Is it always your way...or the highway? Most people have no problem identifying control freak behavior in others. But what about in themselves? Could you be a control freak and not even know it? We asked Judith Orloff, MD, author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life for the signs to look for.
Here are a few red flags:
- "I start telling people what to do and claim to know what's best for them."
- "I want to do things my way and don't want to compromise."
- "I become domineering and suffocating. I lack spontaneity. I have a rigid sense of order."
Any of these sound familiar? Then you might be a control freak. So how did you get this way--without even realizing it?
"People who feel out of control tend to become controllers," explains Dr. Orloff. "Deep down, they're afraid of falling apart, so they micromanage to bind anxiety. They might have had chaotic childhoods, alcoholic parents or experienced early abandonment, making it hard to trust or relinquish control to others, or to a higher power."
And it's not just a behavior exhibited toward others. Control freaks are controlling of themselves, too. "They may fanatically count carbs, become clean freaks or workaholics," Orloff says. "Conventional psychiatry classifies extreme cases as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder--people are rigidly preoccupied with details, rules, lists and dominating others at the expense of flexibility and openness."
Unfortunately, this kind of behavior can cause havoc on your relationship. So how can you learn to let go--and spare your significant other?
"Have an open discussion with your mate," Orloff suggests. "Ask him/her to point out when you are getting overly controlling and be willing to back off. For instance, if you want to tell him what to wear, how to cut his hair, how to behave etc, stop the behavior."
But remember, this isn't something you can just turn off like a light switch. Give yourself time to change and be forgiving of yourself.
"Mindfully notice when you slip into control freak activities," Orloff says. "And develop an action plan to make yourself feel safer rather than try to control people. Say the serenity prayer: 'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.'"