Control can manifest in SO many ways, and the pervasiveness of control freak-ism can be sneaky, complicated and wrought with layers of subconscious and often believable manipulation. I should know; I am a recovering control freak and have been surrounded by a web of control freaks my whole life. In the past I felt like this issue was already on the surface, and I was sure that it was everyone else's issue and not mine. I would feel unendingly frustrated, angry, rebellious, stubborn and defiant of others' attempts to control me. In fact, the one thing my father will share when someone asks him what I was like as a baby is that I have been untamable since the day I was born; nobody could tell me what to do. He says I've always walked to the beat of my own drum and done things my way and no one else's.
Let me paint you a picture of what life looked like before I began to recover (with the unparalleled assistance of Al Anon)....If a parental unit attempted to control me I would fall into deep passive-aggression (of which I used to be a master); I would withhold my love and physical presence and eventually deliver a deeply rehearsed diatribe with the soundness of an incontestable closing statement in a courtroom. (Ironically, this was the foundation for my father's belief that I would make an excellent attorney.) If a lover attempted to control me, passive-aggression would inevitably ensue along with some good old fashioned rebellion. The utter truth is I had quite a few relationships in my youth that followed that pattern: a controlling lover coupled with an increasing level of rebellion on my part until the whole thing exploded.
I was so focused on the behavior of all the companions in my life, their frustrating control freakism, rather than looking inward. That is the very nature of most of our vices in life though; it's part of the human condition in my opinion. I feel sympathetic toward this coping mechanism, rather than feeling repulsed, because it is necessary for us to survive sometimes. We can't look in the mirror until we are ready. At any rate, back in those days I would point my finger then.....turn around and clean and organize my house until it was absolutely pristine; constantly research and obsess about nutrition to ensure I was eating the very best food for my body; spend hours in the drugstore agonizing over which beauty products would miraculously control my unruly hair and skin; concoct the perfect fitness routine for my already unbelievably skinny and toned body; at times I'd emotionally manipulate my significant others into not bringing alcohol into my environment......believe me, the list goes on...and on. The interesting thing is that I would react to my own control in the same way I'd react to others' control: I'd move in cycles of complete control and discipline, and wild rebellion of all the things I was trying to control.
One of the more notable areas of life that I attempted to control was substance. From the time I was 16 and had my first drink, until today at age 30, I have had an intensely conflicted relationship with substance. Coming from an alcoholic family it is quite understandable that I am this way, period. But, it is this issue that allowed me to finally become aware of my own control freakism, which in turn led me toward recovery from it. Hallelujah!
In the past, as far as other people's drinking (or drugging) was concerned, I'd swing back and forth between enabling and attempting to control the drinking. And when it came to me, I rarely allowed myself to feel like I was not in control. I was your typical binge drinker in college (and for a few years after graduating), but was somehow still the one in the crowd who was "responsible" and "controlled" enough to drive all my friends home at the end of the night (because it's really responsible to drive while intoxicated, right?). And though I was surrounded by a rainbow of drugs in those college days, I would never dip into anything that would take away my (perceived) control (i.e. psychotropic drugs)....again, because you are SO in control when you drink, right? Amazingly warped perception. And for the times that I did drink too much and lose control, I would punish myself by crying the next day.
These days, you would be hard-pressed to spot me with a drink in my hand, but now it is an intentional lifestyle choice after a harrowing journey through what was (and still is) a tangled mess of issues. I simply feel healthier and happier this way, and enjoy my relationships all the more.
I've heard that trying to be in control is an effective way of keeping people at a distance. That's exactly what I was trying to do subconsciously, along with reacting to a past that was chaotic, dangerous, and SO out of my control because I was just a child. Now I find myself breathing deeply and basking in the peace I have found in letting go and minding my own business. My reward is healthy relationships and closeness in those relationships because I am no longer distancing myself....I am no longer (on my good days) a control freak. And if I fall into the trap I am now immediately aware of what I'm doing so I stop, apologize and let go. Ahhh!
I guess I felt like I had to get this off my chest today....smile. For me, the most powerful thing I can do with my personal defects is bring them into the light and reveal them. They lose their power over me that way, and I am propelled past awareness and acceptance into the ability to change. And in the process, someone else might identify or feel validated in their own experience of life, which would make me smile.