A Letter to Myself Series – Age 20

The next few years are going to be some of the best and some of the worst that you can imagine.

Second in the series A Letter to Myself

Sit back for just a moment and think of the growth that happens in the time that spans the second decade of life. The change between a ten and a twenty-year-old is amazing. It is in this decade that we learn independence and crave autonomy. As we leave our childhood behind, we experience puberty and explore sexuality. We physically turn into adults and obtain the privileges to drive, vote, and fight for our country. We may learn about love and loss for the first time. It’s a time for exploration and challenge.

In my life, everything changed during that decade. My parents split, I moved across the country and went to five different high schools. I took on a ton of responsibility as my parents lost and then found themselves again in different partners. I became the one everyone could depend on and didn’t buck the system until very late in the decade and then I made up for lost time. I experimented with everything that was on the naughty list. I started school but didn’t take it seriously.

By the age of twenty I was living on my own and self-supportive. My family had moved out of the area and so I surrounded myself with friends who became what I called my family of choice. Not all of my decisions were good and there were some f***ed up days coming, so if there is ever a time I can do it over again – this is what I want that girl to know.

Hey you,

Wow. Look at you. You did it. You made it through all those changes and faced the challenges of being a teenager all at once! I know you didn’t want to, I know it was hard, I know you struggled but you did it. You could have let a few more people help… you didn’t have to do so much of it by yourself. In the future – being stubborn isn’t going to offer you the easiest option. Life is better when you let people in, when you let them help.

So, your family looks a little different huh? Yeah, it gets bigger and a little more convoluted but you end up depending on each other a lot. You’ve got a great foundation to build on and the family values that you have gathered will be reinforced over and over again by most everyone. You are going to need those people! Good job on noticing how much they mean to you.

I want to encourage you to get better about finishing things. It would be great if you could finish college now even though everything turns out ok, it’s harder – much harder when you do it later. Most importantly… without that degree, you end up thinking that you don’t have as many choices and ‘that’ moves you in directions that end in pain. You work it out but… if you finish school now it will make things easier for you. And that stone sculpture that you never completed… you will shake your head over that for years! It will make a great door stop – just do it!

I know you’ve struggled in the boy arena. It’s not them… it’s YOU. You are OK, just like you are and when you finally figure that out – it will be everything you think it should be. I know adults tell you this all the time… they say it because it’s true – when you are happy with yourself, the ‘beautiful’ in you is visible to everyone. You are not fat! Your body is fine and the best thing you can do is to learn acceptance of it.

Adults are not saying these things to make you feel better (well, maybe a little) … they say them because they are TRUE!

You fall in love. Yup! There is a man out there who will love you as much as any Prince Charming. I’ll keep the suspense up and not go into many details but just know that he is on your horizon.

You will have a baby and he will grow your heart so much that you think it is going to burst. Yes, sorry to spoil the surprise – your first child will be a boy, just like you’ve always wanted. Just watching him sleep will bring you more joy than you knew was possible and when his little hand reaches for yours… well, your heart is just never the same.

The next few years are going to be some of the best and some of the worst that you can imagine. I’m not trying to scare you – it’s all going to be OK but you need to know that everything that has happened before now… it is preparing you. It has taught you to persevere, to keep going. You’ll need that but know that I am here too… your older self. You make it through – really… I am here on the other side as evidence. Just keep remembering that everything fits together at some point. Life is worth it, so don’t give up!

Believe it or not… the best is yet to come.

With love and support,

Me

 

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A Letter To Myself Series – Age 10

How many times must we fall before we learn to or decide to change direction? What are the right words to persuade us to change course?

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” ~ John Connolly

What would happen if you found a letter from your older self? Or your younger self? Like in the movie Back to the Future when Marty wrote to Doc that he was going to get shot so Doc wore a flack jacket (bullet proof vest) to the parking lot where the van of guys with machine guns came screeching through…

Would you listen? We don’t seem to take the advice of our older relatives or friends. Seemingly, each of us needs to learn firsthand – even when something is painful. I know it to be a source of frustration as a mom… watching my children head right into something I know has a high probability of turning out poorly. I only know that from years of experience – personally as well as my large collection of observations … they want to try it their own way. Presumably, due to the tweeks they may have made, it will turn out differently for them. (um..hm) Right.

