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CONTROL FREAK

Kate Middleton photo Kate Middleton · 22 Sep, 2021

Have you ever been called a control freak before? You know, we tend to talk about control like it's always a bad thing but did you know, actually all human beings are designed with an inbuilt instinct and need to feel a kind of control? It's part of our psychology, part of how our minds work but it's not the kind of control which is like putting all your books in order or uber organising your stationery draw. It's what psychologists call agency. It's a natural, inbuilt, healthy desire or instinct in a world where so much can be crazy and chaotic to believe that you can influence the stuff that matters to keep yourself and the people you love safe, to achieve the things that are important, to avoid the bad stuff that might happen. So when you tidy something or demonstrate that you've been able to influence something or achieve something or build something or bring together order from chaos, all those things trigger good emotions, good feelings 'cause they confirm that inbuilt need to feel like you have agency or influence. In fact, even looking at things that are neat or ordered or feel perfect makes us feel good and we're drawn to images and spaces where we can see or experience that sort of stuff, you know, amazing art or beautiful music or even those beautiful, perfect pictures that you see on people's social media accounts but it's more than that. This instinct is so important that actually we know there's a flip side, feeling out of control, particularly if tough stuff is going on, things that you can't change or influence. That's one of the hardest emotional situations for human beings to experience and it triggers that sensation and experience that we call despair. It's that suffocatingly negative feeling that also saps every aspect, every inch of motivation from your life. You just feel like there's nothing you can do and you can't face doing anything. It's awful. So many people experience a degree of sort of battle and wrestle with despair during the pandemic because it was just such a crazy situation where so much was going on that we couldn't control or change and so many good things were being taken from us or were being lost and for some people, bad and difficult stuff was happening as well and so despair was a really real part of pandemic. It's something we've experienced recently, just how control or loss of that natural need for control can be a bad thing but did you know your desire to be in control can also sometimes turn on you? You know, that promise can become a poison. So when does our need and desire for control start to turn into obsession? When does wanting to be in control, actually become something that controls you, so ironically, you're not in control anymore? Remember, control is not why you're worth something, so achieving stuff, ticking stuff off, making sure everything's tidy and neat and in the place you like it, that may trigger good feelings and help you feel good but it's not where you get your value from. You're worth something even on the messy days, on the dodgy days, on the days you look in the mirror and go, ah, that doesn't look good. That doesn't mean that you don't have value in that moment and it's worth reminding yourself of those things and also, all of those things, the achievement, the tidiness, the order, the control, those aren't a way to control and manage anxiety, particularly when life is busy, it can feel like sort of ticking those things off is a good way to keep anxiety down, to keep feeling like you've got things covered, like you're nailing life, like you're not gonna lose control or everything fall apart but actually if you start to use perfection as a way to manage panic, the risk is it's gonna feel increasingly like a big pressure because perfection is basically an illusion, real life just isn't like that. When did you last have a 100% perfect day? You might be able to achieve a sort of filtered version of that in the image and identity that you post on social media but your real life is never gonna look like that. So be careful and be careful about comparing your real messy, shambles, realistic life that you see all of with the little slice of the little picture of people's lives that you see on social media 'cause they're only posting like the 5% that looks good. You're seeing your whole 100% If you compare your 100% to their five, you're gonna end up feeling rubbish. And think about those moments when there are warning signs that you're trying to take control or something that used to be good has started to have control over you and has started to become negative. Look for the moments when the panic is rising, when the pressure is building, when you're starting to feel anxious, when something that used to be a pleasure has now become a chore or just something else that you're starting to feel like, maybe you're failing at, ask yourself then, who's really in control? Is this good for me? And remember why you're really worth something. Here's a hint. It's nothing to do with what you've achieved, how controlled things are, how ordered things are or how perfect things are. Find great mates who you can really be honest with, who you can share maybe not the whole 100% but like 80% of your life with. You can talk about the messy moments and the times when stuff went wrong and the times when things didn't turn out anything like the way you intended or hoped that they would 'cause what you'll find out is they've had those experiences too. That's much more normal than the sort of perfection that we can feel like we're supposed to achieve. So with control, try to grab the opportunities and the advantages, the moment it's a friend, watch out for the freak or the foe moments, get the balance right and it can be a good thing, not just something that you have to feel bad about.

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