I have control freak tendencies. The extent of this controlling nature did not simply extend to just trying to control what other people did, thought of or responded to me. I even tried to control the control-freak part of me, clamping her down so that she wouldn't emerge to hurt my relationships any further. Sometimes I even denied her existence, hiding behind a veil of 'I'm only worried/concerned/acting out of love for you', or whatever excuse I could come up with at that time, to make myself feel better. (and yes, it makes me nervous to even type this out right now) Of course, that never really works out, because, my slips in mindful awareness are the times she would sneak out to wreak havoc on my mental and emotional state, not to mention my behavior toward the very people I love.
Just not too long ago, I faced multiple incidents with my parents, as well as the man I am in a relationship with, where this side of me resulted in emotionally draining situations, unable to enjoy in the other party's company as the moment desired. Sometimes, I rebelled against well-intentioned advice, insisting on my own point of view and refusing to accept or even acknowledge their perspective. Other times, I decided for myself what was 'good for them', and attempted to influence events to fit my idea of an ideal outcome. Otherwise, I disallowed myself from asking for what I truly wanted out of fear of rejection or disapproval. Regardless of the situation, the ultimate outcome always ended up being either a dearth of connection between me and the other party, disappointment, or conflict. The desire to control never ends well, and most definitely a far fetch from the 'perfect ending'.
This was something I struggled with for a long time. What could be wrong when I had a (relatively) good idea of what I want, think, and need, and what others want, think and need? Why is it so hard to find a compromise so that everyone can be happy? And I struggled in vain, until two recent incidents over the past weekend helped to provide some resolution on the matter.
The first moment of epiphany happened during a church service where an interview about leadership with Dr. Henry Cloud (clinical psychologist, leadership expert and author) was screened. One particular sentence struck a chord within me -- 'A good leader allows, and trusts people to do what they are good at.', preparing me for what was to come later.
That same day, I hesitated on something that E had the intention of following through with because I 'did not think it was a good idea as I am worried for him and think it might be a drain on his energy and time' (ie. I decided for myself what was good for him). He asked simply, 'Why don't you let me decide what I want?'.
And that's when I fully realized, that trying to control or impose my own ideas on someone else's actions is not only selfish, but also futile. The only person who can, and should, have say over his/her life is the person him/herself. Because everyone is best at one thing -- living their life. No one can do it for them. As a friend, lover or family member, no matter how well we know, or think we know, the person, no one knows him/her as well as he/she does. Therefore, no one will know what is truly best for him/her, simply because only he/she is there 24/7 to experience all that they see, feel or do, to fully know their story. Everything else that we project onto them, well-meaning intentions or otherwise, are simply projections from our own lives onto theirs, and how can we really compare our experiences to theirs? How can we assume that the things that we worry about are of similar importance/value to them? Even if we would like to minimize the pain our loved ones may experience, is that the best way of showing them love? What if that very pain is required for them to progress to a better life? How would they learn otherwise, and can we (and should we) take this away from them? Is sheltering them and trying to control everything, are we protecting them or harming them?
Letting go of control is an extremely difficult thing to do for anyone, especially control freaks like me. But in a mere few days, I have learnt that, whatever perfect scenario we imagine is simply something that happens in our head, something unreal that distracts us from what is real, what is truly happening, and distracts us from holding that freedom and space for those we love and even ourselves from developing into even more wonderful individuals than we already are. Without that space, open communication and true understanding cannot occur, the very things that resolves differences, even fear itself. Sometimes, the very act of letting go and trusting in the ones we love, trusting in our own judgment over how and who we love, or simply trusting in that life will turn out just fine the way it will be, allows for better things to emerge than we imagined it to be.
In the end, trust wins over fear. Love always wins. So, quit it. =p