My kids aren’t any different than any other person. I continue to see this fascinating phenomena in my clients too. It’s sometimes even more interesting when we are learning something that we already learned but think may be different THIS time. I do it too…. How often have I cut myself with a freshly sharpened knife? How many times do I have to shrink a favorite sweater before I learn to pay more attention when I am switching laundry?  How many times must we fall before we learn to or decide to change direction? What are the right words to persuade us to change course? Why are we so stubborn? Is there anyone void of this trait?

I’m beginning a series of letters to my younger self… for personal reflection but also for anyone there – in those years who might want to benefit from a little perspective or as inspiration for you to write your own!

A Letter to My 10-year-old Self

Hey there kiddo,

Wow. You have a great life right now – pretty much perfect don’t you think? Your baby brother is great and don’t sweat it… you’ll be friends forever. Your sister needs you. Be nice. Include her more. These two people will know you longer than anyone else and you will have amazing history together.

Those friends you have are the best! You are making memories that you will have for the rest of your life and that playing you are doing…. It’s so important! It’s great that you are outside so much and using your imagination – kids in the future don’t do that as much. So many of the things that you are doing are things that help you later on. You may want to back off on those marathon Monopoly games though… it eventually spoils your tolerance for the game.

Hey… don’t worry about being poor – it won’t matter when you grow up and the things you don’t have now aren’t all that important. You may want to hold on to that transistor radio; technology changes so fast that it becomes an antique relic more quickly than you can imagine. The fact that you are running around and inventing fun is training you for your future. You are going to use those attributes!

You know that song you learned at girl scout camp? The one about the three bears? You will teach it to your own children and it will become an important part of their childhood… Pay attention to as many of those things as you can. You don’t even know how much you are learning right now; how many of these things you will look back on.

Everyone tells you to be a kid… listen to them! You have so. much. life. in front of you – you have time – go ahead… go play and don’t worry about adults or problems. Try not to compare your body to other girls, your weight doesn’t matter…  people will love you and like you just because you are you, I promise.

Your mom and dad are having a hard time and life may get pretty tough for you in a little while but know this: they are doing the best they can. They are still growing up too and need to learn a lot of lessons. Remember that they both love you and want the best for you but may not know how to show it all the time.

Use your diary more. It’s great that you write down a few things but you will want to remember so much more. Those milestones you’ve already recorded… you’ll read them over and over – committing them to memory. That first kiss story – you’ll tell it over and over again – and laugh. Even though you think NJ is the best boy in the world… there are a lot more. 

The one thing that I want you to know more than anything else is that everything is going to be OK.  Learn to trust…

Love you girl!

What would you say to YOUR 10-year-old self?

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When the UGLIES Escape

Don’t be hard on yourself as you experience your humanness…

Being human is difficult. Becoming human is a lifelong process. To be truly human is a gift. ~ Abraham Heschel

Do you ever get grumpy? Out of sorts? Moody? Do your UGLIES escape?

Of course you do… you’re a human.

Sometimes, when reviewing basic communications skills with people who work in corporate environments, they tell me they “know all this stuff from seminars, workshops, and retreats at work” and then quickly ask the questions “why can’t I do it after I leave the office?”

I empathize with that question because I teach good communication tools… you know…

  • Use “I” statements
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Repeat what you heard
  • Validate

Yadda, yadda.

And yet, I too – am completely imperfect with using them. When we mix a big batch of emotion into the human factor – even the best intentions can go astray.

Sometimes, our frustration reaches a tipping point and we react without thinking about those skills we’ve collected in our communication toolkit. It happens when we are sick and when we are in pain. It can happen when we are afraid or worried. In those moments, our ability to stay focused and pay attention to how we could be behaving, is blurred.

In those times, we are prone to react first and think about our toolbox later…

And then communication goes south, conflict arises, sparing ensues, and feelings get hurt. The uglies come out.

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Now what?

First

I believe the most important thing we can do is apologize. We don’t have to apologize for how we were feeling… we only need to apologize for how we behaved when our feelings took over.

Listen, feelings are feelings and although they are not always rational or in context to a situation – they are still feelings and generally they just surface… we don’t ask for them.

