Friday, May 06, 2011

Control Issues

I feel that in the past 10 years or so I have really gotten an education about women's control issues. I am assuming men have them too, but I don't deal with men, so I'm not going to discuss them. But over the past 10 (even 25) years of my life I have been exposed to a lot of people who have serious control issues.

I have been pondering quite a bit about this lately, and I have really received some inspiration on the issue. Literally, I woke up one morning and it all came to me, and it all made so much sense. So I'm going to share it with you the way I received it. (minus some of the information which would be a breech of confidence).

In psychology classes I was taught about the concept of "personal space". This is an unseen area surrounding a person which they regard as their own space, with an invisible boundary. Sometimes I wonder if, because of the sheer number of people, that citizens of China do not have this personal space. I am not sure they are allowed it! But in most civilized nations, we all have this boundary around us. When someone stands too close to us, we have one of three reactions: we feel uncomfortable, we feel intimidated, or we feel that the person is trying to assert some kind of control over us. I believe that we learn these boundaries from social cues, because no one actually ever teaches children the appropriate distance to stand when talking to others. But we all feel it, and we all react when others step a toe in our personal space.

I feel that we have these same kind of unseen personal spaces in other areas of our lives. For example, we have certain boundaries of personal space when it comes to our home and family. We would feel very uncomfortable, or even intimidated if someone were to come in to our home and start to discipline our children without being asked. I personally would feel it a breech of personal space if someone were to go upstairs to the bedrooms in our home without being invited, or look in my cupboards or closets. There is an unspoken rule that you don't look in people's cupboards, because that would be "snooping". Has anyone ever taught you this? I don't remember being taught these things, but somehow I picked up on the social cues. Maybe my own discomfort with people breeching my personal space has made me sensitive to others.

Another area of personal space is our employment. How would you feel if a coworker came to your office and started rearranging your desk? Or how about if they decided to "help" you out by answering some of your email? Has your boss ever told you that no one is allowed to do these things? I doubt anyone has ever been told not to do this because we all instinctively know that it is a breech of personal space.

Sometimes people with control issues feel the need to step in to the boundaries of other people. It gives them a feeling of control, even if it is subconscious. I know a woman who admits to having control issues, who always stands about 6 inches from me when she talks to me. She can't shake me though, I lived in China where I had to stand shoulder to shoulder, and chest to back in elevators and buses. :) But people with control issues step in to other boundaries in other areas of people's lives where they do not have control. And often they won't "take no for an answer".

The insidious nature of control issues is that when a person does something that is not their responsibility, they can always pass it off as good intentions. "I was only trying to help" is often their reply. One woman I know justifies invading boundaries with the excuse that she is just trying to serve others. Surely being christlike isn't a bad thing, is it? But people with control issues can't tell where the boundary lies between being helpful, and intruding.

I know some women who schedule out the day for their entire family. Another person I know has a very long list, detailed to the very minute, about how they will spend their day. Is this really necessary? I don't think it is because I know many very successful people who don't have this practice. But those with control issues need to feel they have tight control on their lives, as well as the lives of their family members.

Another way that I have seen control issues exhibited is in eating habits. Bulimia and anorexia are sometimes directly caused from control issues. Women I've known who have serious control issues, have at some time in their life struggled with eating disorders. Those who do not now have an eating disorder, often have some other kind of tight control over their eating habits. One woman I know is very careful about how much food she eats in front of other people. But then later she finds herself stuffing her mouth with chocolate in the privacy of her own closet. One woman I know had control issues to the extent that she developed obsessive compulsive behaviors, in connection with her eating disorders. After she had therapy to get over these issues, she was much healthier. But even after therapy, she still followed a strict vegetarian diet. Most women I've known who have had eating disorders and control issues in the past, still find other ways to control their diets now. Either they are always dieting, or exercising, or they are vegetarian. They can't seem to let go of the control.

I suppose we all have control issues to one degree or another. But if our desire for a sense of control pushes us to invade the personal space of others, it is unhealthy. Sometimes I think it's beneficial for these controlling people to ask themselves, "If I let go of control, what is the worst thing that can happen?" I think with practice they will find that when they let go of control, the world doesn't end!


Lindsay Logic said...


Inklings said...
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Rummuser said...

A very well thought out and articulated post Delirious. My compliments. Being from the East, the personal space comment comes as a surprise to me as, we are no less concerned about our personal space as the Westerners. I know some Chinese from Singapore and Hong Kong who are obsessed about their personal space as anyone else. There is however a subtle difference. There is no shame in asking for help or offering help within the community. In fact, it is expected.

Coming to control freaks, all civilisations have them. We are all control freaks differing from each other only in degree. We would like to be in control of our selves and if possible over others in our immediate vicinity. This is part of being social beings.

Stick said...

The difference that I see here is that some people try to "help" no matter what the person they are trying to help says. We need to respect others right to say no. Being organized, having a plan for what you want to accomplish, is one of the primary aspects of a successful person. However, so is being flexible. One of the most successful businessmen I ever met, would make a list of the top ten things he wanted to accomplish that day. Next, he would prioritize that list. When he began working, he would start with #1, and work on it until it was finished to his satisfaction. He said there were many days, when he only finished one item from his list, and that was okay. That night, he would review his list, and make a new list for the next day, again prioritizing as he went. He said many times, he never worked on some of the items. Either others took care of it, or the need changed, but his most important items ALWAYS got done first.

Mr. Giggles said...

My accompanist will simply tell people they are "in her bubble" and ask them to step back. It works so well, I've adopted that practice. You'd be surprised how well, "Dude, you're in my bubble," works!