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How to Let Go of the Impulse to Control People & Situations

How to Let Go of the Impulse to Control People & Situations

Andrew Beranbom -


How to Let Go of the Impulse to Control People & Situations

Do you like knowing that things are getting done in the right way? Do you like keeping track of everything that’s going on around you? Are you full of great ideas about how other people should solve their issues?

Some people enjoy having control over every situation. They feel that they can complete tasks more efficiently than the people around them. In some cases, there’s a grain of truth in that.

But staying in control all the time is exhausting.

After all, you have to process a lot of information all at once. It can distract you from your own goals. Even if you’re naturally good at planning, you will eventually get overwhelmed.

There is another significant downside. Having a controlling streak can do a lot of damage to your social life. You might find that people resent you for your behavior.

The First Step of Your Journey toward Giving Up Control

Controlling behavior can easily become ingrained. It may affect your workplace relations. Additionally, it could creep into your personal life.

So how can you change your habit?

Unsurprisingly, you have to start with self-reflection. Take a good hard look at yourself. This includes the parts you don’t like to think about.

Experts say [1] that the urge to control every situation comes from anxiety. In many cases, this starts in childhood. Precocious children who like taking charge will easily grow into control-obsessed adults.

Anxiety can come from bad life situations or it can be the result of unresolved issues. Either way, it is unpleasant and overwhelming. Looking for coping mechanisms is a natural response.

However, controlling everything does not always help with this issue. It is simply a distraction that stands in the way of true progress.

Understanding Primary and Secondary Control

Wanting to take charge of a situation means you desire primary control. Primary control signifies wanting to change the world around you. It also covers persistence, determination, and ambitiousness.

Being an active participant in the way you live your life is useful in many contexts. But sometimes, primary control isn’t the best solution to a stressful situation. On these occasions, you need to apply secondary control instead.

Secondary control refers to accepting things as they are. It means a willingness to adapt and alter your plans to match new circumstances. Additionally, it means being able to see the bright side in situations that aren’t ideal.

In order to be successful, you need to master both kinds of control. Trying to exert primary control can damage your chances in some situations. Other times, it is a necessary part of changing your life for the better.

A Few Tips That Can Help

Self-improvement can take a while. But it’s never too late to change habits that aren’t useful to you. Here are a few pointers that could help you find the best way to come to terms with your controlling impulses.

  • Always Try to Be Realistic


It’s important to assess the situation and judge which type of control is more appropriate.

Primary control can do a lot to assure your financial security or get you through a medical crisis. However, it is useless in the face of natural disasters or certain grand, life-altering events.

So try to assess your situation correctly. Also, maintain a sense of scale. Sometimes, things will seem less crucial when you think them through.

  • Imperfections Are a Part of Life

People with control issues also tend to be perfectionists.

In moderation, this is a good trait to have. After all, attention to detail is important and it can save you the trouble of having to fix your own mistakes. However, you can’t always avoid mistakes.

Accepting less-than-perfect results is a form of secondary control. Instead of changing the world around you, you can try changing yourself. Once you embrace the possibility of flaws, you will find it much easier to relinquish control.

  • Let Your Approach Change over Time

Research shows [2] that your approach to control will change naturally as you age.

Younger people feel more accomplished if they are able to exert primary control over their life. This means looking for jobs, homes, new friends and partners.

Middle-aged and older people have slightly different needs. Those who have good secondary control over situations feel happier and more satisfied. In other words, becoming more flexible will help you a great deal as you get older.

However, it’s important to let these changes happen naturally. Don’t cling to your old way of doing things. Give yourself room to grow.

  • Think about the Effects Your Actions Will Have on Others

Being too controlling can wreck your personal and your professional relationships. So how do you avoid this? The most important step is to pay attention to other people’s point of view.

From your point of view, you are being unselfish. You probably want to control things because you just want to help.

But unasked-for help can come across as condescending. It can also make people feel powerless and unappreciated. This can cause great hurdles in your personal and romantic relationships.

Being too controlling at work will give you a bad reputation too. It creates the impression that you doubt your coworkers’ competence. It also might make you seem uncooperative and impatient.

So before you offer to take the reins, take a few moments to analyze the situation. Weigh the risks and rewards. You might find that the situation doesn’t require your control after all.

  • Make Some Hard-and-Fast Rules

Control can manifest in lots of different ways. Sometimes, it can be so subtle that you don’t even realize you’re being controlling.

Hence, it can be a good idea to set some ground rules.

Identify the situations that tend to make you anxious. Think about the ways you might react. Then decide which behaviors you want to avoid at all cost.

For example, it’s a good idea to stop giving out any type of advice. This might seriously change the way you interact with the people around you. But after a while, you will recognize the improvement in your relationships.

  • Ask for Help If You Need It

The best way to get rid of your control habit is to treat the anxiety that is behind it. You might find it necessary to seek out professional help. Sincere conversations with people close to you will also help a great deal.





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