Next

When we can collect our thoughts, step back, OUT of the emotion and pay attention to how we were feeling – the second step is to calmly, rationally, explain how we were feeling – using “I feel…” statements (remember to use ‘feeling’ words).

Think about the things I speak to in the post It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It? and try to communicate from the position of what you recognize about yourself…. In other words, OWN IT.

Ask for what you need – specifically. Do you need advice? Validation? Help? Or do you just want someone to listen? Letting someone know what you need in advance of sharing your feelings can often be helpful.

Lastly

Be willing to listen.

Frequently, an argument is simply the tip of an iceberg and representative of other issues that are simmering below the surface. When we can own our feelings, step out of the emotion, and be prepared to listen… we are able to address those matters that affect us subliminally.

Remember, the things I talk about take practice and patience! Don’t be hard on yourself as you experience your humanness… when you are tired or sick… when you temporarily lose track of your toolbox… or when you make a mistake.

Your life – my life – everyone’s life, is a work in progress. Just keep moving forward. Today is a new day.

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It Wasn’t Me – Or Was It?

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power.

 

“The moment you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING in your life is the moment you can change ANYTHING in your life.” ~ Hal Elrod

In the last couple of posts I’ve made the comment to “own” you stuff… your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. What does it mean really to ‘own’? I find that just saying it may not be enough, I find that we often need reminded what it is to ‘own’ because we don’t necessarily live in a culture where taking personal responsibility is front and center. We easily fall into patterns of ‘blame’.

At the turn of the century, the Jamaican reggae singer ‘Shaggy’ came out with a song entitled “It wasn’t me”… he was being given advice to deny his responsibility even though he had been caught red handed. Even the music we listen to seeks to reinforce methods of circumventing personal responsibility. We watch crime shows and movies that demonstrate how to ‘Get Away with Murder’ and we see Oliva Pope ‘fix’ problems that high level officials don’t want to be associated with. While I realize that those are fictitious stories on broadcast television, they seep into our subconscious and weep on patterns of blame whenever there is a chance.

“I can’t be happy because he….”, or “if she would change, everything would be ok.”… I hear people saying these things weekly. My response is always – “what about you?” “What is YOUR role in this?” Relationships are BETWEEN people and so every soul in the interaction has some level of responsibility in the dialogue; some level of input in the collaboration. Relationships by definition, are never one sided. Consequently – even if the only contribution is a RE-action… every person is engaged.

What would it look like if we all took responsibility for only OUR own behaviors?

What would it look like if we all stopped and reflected on what ‘I’ could do better or more effectively?

First and foremost… we have to be aware of what we are bringing to the table. What is it that ‘I’ am contributing to this interplay?

  • Am I being antagonistic?
  • Am I being supportive?
  • Am I being defensive?
  • Am I listening well?
  • Am I validating?
  • Am I being clear?
  • Am I saying what I mean?
  • Am I contributing positively?
  • Am I keeping score? Playing tit for tat?
  • Do I maintain my composure? My tone? My voice?
  • Have I kept my promises or vows?

YOU must be so self-aware that you know – and can admit – your role in any interaction or collaboration.

You must be so self-aware that you can recognize when you are deflecting (changing the direction or focus) – “oh yeah? Well when you ….” Or when you are defensive… “well, I did that because….” And when you aren’t listening – by interrupting. People who interrupt are NOT listening well.

I use these examples because they are usually easier to comprehend when it comes to relationships… we can each see ourselves in an interaction with another and notice when we contribute to the exchange.

In addition, we are also responsible for our own LIVES… no – we don’t control many of the things that happen but we DO control and need to take responsibility for the way that we respond to our lives. We need to OWN the decisions we make in response to our lives. Each of our actions generates a consequence which, ultimately means that we must own part of the consequence.

Ben and Sally went out for her birthday. Ben bought Sally a bunch of ‘shots’ and Sally got drunk. Sally tells her friend – “Ben got me drunk last night”. Ummm… not really. Unless Ben poured the shots down Sally’s throat… SALLY got herself drunk.

