What is your desire to “control” trying to tell you?

Dinner Confidential: “Managing Our Desire To Control”

A funny thing happened in this Dinner Confidential…

The topic was “how to deal with our desire to be in control” and half way through the night, I came face to face my own desire to CONTROL the outcome of the dinner. I wanted to make sure the night was perfect: that people would open up, feel vulnerable and have epiphanies — but how could I control that? How could I ensure the women would feel a certain way?

Of course my intention was (and always is) to create an event that is enriching and inspiring. But my desire to control the night was rooted in fear. If the night wasn’t perfect (aka the way I had envisioned it) then it would be a failure. Would I be a failure as well? Would people still like me (that is one of my deepest fears)?

The idea of “control” can be (and was) interpreted in so many ways by the women in the Dinner. To help me clarify my thoughts (and write this summary), I created two categories.

Inner Control
Our desire to dictate our internal worlds — how we feel and what we think.

Culturally, we put so much emphasis on positivity — being happy and optimistic are sought out virtues. I get it, having a positive attitude brings wonderful things into one’s life. But have we created a dogma around it? What happens when, inevitably, our hearts and minds encounter “negative emotions” (envy, jealousy or anger)? No wonder we experience shame, guilt and an increase desire to control those unwanted feelings.

From now on, I will make an effort to remember that what I feel or think is not all of who I am.

Outer Control
When we find ourselves trying to control other people, outcomes or situations. In some cases this is manifested as “perfectionism” or “stubbornness” i.e. micromanaging calendars, colleagues or family vacations, trying to “change” our partners or wanting to be right (all the time).

I wonder if this happens because we assume responsibilities that do not belong us — we can’t be the therapist of our partner, even if the intention is to help them become “their best self.”

Our desire to control offers very useful information: it signals what is important to us and what we want. But when we obsess about getting “our way” and can’t let go, it becomes a hinderance.

I never thought that verbalizing my need to control would be so liberating. It feels like the part of me that likes control can be gentler if I understand where it is coming from.

Things to experiments with

Every time you find the urge to control (be perfect or right), ask yourself:

  • What is the intention of my Control?
  • What is it protecting me from?
  • What is the worst that can happen if I let go?

Dinner Confidential is a 2-year project that aims to explore how women feel and how they approach life’s challenges through intimate monthly dinners. Check out dinnerconfidential.org to find out more!