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The Control Freak

CC photo courtesy of Rox Steady via Flickr

You love them but cannot handle them. Over-the-top, having to control everything … a little of a control freak goes a very long way. Do you have friends or family who fit this description? Do you fit this description? Okay, admit it: We all secretly want to be in the driver’s seat of life. We can disguise the longing, masquerade it, or simply live in denial. However, the plain truth is control makes us feel powerful.

From birth we quickly learn the art of manipulating and controlling our surroundings. Watch as a mother places her infant child down for an afternoon nap. Having fed, rocked, serenaded and gently caressed the child until he or she is almost asleep, she places the baby in the crib, turns out the light and tiptoes toward the door. As she pulls the door shut, she hears a shrill, demanding cry that communicates, “No! Come back. I demand your time and undivided attention.” Frustrated and frazzled, the mother reaches down and cradles the infant in her arms. Immediately, the crying ceases. What transpired? A 6-month-old just learned the skill and satisfaction of control.

Let’s fast-forward 30 years. Our infant, Rachel, a successful real estate broker in Florida, has a typical type A, over-accomplishing personality. At work she is a fierce competitor. Among friends she becomes planner, organizer and CEO of their social lives. As the acting director of vacations, events and outings, be assured—every restaurant, cab ride, movie and meal is prearranged. Known to monopolize the conversation and redirect when it does not appeal to her interest, Rachel plays the role of diva, drama queen, director and chief of the fashion police.

What drives Rachel to control? After all, she is  smart and successful. She attracts men, but they leave as quickly as they come. Friends are initially lured by her enthusiasm for life, but few can survive her dominating nature. Relationships for Rachel are a revolving door of potential hopefuls, entering and exiting with rhythmic consistency.

Okay, it’s time to confess. We either know a Rachel, or we are a Rachel. For those who have a friend or relative like her, remember that somewhere hidden beneath the tough exterior is a heart longing for acceptance. There is a wounded person whose trust has been broken or who has had her personal boundaries crossed. We all fight the fear of losing something or someone we love. In most cases, we are simply trying try to prevent more loss. Regardless of intentions, remember: No one enjoys being controlled.

For those of  you who are courageous enough to admit to being a control freak, there is hope for you. Before we close this chapter, we will talk about ways to transform control issues associated with rejection. But first, let’s discover how influential—if not entirely controlling—our family, friends or coworkers have been about our decision making. Go ahead and take the following quiz to evaluate if your relationships are healthy or simply disasters waiting to happen.

Am I in a Controlling Relationship?

1. Am I in a relationship in which the other person makes all the decisions?

2. Do I often feel used for what I can do instead of being enjoyed for who I am?

3. Do I mentally retrace my conversations with someone to ensure I didn’t say something this person would consider offensive?

4. Do I struggle to open up or speak my true feelings while in this person’s company?

5. Are activities planned by this person, or do I share in the decision making?

6. Does this person disregard my personal boundaries?

7. In the presence of friends or family, do I feel nervous, anxious or inadequate—that I don’t measure up intellectually or socially?

8. Do I find myself accommodating others’ desires by participating in activities they enjoy rather than ones I enjoy?

9. Do I compromise personal responsibilities to make sure others are able to fulfill their project deadlines?

10. Does this person bring out my insecurities?

How did you do? If you answered yes to three or more of the above questions, then it is time you begin working toward emotional and relational freedom. You may ask, “Tracey, how do I handle an opinionated, boundary-breaking, self-assertive person?” First, recognize this person’s need for acceptance. Controlling people are often hurting people who simply long to regain emotional balance in their lives. In their minds, the more things or people they can control, the less out-of-control their lives seem to be. Many times, an insatiable desire for control is an effort to restore balance in other areas in life. Divorce, death, bankruptcy or loss in a relationship can create mental and emotional breaking points. Usually, those who exhibit control issues also struggle with chronic stress, obsessive-compulsive behavior or rebellious tendencies. These are external behaviors reflecting underlying struggles of self-doubt, loss and rejection.

Second, prayerfully remember their need for love. Nurturing, consistency and reassurance will make a positive difference in their lives.

Third, set up and enforce personal boundaries. When family and close friends are involved, what defines healthy boundaries? How much space is considered appropriate? Where should privacy lines be drawn, and to what extent should they be enforced? It is safe to say that while the thoughts, opinions and ideas of others should be an enjoyable addition to your world, they should not come with the high price tag of sacrificing your dreams.

I assure you, I understand the manipulative tactics of those who will attempt to hijack your dreams. You would be surprised at the number of “take my word or else” pronouncements I have received over the years. Looking back, I now see the absurdity of such scheming threats. Granted, not everyone will agree with you all the time, but it is how they make you feel when they disagree that counts. Refuse to engage in conversations where your thoughts are belittled or your feelings are dismissed. Remember, no matter how well-meaning others seem to be, emotional blackmail is always wrong.

Environment and associations shape your personal world. One of the major reasons people do not succeed in conquering the ongoing battle with rejection is that they constantly expose themselves to the negative opinions of others. Find positive people and befriend them. Avoid negative, cynical and jealous people at all costs. Surround yourself with creative, cheerful, encouraging people who have a promising future, and make them a part of yours. Learn to invest in who and what matters most. Wisdom and knowledge are all around you; access them today by tuning out negative voices and replacing them with positive ones.

About Tracey Mitchell

A national conference speaker, Tracey travels 40+ weeks a year, sharing Biblical principles and wisdom. Her real life experiences – though painful and challenging enable her to identify with the hurting, lonely, and rejected. Whether speaking to corporate CEO's or the homeless, Tracey's passion for re-writing the lives of the brokenhearted makes her messages relevant and empowering. A frequent television guest and host of "Today with Tracey, she is an advocate of those having experienced rejection, poverty or emotional abuse. Her new book release, “Downside Up”, via Thomas Nelson Publishers, is in bookstores now.
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