Our decisions, our actions, our behavior – determine how we are viewed in the world… they determine how we think of ourselves and they each become a part of our history… things that stay with us, literally forever. Every action becomes a memory that is imprinted on our soul. So… no wonder we may not ‘want’ to take responsibility. No wonder that we may not want to ‘own’ something that has already happened – something that we don’t necessarily want to be there forever…

The problem is that unless we OWN our actions, reactions, and behavior – we are giving someone else our power. If I am a wife blaming my husband for his addictions or blaming the problems in our marriage on his demeanor… I am denying that I have the power for my own decisions… for my own change. I am denying that I have any control over my own life.

What do we need to take responsibility for? We need to take responsibility for our own life… for what happens in it. Did you just get fired? Why? Look at the questions I asked earlier … go through them one by one… could you have done a better job? Could you have been more communicative? Could you have put in more effort? If so… just acknowledge it. Yes –  your boss may have been a dick. The working conditions may have sucked but at the end of the day – it was more than likely the way YOU reacted to it… the way you responded that made the decision.

If my husband is unfaithful, I can blame him for not keeping a promise but I am the one who needs to take responsibility for how I RE-act. Will I be vindictive? Seek to hurt him the way that I am hurt? Will I go deep into the uglies? Some of that will – of course – simply be a human reaction but if I go there – no matter my reaction – no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me how to behave. ANY reaction is one that I will have to OWN. I will have to remember that when I look in the mirror – it will be there with me.

Be aware – constantly aware – of what you are willing to carry with you – for the rest of your life.

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Damn Those Expectations

We generally expect that if we are willing to do something for someone, they would do it back.

“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
― Alexander Pope

When my birthday was approaching one year (I think it was my 33rd), my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday. My reply was “I can’t ‘think of anything”. Now, to me – this means ‘Oh I don’t know – pick out something you think I will like’ – but that’s not what I said. Because what I said and what I meant – exactly – were two different things… on the day of my birthday – there were no presents.

“I don’t have ‘anything’ to open?”, I said. “You said you didn’t want anything!”, he exclaimed. Aside from the fact that his interpretation of “I can’t think of anything” transformed into “you said you didn’t want anything” – which, is an entirely different post about communication…. In my mind – the way ‘I’ would have treated that situation… would have been to find something – even a little token gift – so that he would have something to open on his birthday. Who doesn’t like opening presents??

How many times have you found yourself thinking… ‘that’s not what I would have done?’ or ‘why did they do it that way?’ or ‘they should know me by now’.  We typically make the assumption that people who are similar to us in one way must be similar to us in most ways. The assumption is so strong in fact, that we fail to talk about very basic needs; assuming they will be met because the people who love us – “know” us. Even more frequent are the assumptions we make when we have been in a partnership for a long time… ‘after all this time, you should know.’

You remember the golden rule right? ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’. And then there is the biblical reference in the New Testament, Luke 6:38 – “Give and it will be given to you.” And Confucius said “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” There are similar quotes that permeate throughout social media, posters, and books such as “treat people the way you want to be treated” and “Be a reflection of what you’d like to see in others.” And we make general assumptions along the parameters of ‘What comes around, goes around’ and ‘What you put out there, comes back’.

I believe the general premise of these ideas are helpful. I believe that they are meant to guide us and stimulate positive intent. However, I believe they also set us up with the expectation that people are paying attention to how we treat them – literally – and then we anticipate that we will be the recipients of similar treatment.

I’m not talking about the generalities such as doing nice things or speaking kindly. I find that we develop expectations of specific behaviors and I see examples of it across my life and the lives of almost every client I’ve talked to. Examples are almost boundless… (names made up)

Joyce speaks her mind and is quite opinionated. She has a strong point of view about almost everything. Bob cooked dinner for her the other night because she had to work late. Joyce was appreciative of the meal and commented that if he ever were to make it again, he should add more spices so that the flavor was more intense. Bob was insulted that Joyce would comment about the meal. His comment… “I’d never tell her how to cook, I’d just eat and enjoy.” Joyce’s thought process was very different… she would want him to tell her if something needed more flavor. She didn’t understand why his feelings were hurt.

In this example, Bob decided he was inclined never to cook again because it would open him up to what he believed to be criticism of his cooking. Since he would never think of commenting on her cooking, he was insulted that she did.

