Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cut the Strings with the Control Freak in your life

At some point in your life, you have had an experience with a control freak. They show up in our lives in all shapes and forms. These people insist having it their way and in all interactions with you. They set the agenda and decide how and when something will be done. You know exactly who these people are in your life - they are family members, friends, a romantic partner, a spouse, a coworker or a boss – they are driven by the compulsive need to be in charge and control the pace of events and the relationship. And it is your job to automatically play the assigned role that they have decided on your behalf, otherwise by not living up to this role, clearly in the mind of the control freak you are a threat that did not accede to their needs and demands; which creates unhappiness and unwanted pressure for the control freak.

I am in support and promote being in control of your own life. Yet if you have the controlling need to have control of the people around you and you cannot rest until you have your way – you are a Control Freak and have a personality disorder.

The factual truth of the matter is the Control Freak is so terrified deep down inside of being vulnerable, because then it would be very uncomfortable and they would fumble around similarly to fish out of water.

The Control Freak is compulsive – a person who seeks perfection, orderliness, workaholic, inability to make commitments, trust other people and their GREATEST FEAR is being EXPOSED.

Control freaks have an urge (addiction) to control everything, causing others stress so they can maintain a sense of order. These people are riddled with anxiety, fear, insecurity, and anger. They’re very critical of themselves their lover, their friends, peers and everyone around them; yet I want you to know underneath their pretty painted picture that their life is spectacular is a mountain of unhappiness and a depth of unbending rules. Their compulsion is an avoidance strategy designed to deny their emotional pain or allow themselves to avoid being responsible for the messes they create with the people they desire to control.

So what makes control freaks tick? What are tips to deal with them and heal from them?

Let’s keep it simple, shall we? Let’s talk about the Psychological Dynamics of the Control Freak.

Image for a moment we are behind the scenes taking an inside look at the Control Freak in your life. The inner workings of this person are fear and anxiety, yet this person is so out of touch with their emotions to be aware and is afraid to do so. Their work worries are others not acknowledging them for their accomplishments or how brilliant they are and they worry about failure. In relationships, they worry about themselves getting hurt and their needs not getting met. No one could live up their expectations.

To control their fears, the Control Freak makes every attempt to control the people or the environment around them. Control Freaks have difficulty with negotiation or compromise because they view these traits as weak. Imperfection in another from their view is very wrong and cannot be tolerated. Yes, control freaks are difficult to work with, live with and to participate in activities with.

It is very normal to have harsh resentments towards these kinds of people. Working with or being involved with a control freak is stifling to your identity and to your health. You feel shut down and restricted. It is as though they pressed the mute button on your life. You end up walking on eggs shells around this person because you need to follow along with their rules that you will never get right because they never disclosed the rules or take your thoughts and feelings into consideration. It is game that you can never win because by design you will never receive a rule handbook or notification when the rules change.

Yes this is why you resent these people.

I want to help you to see the situation differently, so you can heal quicker and you will no longer take these folks so personal. You may even see these folks from a comical and compassionate place.

Ready? Here is bottom line, the control freaks behaviors tell everyone around them that they are incompetent and they just cannot trust you or anyone. This is because the Control Freak is continuously defending him/herself against their fears and anxiety. I know this is not very clear when they are making their demands, yet beneath the surface, the Control Freak is fighting off their own deep seated sense of helplessness and ineffectiveness in which creates a lot of shame, guilt, anger and fear inside of the Control Freak. By becoming proficient at trying to control other people, they push away their own fear of being out of control and helpless. Controlling is a Fear-based management tool.

The control freak has a lot at stake, if you really think about it through their eyes. Remember when you have held a conversation or attempted engage them in some way, if you paid attention to their physiology, you would have noticed a shift in their physical appearance. This is because their emotional stakes involve protecting/defending their own identity and sense of well-being. Control gives them the temporary illusion of calmness. When they believe they are dominant, you can watch the tension leaking from them. The control freak is very alarmed and fear driven. Part of their strategy is to induce that fear in you with the indirect threat of loss. Since the emotional stakes are so high for them, they need to assert themselves with you so they do not feel so helpless. To surrender control is the same as being victimized and overwhelmed. When a control freak cannot control, they go through a series of rapid phases. First they become angry and agitated, then they become panicky and apprehensive, then they become agitated and threatening, and then they lapse into depression and despair. In layman terms, they Freak Out.

