You’re a control freak too.
Control is a funny thing. We usually associate control with certain personality types. We say that someone has a “dominant personality type” or that they are a “control-freak.” We may even describe ourselves this way.
We associate control with obvious, overt actions such as…
- The need to get your way
- The need to be the boss
- The need to be the team leader
- Taking over decision-making processes
- Not valuing the opinions of others
- Pressuring others to see things your way
- And so on…
Control gives us certainty, it gives us predictability, and it gives us a feeling of significance. The truth is that we all want control – but not all of us go about it in the same way.
I work with people who are dominant in their controlling and I work with people who are passive in their controlling. The difference is that the passive people don’t see themselves as controlling. Most of my dominant personality clients practically blurt out their controlling tendencies in our first meeting.
We’ve wrongly associated the desire for control to a personality type rather than recognizing it as a fundamental desire that we all share. Therefore, those without certain personality types believe themselves to be relatively free of the need to control outcomes. But they’re not.
The easiest way to understand this is to look at an example. And the best examples generally center around our fears. In this particular case, I’m not referring to phobias such as spiders, snakes, or butterflies. (Don’t laugh. I recently watched a TV show featuring a woman who had a phobia of butterflies.)
The fear that I’m referring to is that feeling that prevents us from taking actions we either want to take or know we should take. It could be asking for a raise, starting a business, growing your business, ending a bad relationship, etc.
One of the reasons we experience fear in those situations is that we are experiencing uncertainty about the future. Our inability to predict the outcome frightens us because we like predictability and certainty. We like control.
Suppose a person hates their job. They’ve been there for a decent amount of time, they’re good at it, but they hate it. Why don’t they find a better job so they can quit? Usually, it’s because they can’t predict what will happen on the other side. They know what their current job entails. Even if they don’t like it, they have certainty, predictability, and control.
So, when given the opportunity to change their situation, what do you think they will do? Usually, they will self-sabotage. Why? It puts them back in control. Perhaps a position opens up that deep-down they would like to apply for. Instead of acting on that desire and accepting the uncertainty, they think of every reason why they can’t meet the requirements and don’t even attempt it.
In that brief moment of consideration, life felt exciting, thrilling, and completely out-of-control. In order to get back control and certainty, they created excuses, sabotaged the process and returned to their job they hate. They took control of the outcome by making sure nothing changed – even though that change would likely have been better.
And therein lies the problem. People will take certain misery over uncertain improvement. Maybe that’s what you’re doing right now.