Pete and Chris had a small apartment and when Chris’s parents came to visit she thought that they would sleep in the bedroom and she and Pete would use an air mattress in the office. Her thought was that her parents should be as comfortable as possible. Pete had never given up his bed for anyone and resented that he was being asked to now. His thought was that if her parents wanted to sleep in a bed, they could get a hotel room. Chris knew her parents could afford a hotel but she wanted to spend as much time as possible with them. She would make the same concession for Chris’s parents and didn’t understand why he wasn’t willing.

That’s the crux of the issue here – ‘I would do this for you – why won’t you do it for me??’ – no matter what “it” is. We generally expect that if we are willing to do something for someone, they would do it back. We subconsciously ‘expect’ it. Sometimes, we count on it.

Lucy was home on bedrest with her third baby. It came about suddenly and she didn’t have time to plan for the downtime but wasn’t concerned because she was very active in the neighborhood and had cooked for other families often throughout the years. In fact, she was often the organizer for helping other moms when there was a need. After a week, it was apparent that no one was coordinating efforts for meals or childcare help and she felt abandoned by the people she thought were friends. She never reached out specifically with a request for help but she didn’t believe she needed to… couldn’t they ‘see’ that she needed support?

In this case, the fact that Lucy jumps up to the plate to direct and facilitate services when someone needs help dictates her expectation that the ‘like-minded’ people (other moms) from her neighborhood would surely know to reciprocate the efforts.

Kevin is the kind of guy who pays really close attention to the times when his wife says “I wish I had…” and makes a note to add that to a ‘gift list’. For birthday’s and Christmas he always gets just the right thing and she is amazed that he knows her so well. She, on the other hand typically comments that she “never knows what he wants”. Kevin feels unappreciated and unimportant to his wife. He fails to see that she fixes his favorite meal once a month and always has his favorite ice cream in the freezer – her way of saying ‘you matter’.

Some are lucky to have people in their lives that are so like-minded that there is an effortless symbiotic flow between them. My friend and her family lived with us for a month while they were house hunting – many years ago. Even though we had eight children in the house (7 of them under the age of 8) dinner and bath time were amazingly calm and harmonious because we were of the same mind… we were so precisely in tune with one another that speech was barely needed. This same person and I drove through a fast food restaurant one day, attempting to pacify the cranky toddlers in the back seat with French fries. Each of us grabbed a couple of hot fries that we intended to hand back to the kids when I noticed that we were both holding them out the window to cool off. It was a funny moment although, reading this… I guess you had to be there. In regards to those things… we thought the same way.

Of course, we don’t want a world filled with people who are exactly like us – that’s not the point here. We need to acknowledge and honor our differences. We do, however, need to become aware of how WE think… what assumptions am I making? What are my expectations? Have I communicated them in a clear and concise manner? Am I asking questions? Have I sought to define and clarify?

One thing is clear… many, many times, if there is disappointment… there is a failed expectation because we ‘assumed’ that someone would do ‘what we would have done’.

Owning Your Control Issues

Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

Continued from The Birth of Control Issues

“Surrender to what is. let go of what was. have faith in what will be.” ~ Sonia Ricotti

Yesterday’s post laid out how control issues are born and manifest. When people accused me of being a ‘controlling’ person I would get defensive because I knew in my own mind that my intent wasn’t to manipulate other people. I just wanted to control for the ‘uglies’… I wanted to manage the bad feelings – the sadness – the fear. When we speak about controlling behavior we use derogatory words such as ‘control freak’. Comments like that foster shame and embarrassment. Who wants to think of themselves as a ‘freak’ of anything?

When I notice that someone has the propensity to seek control of their circumstances and/or environment, the first thing I help them do is to understand why the need to control exists for them. And then we talk about managing it with a few simple thoughts.

OWN IT

Just OWN it! Acknowledging and understanding your ‘control issues’ is the first step in coping with them well. Accept them, love them, honor them. They are there because at one time you had a reason to believe that your emotional safety was in danger. We need to love the imperfect parts of ourselves just as much as those things that make us loveable. If one of the ways to soften your hard corners is through compassion… offer it to yourself! Seeking reassurance and comfort from the outside world is fine but if it isn’t available or frequent enough – you need to know how to give it to yourself.

REASSESS

Take a careful look around at the things that ARE within your realm of control. Many things are… you always have a choice unless you are being held captive or are in some way incapacitated… you have choices; even when you feel you don’t’. I remember many times feeling like I didn’t have a choice but that only left me with a sensation of helplessness.

