know if I have control issues?
As I said before, we all have some kind of control issue. It’s when that need for control is on the forefront of our minds that it needs to be dealt with. It’s when we can’t think of anything else, or when something unexpected pops up, we unravel and fall apart at the seems.
This is evidence of living in fear and not faith; it’s evidence of a control issue.
If you feel anxious, depressed, or frustrated more times than not when something doesn’t go your way, it could mean that you have control issues that go a bit deeper that your average “normal” needs for control.
Goes to say, we are all affected by different things—and sometimes we don't even realize that we are being controlling. It's important to identify what you're trying to control in your life and learn how to work through it; otherwise, those problems will begin to control you.
Dealing with your past and figuring out what has happened that might be causing you to be controlling is one of the first steps in overcoming your need to control.
My new book Beautiful Me is a great way to do that. It’s a three step guide for dealing with your past, identifying the lies you might be believing, and learning to live in confidence and freedom in who you were created to be.
Here are some other steps you can take so that you can start living in faith and not fear.
1. Acknowledge that you have a problem with trying to control. In other words, own up to it.
What is the first step in AA? Admitting and accepting that you're an alcoholic. Am I comparing control to alcoholism right now? Yep! First things first, as hard as it is, to change, we need first to admit we have a problem and accept that something needs to be done.
If you can do this, well, you're on the right path already, and there is hope. Humility is a virtue that only comes when you are willing to change, so yes, it's going to take some willpower as well.
2. Recognizing who can give you the strength to change.
I know, again with the AA stuff. But seriously, we have also to admit we can't do it on our own! Control, in a way, is an addiction. What's the definition of addiction according to the dictionary?
The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. ... A physical or psychological need for a habit-forming substance.
There you have it. Control, if not dealt with, can become an addiction. Like anything for that matter. If we place too much weight on anything, give it control over our lives in spite of the negative impact it's having, we have let that become an addiction.
Control is all about doing things on your own time and your terms. In overcoming the need for control, you should steer clear of the ideal that you can shake this on your own. If you have a faith, then you know that you don't have control over the things or people in your life any more than a monkey does.
Certain things, like whether or not we are going to apply for a job is something we can control. Whether we get that job isn't up to us. That doesn't mean you can sit back and let God do all the work. No, it takes a step of faith on your part in following through what he is leading you to do.
He wants us to recognize that worrying about our future, or what others might or might not do, is not going to do diddly squat. It's the difference between living out of fear or faith.
3. Find accountability.
It's one thing to say you will change; it's another to show you have changed. If you have someone in your life that you trust, let them know what it is you want to do about your need to control. That way, when it gets hard (because it will), you have someone who can remind you and walk through that journey with you.
4. Figure out the WHY. Write it down.
Husbands, kids, finances, etc. All of these things can come crashing down at a moments notice because you don't know your future. Set yourself free by making a list of all of the things you need to let go. It's crazy how this has worked for me.
I went specifically in-depth into every category of the things I want to control, wrote how I felt about them, whether it made me angry, sad or frustrated, and by the end of it I figured out the why! Sometimes we don't know why we want to control until we admit what is frustrating us so much about how we can't control it.
5. Let it go.
Many times when I conclude what my WHY is, I realize a lot of it has to do with unforgiveness and mistrust. (Learn how to start the path to forgiveness in my latest book Beautiful Me.)
Sometimes I have no idea what it comes from, and that's okay! I know that with a few faith steps and trusting that God will get me through it, I can change.
My need for control has in many ways brought my marriage to some challenging times. Because I don't have control over my husband's actions, I live in fear of getting hurt, or him dying, you name it. You need to change your mindset from "I'm afraid that..." to "even if it happened, I would be okay because of..."
For me, it's because I know that whatever I will go through, I have a God who loves me and will walk with me every step of the way. This isn't an easy concept to grasp, and I believe I will continue to learn the ins and outs of it until the day I die.
So what can you do right now? Take the steps necessary for change, and follow through. If you fail, don't give up. Tomorrow is another day you have been given to try again.
6. Start with the little things.
Think about the little things that you try and control throughout your day. Is it that your husband is always late coming home from work? Your child keeps lying to you? You can't seem to pay off that debt that's been haunting you for years?
Whatever it is, write down how it frustrates you and why, and then write how you want to react instead of your past "Why are you always home late?" comments that get you nowhere except a big blown out fight.
Remember, you can't change your husband or your kids, but you can change how you react to an unfortunate situation. That doesn't mean you shouldn't voice what it is that's bothering you, but by processing it first, it will come out with a communication that isn't going to send your spouse or kids immediately into defense mode.
Once you start having success on the easier problems in your life that you want to control, you can begin to work on the bigger things. You will start feeling a sense of freedom from those need for control actions that have held you captive over the years.
You'll begin to accept the fact that your husband is home late sometimes and it's okay. When it becomes a problem, you will then know how to communicate better, so that your husband will hear you and not want out from under your reign of control. Do you see how that works together?
7. Practice makes perfect.
It wasn't until I really followed through on writing down my control issues and working through them that I began to succeed in accepting that I can't control certain things.
Like anything in life, it takes time. First, you have to want to change. I know for me, I was so sick of being ruled by living in fear that I knew I had to do something about it or I would go crazy. It was keeping me from enjoying life and stealing my joy. I just wasn't having it anymore. I still try and control things.
Ask my poor husband. I'm not perfect and neither will you be. We all have our quirks and struggles, but even taking a step as to say, "I need to change in this," is a huge accomplishment.