This is a post inspired by my Power Tool submission for my coaching training. A Power Tool is an antagonism (two opposite concepts) that a client can use to his benefit in one extreme or the other. I chose to write about Control.
Control vs Freedom
We live in an era of multitasking, and we find ourselves having to accomplish so much more in less time. When we see everything like a checklist from which we have to tick off tasks, no wonder we develop into time management junkies or control freaks.
The need to control may arise from social pressure. Even since childhood, we are taught specific norms – “You have to be good to your siblings”; “You have to get straight A’s or you won’t get to a good college”; “You have to work hard otherwise you won’t get results”. In the end what results is a sort of psychological conditioning that “If” something gets done in a proper way, “Then” an appropriate result will be the consequence.
What happens in our mind when the mechanism of control gets started is a need to do something because “that’s the rule”, “that’s how it has to be done”.
For example, people who experience the need to control usually motivate their behavior by saying “but it has to be done exactly this way”.
Words such as “I have to”, “he/she/it has to”, “I must”, “it’s required” and similar show a mechanism of control. Often what happens is that the person who has a greater need to control ultimately ends placing a much higher stress on him or herself,
Moreover, the person who controls sees herself responsible for the results, and may end up blaming herself unnecessarily and harming her own self confidence when these results do not happen.
Let’s take an example.
Let’s say Jill is a housewife with two kids, one of which has problems in school. Jill makes her son specific schedules for study and checks his homework every day, in hope that by close examination and control she can influence the results. Once her son doesn’t bring home the desired A’s, she sees herself as a bad mother and places even closer supervision on her son. Ultimately, the whole environment damages their relationship.
Jill is caught in a vicious cycle of controlling and blaming herself, while her son will hide his grades, being afraid of her judgment. He will build a defense mechanism by talking less and less about school in an attempt to shut her control out. However this will only fuel her need of supervision, involvement and control.
What reverse mechanism could be used against the need to control?
The opposite of control is letting go. Freedom is letting go.
Freedom means not caring for the results, and not seeing oneself responsible.
If freedom is taken to an extreme, like with control it can become damaging – a certain degree of responsibility should be maintained. For example, seeing oneself not responsible for the end result but at least for one’s contribution in the process.
Freedom can be synonym with allowing ourselves the choice; recognizing the need to attain a certain result and asking ourselves yet again:
“Is this result really necessary?”
“Do I really have to be there at 3? What will happen if I am 5 minutes late?”
“Am I required to always have dinner for the family every day? What if we go out or order take out once a week?”
“Does it have to be clean always before guests arrive?”
How can we cultivate a healthy degree of freedom?
Allow spontaneity in our lives. When going on a trip for example, we could not plan every single step of the way, and simply venture on unknown roads. Sometimes we may end up in more interesting places.
Allow unplanned things to take over. People who need to control tend to worry a lot when something unplanned comes up, because it messes up their entire agenda. Allowing your agenda to be messed up, from time to time, builds a healthy mindset.
Bask in chaos. Walking in crowds, going out for no reason, leaving the phone/watch at home, intentionally, these are all reverse mechanisms that make complete control impossible. However, it’s not indicated to do the same with your credit card!
By choosing to let go, you can work on your own response, and by building internal awareness and strength in the face of shifting priorities, you can begin to internalize freedom.
Because, in the end, freedom is an inner state, just like control, and balance is created from the shift between them.