Sure, sometimes we don’t ‘want’ any of the choices that are available but then we must be honest with ourselves and recognize – in that – we are still making a choice.

Can I control whether or not someone drinks? NO. I can only control whether I continue to share space with that person. If I chose to stay with someone who isn’t sharing the load with me, who doesn’t have the same vision as I do… then I have made a choice to accept the load myself and I have to redesign my vision. Understand that many choices are ‘package deals’ – they are bundled with a series of ‘consequences’… make sure you are consciously accepting the entire bundle because unbundling it – is OUTSIDE of your control.

LET GO

More often than not I find that we need to let go of fixed or rigid thoughts – the way we think things ‘should’ be or how things ‘should’ be done. Expand your thinking by eliminating words such as right/wrong or good/bad and replace them with ‘different’. There truly is more than one way to do most things.

Understand that in YOUR emotionally safe world things look a specific way. Responsibility, for example, may be represented to you in the form of a fixed blueprint that is achieved by doing x, y, & z precisely. But… we know – logically – that there is more than one effective building design. People demonstrate responsibility by using a, b, & c too. Letting go of an XYZ design and being open to trust that ABC will work is important.

Keep in mind that letting go is NOT a one and done thing. Thoughts don’t automatically disappear just because we want them to. We may need to let go of something over again every day until our mind remembers that we are simply not accepting that thought anymore. Be patient.

DISASSOCIATE

The things that happened in our past which, contributed to our current control issues are over. Just because the first man I loved died, doesn’t mean that the next man I love will, even though that is the fear. If your parents were horrible at parenting – if they were abusive – it doesn’t mean that other parents are abusive or that you will be as a parent. If someone you love died in a car accident, that doesn’t mean others will as well.

Certainly, bad things happen. But… the things that are creating your control needs are in the past and they need to stay there. Disconnect what HAS happened to what MIGHT happen going forward. Remind yourself… that was then, this is now. Stay present. Focus on THIS moment.

TRUST

“Let go and let God” is about trust. Letting go in general is about trust. We have to trust that if we let go – we will still experience emotional peace / security.

Sometimes I just repeat the word over and over in my mind as a reminder that I must surrender to trust. Generally speaking… things have always worked out in the end and I am reminding myself of that fact.

I find that most of us with control issues have simply learned to DIS-trust that people are working with us in the pursuit of emotional safety. I often remind myself that my children want to arrive where they are going and so they will make every effort within THEIR control to do so. I must trust that.

Trust is easier when we are constantly checking in to make sure that we are on the same page with those that are invested with us. Be sure that you are each moving toward the same vision and trust that you can get there via different avenues.

PLAN B

When all else fails, it helps to have a Plan B. People with control issues often have anxiety – the fear of not being able to control manifests physiologically. If we create an escape route – in case owning it, reassessing, letting go, disassociating and trust don’t completely satisfy our fears… having an alternative plan helps. It many never happen that you use Plan B but just initiating a design for another option allows your mind to experience a sense of relief.  Draw it out, make lists, save money, know where the exit is.

Having an active Plan B allows you to feel in control of something even when you have none.

If you liked what you read just now, please SHARE it with friends and family by using one of the buttons below (Facebook, Twitter, Email & LinkedIn) and know that I am grateful for your effort.

Also, I love to connect with my readers. Feel free to comment, follow my blog, or connect with me on social media.

The Birth of Control Issues

We have a vision in our minds – we all do – of what a comfortable, safe life looks and feels like

“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it.” – Kahlil Gibran

If you’ve been a reader for a while you know that I have a special place in my heart for those of us with ‘control issues’. I am one of those people who get anxious when I am faced with a lot of things that are outside of my control because it means that my emotional and/or physical safety is at risk – or at least that’s what my mind thinks.

Remember – we developed control needs when – at some point in our life – there was a perception of chaos or we somehow perceived that we were emotionally threatened. In an effort to calm down, relax, reduce anxiety… we searched for ways to create a sense of safety. To do that, we pulled in and engineered the circumstances in our environment to the extent that we were able.  If someone was inside the sphere under influence – they were also pulled in.

