I’m a recovering control freak. And I’m proud of it.
Not of the control freak part. Of the recovering part.
Just like alcoholism or any other mental health issue, control freak and perfectionism (oh yeah, I am a recovering perfectionist too) are things that we sometimes want to bury and pretend do not apply to us. No sir. That’s not me. Why? Because it’s too scary to go down deep and explore the source of those feelings and behaviors. On some level, we’re afraid of what we might find.
For me, I had to face a personal truth. I believed that I would not get what I needed unless I was perfect and was in complete control of my environment. Of course, both are a complete illusion, but I was under this self-induced spell. The spell put me in a little reality bubble that was snug, safe and well-defined, and clearly did not include my deep-seated and unacknowledged fear. That bubble also did not include the fact that everyone except me was aware of my control freak demon.
The thoughts that have the most power over us are the ones that we do not acknowledge, so I was subconsciously ruled by this fear. Only when we bring our worst fears to light do they lose their power. In the light of day, those fears assume their proper magnitude. Much like the Wizard of Oz, when we pull back the curtain on our most basic and fearful assumptions can we see them for what they really are: a farce.
I’m not saying that I always get what I need and I never inappropriately predict when I’ll be let down. I’m simply saying that I do not have to create a self-fulfilling prophecy for myself that continues to feed and reinforce my worst fears. It’s not the end of the world or a personal catastrophe if my worst fears come to be.
I’m also not saying this is an easy journey. After so many decades of practicing an ingrained behavior, I had to re-examine all my usual habits and reactions in light of this grey-colored lens with which I viewed myself and my world. I had to re-engineer my habits and reactions now that my lens was neutral, or even rose-tinted. Still, despite all this self-knowledge and progress, there are days I can’t help but go there.
Recently I did a self-assessment exercise about my personality style. I came up “analyzer” – you know – thoughtful and think before I speak. Part of the exercise is to invite others to comment about you, and one reviewer said I was a “driver”. On good days: goal and task oriented, visionary and high expectations of self and others. On bad days: argumentative, fears losing control and judgmental.
There’s that control freak again.
I don’t view these results as a personal failure. Rather, these results reflect my continuing journey to care for that scared inner me that still allows myself to go there on bad days. In fact, I’m pretty proud of myself in that when I saw the feedback, I laughed. Not because the results were ridiculous, but because I knew they were true. And that I was completely, 100% ok with that. No defensiveness, no anger, no fear. To me, that’s a sort of a milestone, that my better angels are starting to prevail over my inner devil. Age definitely has some advantages.