Repetition Compulsion
Control freaks become addicted to repetition compulsion. They repeat the same pattern again and again to avoid their fear, insecurities and pain that they feel. People they attempt to control may change yet the pattern of what they do is always the same. The repetition compulsion takes on a life of its own, which becomes delusional. Rather than feel calmer and therefore have a diminished need to be controlling, their behavior locks them into the same pattern in a voracious way. It becomes their drug of choice. Always needing more victims to control and feed off of. Even though the Control Freak is a Master at controlling and manipulating others, the successes do not register in their internal scoreboard. The insanity truly is they have to fight off the same threat again and again with increasing rigidity and narrow-mindedness. This leads the Control-Freak to make the same life style choices all starting and ending in the same manner. Nothing really changes for the Control Freak. They do the same thing over and over.

Two Types of Control Freaks

Type 1 Control Freaks: The Type 1 control freak is strictly attempting to cope with their fear in an egocentric way. Their motive is to feel better. They are not very aware of you. Notice and see their agitation and nervousness. They usually do not make much eye contact when they are talking with you.

Type 2 Control Freaks: The Type 2 control freak is also trying to manage their fear in an egocentric way yet in addition they are very aware of you as opposed to the Type 1 control freak. The Type 2 needs to weaken you to feel better. Their mood rises as they push you down. They do not just want to triumph; they also need to believe that they have defeated you. They need you to feel helpless so they will not feel helpless. Their belief is that someone must feel helpless in any interchange and they desperately do not want it to be them. The Type 1 needs control. The Type 2 needs to control you.

Cutting the Strings with the Control Freak

1) Be calm. Control freaks tend to generate a lot of tension in those around them. Try to maintain a comfortable distance so that you can remain centered while you speak with them. Focus on your breathing. As they get more agitated and demanding, allow yourself to breathe slowly and deeply. By staying calm and focused, this often has the effect of relaxing them as well. If you get frantic you have joined the battle on their terms.

2) Speak very slowly. The normal tendency is to gear up and speak rapidly when dealing with a control freak. This will only draw you into the emotional turmoil and you will quickly be personalizing what is occurring.

3) Be very patient. Control freaks need to feel heard. The fact of the matter is they do not have that much to say. It is only when you engage them in a power struggle or challenge their disposition; they will have a lot to verbally unload. By listening and acknowledging them that you have heard them, and then they will resolve whatever the issue is and calmly move on.

4) Pay attention to your induced reactions. What is this person trying to emotionally induce in you? Notice how you feel when speaking with them. It will give you important clues as to how to deal with them more effectively and appropriately.

5) Initially, let them control the agenda. You control the pacing. If you stay calm and speak your truth slowly, you will be in command of the pacing of the conversation.

6) Treat them with kindness. Within most control freaks is a good measure of paranoia. They are ready to get angry and defend against what they perceive is a controlling hostile world. If you treat them with respect and kindness, their paranoia cannot take root. This will jam them up.

7) Make demands on them-- especially when dealing with the type 2 control freak. Ask them to send you something or do something for you. By asking something of them, you will be indicating that you are not intimidated or diminished by their behavior patterns. ( Yet if they do not deliver your request, do not take it personal, they are very unreliable. Unless the request allows them to control you more. )

8) Remember an old but poignant Maxim: “Those who demand the most often give the least.”

Keep in mind that control freaks are not trying to hurt you – they’re trying to protect themselves. Remind yourself that their behavior toward you isn’t personal; the compulsion was there before they met you, and it will be their forever unless they get professional help and have the willingness to change. You cannot make them get help. They are no different than a drug addict or an alcoholic. Their behavior is not a problem for them; it is a problem for you. They live in denial that a problem exists. Understand they are skilled manipulators, artful and intimidating, well-rehearsed storytellers and excellent at distorting reality.

In order to not feel degraded, humiliated and have your sense of self and self-worth assaulted, you need to reclaim your genuine worth so you do not allow yourself to be bulldozed by a controlling lover, family member, boss or friend. When you are caught up in a truly destructive/controlling attachment, the best response is to walk out and allow yourself to heal and detach. Understand that whatever you do, it will have a limited effect. These people are angry and afraid to let go of you. So it is your job to let go of them, protect yourself in the process… and allow you to grow and be who you truly are.