“I have never been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.” – Thomas Jefferson
When your intent is to control others, are you thinking about happiness or are you more concerned about safety? Are you confusing the two – thinking that trying to feel safe by attempting to control others will make you feel happy?
It is my experience that people try to control out of fear, and that the motivating factor is the need for safety.
Take a moment to think about your own experience. Since we all try to control at times (please take all judgment off ‘being controlling’ so that you can learn), it is likely that you can remember a time when you were trying to control how someone felt about you or how they behaved – with anger, shaming, blaming, guilting, compliance, people-pleasing, withdrawal, resistance or many of the more subtle ways we try to control each other. Our ego-wounded self has learned many ways to try to control others so as not to feel helpless over them, and not to feel the loneliness and heartbreak of others’ unloving behavior.
When you think about a time you were controlling with someone, was happiness even a consideration? Do you recall ever actually feeling happy or joyful when you managed to get someone’s approval, or when you managed to bully someone into complying? You might have felt the momentary relief that comes from feeling some power over another, rather than feeling helpless over the other person, but did it fill your heart with peace and joy?
If you are honest with yourself, you will discover that the momentary feeling of safety derived from not feeling powerless over another person was what you were seeking. And if you continue to be honest with yourself, you will discover that, not only did this not bring you happiness or joy, but knowing that you manipulated someone might have even undermined your self-esteem. I have many clients who tell me that they are often afraid someone will find out they are a fraud – that they are not who they seem to be – because of their controlling behavior. They are willing to pay a high price for the illusion of safety.
Illusion? Yes. The kind of ‘safety’ that comes from controlling behavior is very different than the true safety that comes from loving yourself and taking responsibility for your feelings – rather than making others responsible for you. Even if another does seem to give you the love, approval or behavior you are seeking, they can always change their mind, or they can leave. How is that safe?
Real emotional safety, happiness and joy come from being loving to yourself and to others – not from trying to get love, approval or compliance through your controlling behavior.
When you are willing to shift your intent from trying to control others, to learning to love yourself, you will experience the huge difference between the ‘safety’ and relief that you may momentarily experience, and the true inner peace and joy that is possible when you learn to love yourself.
I know it is scary to the ego-wounded self to even contemplate learning about your controlling behaviors and how they make you feel, but I can assure you that it is worth it. I never felt true joy until I opened to learning about my controlling behaviors and to learning to love myself.
In order to learn about the many ways you might be trying to control, it’s vitally important that you see this learning as an exciting discovery process, which you can do only when you take all judgment off your controlling behaviors. We all try to control, so let’s not make it a bad word or a bad thing to do!