Are You Controlling?

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

~Buddha

There’s a specific kind of anger associated with control that many of us don’t recognize in ourselves.

We live in a world of relative certainty where we do our best to control what’s uncertain. You may call this managing your life, but all too often it switches over to a darker hidden force: controlling behavior.

The secret to serenity is letting go of control, of not being attached to an outcome (whatever that may be) that leads to anger, drama, and conflict.

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There’s no mention of control because it’s the hidden shadow that arrives only through self-awareness. Most controlling types don’t see themselves that way.

Can you see it in yourself?

The drive for control stems from one of our biggest fears – uncertainty. What happens when things don’t go as planned? When you’re not quite ready to hear a different truth. When someone isn’t following what you need?

You enter a vulnerable space, and it can be overwhelmingly scary because you no longer feel in control.

Your reaction will tell you immediately how strong your ‘need for control’ is. Do you often respond with anger, annoyance, or blame? Does drama, and conflict seem to follow you around?

When someone takes what you say or do personally, and you have to tip toe around them – that’s their sense of ‘needing to control’. And vice versa.

We all seem to have places we lose control. An example for me is the utter lack of patience hearing my twin girls arguing on our commute to the train. My frustration escalates, and I find myself shouting, which elevates their frustrations, and moves them into defensiveness.

Their opposite personalities tend to lead to frequent battles (one is an organized manager type, the other flies by the seat of her pants).

When I’m practicing staying away from my need to control their fighting, I’m in a much better position to guide them to resolve their own conflicts faster.

Where we cannot say no becomes our ‘attachments’, and when these are not well managed – you may find yourself ‘out of control’. I can get attached to my girls needing to get along ALL the time, and lose perspective on the majority of times where they get along fabulously!

What can you not say no to? That feeling or thing controls you on some level, and your growth is learning to release its hold so you can be free again.

We get most attached to the way we need loved ones to show up, and it’s the most dangerous.

Do you remember singer Karen Carpenter who died of a heart attack believed to be connected to her battle with anorexia? This disease stemmed from her sense of a lack of freedom, and responsibility in her life. Karen had an extremely controlling mother, and felt starved of love.

Feeling controlled is unhealthy. The one thing she could manage was how much food she put into her body, the lack of which eventually killed her.

We all battle with control on some level, and the better you understand it in yourself, the more you can make sense of a recent headline that was shocking:

A physician killed, her neurosurgeon husband charged with murder: ‘How could this all happen?’

This woman doctor practiced in the same town I grew up in where my own parents, an orthopaedic surgeon, and family practitioner spent their entire career treating patients. It felt too close to home to be real.

We assume an intelligent, positive, successful person doesn’t have control issues that could ever lead to murder. I don’t want it to be true that this neurosurgeon, and father of 3 young children killed his wife.

But there’s too much leading me to believe that he’s responsible.

His wife was killed within a week of filing for divorce from him. Strangled, and blunt force trauma causing death.

The idea that one day someone good just ‘snaps’, and becomes temporarily insane just isn’t the whole story, but we certainly relate to our own experiences of feeling ‘out of control’.

Those moments when we angrily rage at the driver who cut us off in traffic, or lose our cool with a loved one – behavior we may later regret, and need to apologize for.

There’s an element of control that lives within us where we can become demanding, threatening, or imposing of others.

Am I saying it’s ok to kill someone? Of course not. It’s an absolutely horrifying needless tragedy, and I can’t help thinking about this couple’s 3 young children. How will they cope, and be able to thrive with their new reality?

But something deeper here was going on that never got revealed or dealt with until too late.

There’s a part in us we cannot see that lives on a continuum of this ‘need to control’ stemming from a need for certainty in the beliefs we hold. It’s when FEAR is the driver of this need instead of LOVE that the consequences can be deadly.

With loved ones, we become attached to a stronger need for certainty, and a deeper need for control. There’s a dependency that healthy, and one that’s not healthy, and control is the ingredient that will move you in one direction or the other.

If you are not self-aware of your own fears around uncertainty, and control, you’ll find yourself in your own hidden battles behind closed doors with the kind of controlling anger that goes un-checked.

Controlling behaviour doesn’t just suddenly appear…police had been called to their home a few times during their 12 year marriage.

In May, 2005, while the couple was living in Ottawa, Shamji was charged with one count of assault and two counts of uttering threats — charges that were withdrawn later that year. (thestar.com, Dec, 5th, 2016)

Do we really know ourselves when things don’t go as planned? When the worst of ourselves shows up – is it addressed or swept under the rug?

People are not ‘all or nothing’. Good or bad.

Is it possible this man could be a wonderful, compassionate neurosurgeon to his patients, (well documented by many including a friend of mine who was his patient), a devoted father, and husband most of the time, and be someone capable of murdering his own wife?

I’ve been trying to understand…

I can’t ignore the fact that Mohammod Shamji was Muslim. Did he hold a deeper belief that divorce meant shame to the family, and unfathomable ‘honour killings’ that some Muslims still practice today was somehow appropriate in his mind during what appears to be a final argument witnesses heard on the night she disappeared?

In his highly respected profession where everything seemed to be under control with an appearance of a beautiful marriage, was divorce just not part of what was acceptable to him where he feared judgment of others?

Were their marital disputes not spoken to anyone or ever dealt with professionally?

Were their closest friends or family really surprised?

Was he shamed or victimized in his past experience that might have led him to become violent in his moments of an uncertain future?

Whatever it was, his ‘sense of control’ was not brought to the surface until too late. None of it condones murder, but how can we live in our own relationships with this awareness?

These cases where love turns to hate is the extreme example of how destructive controlling behavior can be.

A belief that says “I am entitled to take control over whether you live or die because what you are choosing doesn’t work for me” can get justified in a very dark moment with rippling repercussions of lives now torn apart.

You as a manager working towards a given outcome versus you as a controlling person has a completely different inner experience, though the result may be the same.

Are you ‘taking ownership, and responsibility’ or ‘taking over control’ of someone else’s freedom where you temporarily lose your sense of humanity in the way you are treating someone?

When your controlling behaviour means you become a dictator to your own motives at the expense of others, a hidden force has emerged that separates you, and justifies actions that creates a wall between you, and your loved ones.

Also notice where you may be on the receiving end of controlling behaviour, and be mindful of not passively accepting it while creating a safe distance communicating firmly what is unacceptable to you (eg.tone, name-calling, demands or threats).

Releasing your fears around uncertainty lessens your need to control.

When you shift over to your own sense of serenity from a loving place, uncertainty is what you can embrace where you can manage life more effectively. It allows you to trust, and surrender to be with the highs, lows and everything in between that makes up your life journey.

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