I’ve been accused of needing to control. It’s true. I do occasionally attempt to over manage, govern, inflict authority, etc… in situations where not doing so may leave my emotional welfare up for grabs.

I will not apologize for this – it is my survival mechanism. It is how I manage risk and make it through difficult times.

I will acknowledge though, that in this effort to create emotional safety in my world I am sometimes overbearing and unthoughtful about the other people in my space. For that – I am apologetic. Please know that I am not interested in mastering YOU. I am only seeking resolution for the risk that I am unwilling to take.

Here are how control issues manifest:

When I was married and my husband drank a lot I would feel as if he wasn’t there for me. He would either get sloppy or emotionally distant. He was unable to take care of responsibilities and I felt as if the weight of the world fell onto my shoulders. – NOT A DESIREABLE FEELING. To get rid of that feeling, I would beg him not to drink. I would hide the alcohol. I stopped wanting to go out to dinner at any restaurant where there was a bar. I never wanted to entertain or go over to friends’ houses if there was going to be beer. In my mind – if he didn’t have access to alcohol, I had a partner and someone to share the responsibility. I was fearful of being the only one accountable… what if I failed?

When my kid’s friends started to drive, they wanted to transport my own children around town. Of course, the idea of having driving freedom is a highlight of all teens – a rite of passage. But… I didn’t have any control over my children’s safety if they were in the car with someone else. In an effort to control for MY own fears and feelings, I’d take the kids anywhere they wanted to go – I’d drive carloads of young women around town all afternoon and wait – sometimes at the expense of my other commitments so that I wouldn’t have to cope with the risk of them driving with someone else which stimulated my fears of them being unsafe – ultimately MY fear of feeling loss.

When I was married, I paid all the bills. (surprised?) I had a lot of fears that revolved around not having enough money. If we didn’t have enough money for the mortgage or the car payment they could get taken away (my parents had a car repossessed and a house foreclosed on when I was a kid). As long as I was the one paying the bills, I could ‘control’ how and when the payments were made. If my husband spent money without my knowledge it immediately triggered my fear that we may not have enough and ultimately that we would be homeless which, might be a little dramatic but that’s where my mind went.

Notice that in each case the underlying component is FEAR. In each case, I am attempting to mitigate the negative feelings that I WILL FEEL if things don’t go smoothly. I become afraid that YOUR actions may generate a problem for my emotional safety. Somewhere along the line I’ve adopted the idea that if you do … (this)… , I will feel … (that)… usually based on some historical event that either personally happened to me or that I witnessed.  Consequently, I have surmised that if I can keep you from doing (this) – I won’t feel (that). The most fundamental problem with this instinctual strategy is that I CAN’T CONTROL YOU and it leaves me vulnerable.

No matter how hard I might try to control for my own fear – in the examples I’ve provided they require something from another person – who may be feeling as if I am attempting to dominate their behavior. Superficially – I AM trying to control the situation but…

… not because I am interested in having control of YOU – but because I am trying to have control OF ME.

The crux of this whole effort – and where everyone gets stuck is – that we HAVE NO CONTROL OVER OTHERS! People are not puppets – nor do any of us want to be. We are designed for self-mastery… to want to make decisions for ourselves.

We have a vision in our minds – we all do – of what a comfortable, safe life looks and feels like. We have an idea of how to accomplish that vision. When we have experienced successful collaborations, we generally learn to accept that there are many roads leading to the achievement of that ideal. However, people who have been abandoned, betrayed, and left to their own devices learned that they were solely responsible for reaching the objective and therefore, develop a premise that they must go it alone and have to have command in order to be successful.

My mom said a thousand times if she said it once… “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” That statement all by itself is probably enough for me having learned that ‘I had to have control’. Remember – if something is done ‘right’ – that’s good. We will do anything to create more ‘good’ feelings… they create a sense of emotional safety. Indirectly, and I’m am sure without any obvious intent, it was one of the ways that I was taught that to do it yourself – to have personal control – was the way to emotional safety.

However, we do not live in isolation – nor do any of us really want to exist all by ourselves. We come together in pairs or groups with the intent of achieving a joint vision and we must learn how to achieve emotional safety without the deleterious effects often produced by the ‘control issues’ that formed along the way.

Tomorrows post will address that problem.

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