A couple of mornings ago, I was walking with one of my friends – we’ll call her Pam – and she was sharing her frustration and concern for her husband because he has had some health problems crop up and she felt that he wasn’t making the choices and lifestyle changes that he needed to, to support his health.
Pam told us that she keeps telling her hubby he needs to eat right, and exercise, but he isn’t listening.
She makes healthy meals for him that he will bring home, uneaten, because he has eaten out instead.
She feels he is expressing more of a “what’s the point?” attitude about his health, rather than changing his ways and she is at her wit’s end.
“Maybe I can get him to go see you?” she said to me. “I don’t know if he’ll go for it, but I think he needs to hear it from someone who isn’t me.
Can you hear how scared Pam is to lose her husband? And how powerless she feels?
Her fear is causing her inner control freak to kick in.
Have you ever been where Pam is? Have you ever felt frustrated and powerless to get someone to do what you think they should do?
She is so exasperated with trying to control the situation, with little to no effect, that she is hoping he’ll listen to others (me, his doctors) tell him what she wants him to do.
Been there. Done that.
I have a good rapport with Pam and she knows I come from a place of love, so I was able to share with her what I have learned:
When you are fearful about something, your ego kicks in, often in the form of control.
Pam and her husband are BOTH scared and feeling powerless and reaching for control to make them feel safer, but none of us have control over anyone but ourselves.
Both of them are grown adults. They are going to make their own choices, whether they each like the others’ choices or not.
On top of everything else, this fear/control is also creating separation between them, instead of connection.
They are perfectly mirroring each other in their fear and making each other the point of resistance, instead of being side by side in this new development in their relationship.
So, I suggested to Pam that, if she wanted to change the dynamic between her and her husband, she needed to focus on the one place where she has power – herself.
How To Check Your Inner Control Freak:
Step 1: Identify the fear that is triggering your desire for control.
Ask yourself what you are afraid of?
It will be anything from looking bad, to being wrong, to being rejected, to not being good enough.
It’s never feelings we are comfortable with because, if we were comfortable with our fears, we wouldn’t need our egos to protect them.
Pam is not scared that her husband isn’t eating her lunches or that he isn’t doing what she says. She is scared of losing her husband…maybe scared of being alone or abandoned.
Step 2: Find the love beneath or beside your fear.
Past the fear, is usually a nobler, more loving motivation.
If Pam is scared of being alone or being abandoned, right next to that fear is her love for her husband. I could hear it under all her frustration. She really loves him.
Step 3: Expand that love.
Let that love move you out of the me-centeredness of ego and fear and into your love and compassion for others.
As soon as I helped Pam get back in touch with her love for her husband, her compassion kicked back in and her concern moved away from herself and towards him.
And this is where the magic happens.
When YOU change, you change everything.
By shifting out of her fear and ego and need for control and back into her love and compassion for her husband, Pam’s behavior and responses immediately changed.
Her demeanor changed from being frustrated and wound up, to seeing her shoulders come back down, her smile come back, and her voice changed, as she spoke of him.
She was back out of her ego and into her heart.
She began talking less of “Are you going to eat that?” and more of “How can I help you figure this out?” Less of “You should or shouldn’t do that” and more of “I love you. This must be hard.”
Because SHE changed, his response to her will also change because we naturally move towards people, when we feel love from them and away from them, when we feel judgement and criticism and control.
Additionally, when she is really helping him by being on his side and not on his case, she will no longer be the point of resistance for him and he will have no further distractions from the real challenges he faces.
So, next time you notice yourself telling someone what they should or shouldn’t do – especially a loved one, because the higher the stakes the quicker the control freak will kick in – consider stepping back and working the process above to get back out of your fear/ego and into your heart.
It takes practice. Believe me, I know. Sometimes I catch it too late, but it is always another learning opportunity to be better and to do better.
Growing with you, with love.