People get Control Freaks wrong most of the time. We really are so misunderstood. It’s almost perceived as this selfish way of wanting to have things your way all of time. But if you were really to dig, it might sadden you to find out that the reality is that most of the time it’s just a behaviour learned at a very young age because so much chaos was around. We – They – just want everyone safe and happy, and time has taught them, they are the only ones who can make sure that happens.
I say most of the time, because sometimes I believe it’s purely inherited. I think sometimes it’s just a matter of someone being born with their wiring completely tweaked. (My mom was one of those) There are neurological and psychological medical terms for those types, that I’m simply not educated to bound on about.
But the Learned Control Freak? That one I know about.
This is for those children who create the need for control, out of a need for safety. Children are resilient little fuckers, and thru drilling down to those safest ports of their imagination and adding to that the natural instincts to simply live, they can create coping mechanisms that are out of this world. It’s sad when you take away the kernel of sarcasm from this, but I’m not writing to delve on how fucked up childhood is for a great many of us.
No, I’m looking at the problem in those immature coping mechanisms that kept the kids safe.
Hence the seed of the Control Freak is born.
Mine was double-fold. Hell, realistically it was probably triple-fold in my reasons, but it wasn’t until I went into yet another round of therapy as an adult that I started to understand the how’s and why’s, and that ultimately this learned behavior wasn’t just going to go away. Let alone overnight.
Let’s face it, no one really likes a control freak.
I also learned that it was very common for those of us with inner Control Freaks to have their counterpart, the Stress Monster. I hated the stressor in my mother, and moreso that it was a gene in me. I despised growing up with someone who’s internal mechanisms were wound so tight it kept those of us around fearful of the inevitable SNAP! , simply because life happened.
I knew it was from things being so beyond my scope of control that I clenched tighter and tighter. The more I clenched the wider my realm of making those around me unhappy grew. It frightened them, just as it frightened me as a child.
I don’t think I became more cognizant of it then when my girls were tweens and teens and I was trying to build a small gardening shelf for my patio. The design structure was pitiful, and no sooner would I have it built, then the entire thing would collapse and my stress monster would ROAR it’s ugly roar. I don’t recall if I made mention that I would go nuclear if it happened again, or if the girls just sort of knew, but sure enough build-collapse-repeat happened one more time and the next thing I knew the girls were scattering like chickens. My immediate blinking reaction was that of confusion, until I saw that their decided place of refuge was a locked bathroom, and only one made it in. The other was on the outside struggling with the door and pleading for help to get in.
The roar of frustration was doused like water on a campfire and it became a falling fit of giggles for me. The girls quietly came out and saw their crazy mother wasn’t screaming, but laughing, and soon the three of us were laughing, them explaining how bad it looked to them, me building this shelf that would topple each time.
As funny as it was, it was also a reality call that the two people I cherished more in life than life itself were terrified of me when I was stressed out.
Did I call for therapy that next day? No. But the moment stood with me strongly enough that it was soon after.
In therapy the first thing I had to learn to recognize the physicality’s of trying to control things; clenching my jaw, tightening my chest with smaller breaths, balling my fists, even squinting. All things I did unconsciously, but learned as a child. It’s tantamount to the adolescent who feels if they are very quiet and very still they will go unnoticed. It’s also a physical way of wanting to literally control time and movement around you. Putting the brakes on life so to speak.
The best thing and most commonly suggested, would have been for me to learn meditation. It’s calming and peaceful, two things I really needed. But it’s honestly so hard for me to meditate that it seemed like more work than the reward offered. I envy those who are capable of turning their minds to the silence mode. To mute the thoughts and go someplace blank. It’s nearly impossible for me, regardless of the tapes or books read.
I hope someday. For now, I learned to breathe. Yup, sounds simple, but you would be amazed at those who don’t realize their breaths are small and shallow. In learning to breathe I was making myself aware of every physical aspect going on in my body. I loosened the fists and let the jaw go slack. I would tell myself (and later my children), “In with the good – HOLD – now out with the bad”. I started to make myself aware of the good energy I wanted and the bad energy I was holding on to.
Next was the emotional garbage. I had to learn that the praise I internally gave myself for bounding back from tragedy so easily wasn’t really a good thing.
I called it my Pollyanna mechanism of always finding the bright side. I thought myself at times genius for my ability to overcome any type of loss, by thinking of all the good things that would come of it. But again it was me controlling only the good things in life to happen. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, unless it’s the only thing. Hence the hard time I had forcing myself to cope with my son’s death. Not that there was a bright side to that. In that case I simply refused to focus.
I also had to learn that my need to manipulate situations was childlike in wanting to make sure that everything turned out fine. See most Control Freaks are only controlling things — wait, let me correct this – are only attempting to control things, because they have this insane need to have things go right. For the rest of the world, a minor thing going wrong isn’t a big deal, but for a Control Freak it has the potential to spell disaster. It’s that fear of the disaster, the anger, the chaos that keeps us propelling to control things.
Imagine living in a home unlike most, that if you simply turned the doorknob to open the door there was a 75% chance you would be slightly, or severely electrocuted. You never knew when it was coming or how hard it would hit. But you learned by twirling twice, counter clockwise that you completely disabled the shock. The shock might have been painful or fearful enough that you didn’t want to take any chances, so not just at your malfunctioning broken door, but at every doorway you did this strange little twirl, just in case. You’ve created an unnecessary pattern to keep your tiny self, safe.
This is an example of the birth of a Control Freak. It’s nothing more than a child looking to keep themselves safe from hurt. Or keep their siblings safe. Or sometimes their parent.
I’ve been a work in progress for about the last ten years. Unlearning controlling behaviours is fucking difficult, let me tell you. One of the first things I did, probably wasn’t for the best, but I’ve learned to give up on time. Control Freaks love to have things on a timely schedule. Their enemies are people who are perpetually late. Of course God placed into my life a family that I would love as deeply as my own who would simply be late to their own funeral. That used to be the gasoline to my fire, until I learned that I didn’t need to be places fifteen minutes early just in case. I needed to be chill if a person not being there exactly when they said they would.
Now I’ve found if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and I tend to be a little late to everything. I can’t tell you how in so many ways that is absolutely freeing.
I’ve learned to state and mean it when I say, “Whatever you want, I’m good with.” I’ve recognized that going along for the ride isn’t a euphemism for I’ll drive. That being a lemming, a sheeple at times has its redeeming qualities, as long as we aren’t going over a cliff.
BUT — For all the work I have done; for all the deep breaths I have taken and all the pep-talks I have given myself I can absolutely go to that stressed out, need to control things , inner-rubber band place in a heartbeat when things even slightly begin to tremor with the possibility of chaos. Or as I see it, things that go wrong in life.
Last night my cat started this pronounced limp with her front right paw. I already have issues with her tiny little front paws, because I believe the vet who declawed her (she is a rescue and was declawed before I got her) did a butcher job on her. Her paws are so teeny-tiny. There have been a few times in the course of the eight months I have had her, that she will almost look like she is favoring her other paws, but it’s so momentary you wonder if you had imagined it. Last night there was no mistaking it, and of course it being Easter there are no vets open. Emergency Animal Care would have been a fortune, and there is a tiny part of my brain that said to wait on it, that she wouldn’t die over night from whatever this was.
The Control Freak in me though? It awakens at moments like this. It throws off all of those covers of sensibility, and therapy and relearned ways to deal with things, and it – well it takes control, like a Control Freak is supposed to. It gets out the Control Freak Flag and alerts the Stress Monster, and blares all the horns.
It looks at the cat and determines that a). If your selfish ass had stayed home Saturday, or at the very least came home the previous night you would have seen what happened. And b). the way that the cat is lying there (relaxed) is most definitely a death prone position. You cry to the cat (sort of a newly learned behavior, so kudos there to me) and apologize to her for being such a shitty parent, and wail when she limps on it even more. And then you clean because damnit, something in this house needs to be controlled. (this was actually a boon, because I have been living a slovenly life since the return from my last vacation) Many Control Freaks are also Clean Freaks. I must have ducked when that portion of the disease came by so the closest is when I’m out of control, I like to clean. Or shop. But I cleaned last night.
This morning when I awoke, I groggily recalled something bad had happened the night before, and it wasn’t until I heard the “meows” coming from the hallway (she is very polite and calls me from my open doorway) that I remembered with a heavy thud. The Cat. I got out of bed, steeling myself for the worst only to be greeted by my fully functioning four legged feline. No limp. I got out the feathers she likes to play with and she jumped up on the couch, and back down and showed no sign of injury. She was her purry, bitey wonderful self. All that tension that I had apparently carried with me, and laid upon my body like boulders, dissipated and this sense of tiredness (I think normal people call it relaxation) flooded me.
I love that feeling.
I still have a few Control Freaks in my life today. Some I simply recognize the behavior. I don’t call them out, because I would have hated to be called out when I was in the midst of my disease. But it’s there; the need to be in control of everything around them. Some don’t have that undercurrent of a stress monster living in them, and I’m happy to see that. Some sadly do, like my oldest daughter. I think she found it be some sort of weird badge; similar to the Pollyanna thing I had – a weird badge that tied her to her grandmother. But in time she saw the devastation it causes. The wildfire effect it has on people around you, and how they want to flee your presence when you are like that. But she doesn’t know how to completely control it, so only the very few who can love her despite this can tolerate her at times. I think — I HOPE – she will figure out a way, seek therapy, do meditation, whatever, someday so that she can have a semblance of normalcy to her life.
For me? Well those who know me very well, or for many years probably think I’ve mellowed a bit over the years. I know how much progress has been made, because I know internally how bad it was for me for so long. I learned to embrace the frightened child (who was afraid something horrible was wrong with her kitty last night) and hold onto the side rails because the Stress Monster was awoken.
I also know that in case of an emergency, I would want to be with me and my Control Freak, because damnit we have shit under control in cases of crisis!!
In those moments, just look for my wrinkled up Control Freak Flag. It’ll be waving in the wind.