Options

3 Reasons to Let Go of Your Inner Control Freak

letting go of your inner control freak

Do you feel you need to take control of every aspect of your life? When we feel the need to take control excessively, we become a control freak attempting to alter life’s moving currents and rhythm. When we do this, we are unable to see options and make choices that would significantly change our lives emotionally, creatively and financially. We become imprisoned by our fears, anger and resentment and are thus not open to the wonders that await us.

When we let go of the control freak mindset our blinders are removed and we can begin to enjoy life’s possibilities. Intimate relations become more intimate. Family bonds strengthen. Creative horizons expand. Work becomes more productive and enjoyable. Moreover, when we stop trying to control others, the focus changes from others to ourselves. We can then work on improving our own shortcomings and enhancing our life skills and talents.

Let me explain three key ways that letting go of the control freak mentality improve your life.

Letting go strengthens your bond with your children

Excessive parental control often drives a wedge between parents and their children. There is no question that parental control or authority is essential not only for a child’s health and safety but also for fostering a child’s morals, family values, social manners and learning.

However, many of us overdo it and adopt the control freak approach. We become domineering because of our fears, egos, anxieties and insecurities. Consequently, we over manage our children’s lives and deprive them of opportunities to learn and gain wisdom from their mistakes. Being a control freak with your children also leads to resistance and even rebellion.

As a major control freak myself, I always offered unsolicited advice to my son Brandon. Why? Because I felt I knew what was best for him and I wanted him to see the light. (It’s no secret that control freaks are short on humility!) However, as a teenager, he was very dismissive of my many “suggestions.” That of course raised my ire. How could my sage advice be “put down” so quickly? But the far more serious problem for me was my controlling ways severely damaged our communications and bond.

Later, after l had learned the value of letting go of control, I stopped offering Brandon advice or even making suggestions. This certainly was not easy because the need to control can be very powerful—particularly in parenting, where our fears are so powerful.

What ensued was highly unexpected and enlightening. Brandon actually began asking me for advice about challenging issues he faced. I was of course thrilled to help out. I felt more a part of his life. It was thus through giving up my control freak attitude that I was able to reconnect with my son in a very special way.

Letting go of control fosters intimacy

Intimate relations are fertile grounds for controlling actions. Love control runs the gamut from unsolicited advice and opinions to criticism and unreasonable demands.

These actions invariably breed resentment from our mates. After all, who likes being told how to be and act—particularly in matters of the heart?

A case in point is Nancy, who was forever “recommending” to her boyfriend’s things they should do to better their lives. Moreover, she constantly repeated her ideas because she was one of those control freaks who believed offering advice more than once would increase the chances of it being followed. Although her intentions may have been good, her messages were poorly received—and rarely followed. Indeed, for most of her beaus it was a turnoff.

Nancy thus never really achieved the intimacy she was striving for. She didn’t realize that true intimacy can only come if we accept our loved ones just as they are, rather than trying to change them. This acceptance allows the love currents to unfold naturally so that people can just relax and be themselves—and offer their love and kindness without pressure or expectations.

Letting go of being a control freak expands your creative horizons

Another area where letting go of control bestows gifts is in our creative endeavors. Creativity flourishes when we open up, whereas control closes us down by restricting freedom of thought and process. Examples of creative control actions are pressing too hard for completion, over thinking and over analyzing creative works and setting overly high expectations.

Another obstructive control freak action in creativity is when we become bent on strictly following “rules” or “principles.” When I first began painting, I had only two short lessons from master artist Paul Eventoff. To my surprise, in less than a year I was turning out paintings that brought unexpected accolades. I was of course very excited and craved to learn more, particularly about landscape painting, so I took a weeklong plein air workshop in Vermont. I had a new instructor each day who propounded his personal painting “principles.” When I returned home after the workshop, I tried to incorporate all these principles in my paintings. The results were catastrophic. In very short order, I had lost my unique style and way of painting. I was really discouraged.

Six months later I expressed my concerns to Paul, and he shared with me the parting advice that the dean of the Maryland Institute of Art had given his class’s graduating students: “Now forget everything you learned and just go paint!” That was exactly what I needed to hear. To me that meant just let go and enjoy the process. I resumed painting without any expectations and went with what felt right and natural to me, incorporating my new knowledge selectively and intuitively. Within a few months my painting took on a new maturity.

Thus, through letting go of control in our creative endeavors, our natural and unique creativity can shine through, often resulting in original works of lasting beauty.

Accept this challenge!

I challenge you to do the following for the next week:

With respect to your children, listen attentively to them without offering advice. Recognize that they are different from you in the way they think and process things, and accept that your way may not be the right way—for them.

In your love relationship, lower your expectations of your mate—and of yourself. Focus on what steps you can take to improve your love bond.

With respect to your creative endeavors, focus on just enjoying the process. Don’t plan or think too much about the outcome. Don’t fret about making “mistakes.” Start a piece with the intention of not completing it, and see what unfolds.

Even if you are only partially successful in doing these things, you will begin to discover that letting go of control brings you freedom and contentment!

If you enjoyed this article consider email updates!

Daniel A. Miller is a businessman, an artist and the author of Losing Control Finding Serenity: How the Need to Control Hurts Us And How to Let It Go . Daniel writes about control issues at Losing Control, Finding Serenity.

27 Comments

  1. Rocketbunny April 29, 2011 Reply

    Very inspiring article.It really makes me think!

    • danny August 19, 2014 Reply

      Thanks Bunny, I really appreciate you positive feedback.

  2. Galen Pearl April 29, 2011 Reply

    The title of the book says it all! When we look behind that urge to control we find fear. When we can address the fear, we can let go of control. Great article. Thanks!

    • danny August 19, 2014 Reply

      You are exactly right Galen. Fear is the primary catalyst for controlling actions. I wrote a poem about fear in my book entitled “Fiction’s Best Seller” because it so often is illusory. It is thus important to separate the real facts from the nightmares our fears script.

      Danny

  3. David Stevens April 29, 2011 Reply

    Hi,
    Excellent advice. Yes ‘control’ primarily comes from fear & perhaps our own negative conditioning beliefs. There is so much that we can let go of….it makes a difference.
    Be good to yourself
    David

    • danny August 19, 2014 Reply

      So true David, learning to let go can have powerful positive influence on our reality.

  4. Sandra April 29, 2011 Reply

    Daniel,

    I loved the way you presented this topic. Letting go is so key to happiness, yet we often have such an automatic resistance to doing so.

    I feel like learning to let go is a lifelong journey with its ultimate culmination at death when we have to let go of everything that is familiar to us and trust in our true self.

    I’ve improved greatly this year in my ability to let go in my love relationship. Now I’m ready for your exciting challenge: “With respect to your creative endeavors, focus on just enjoying the process.” Thank you for this.

  5. Danny April 29, 2011 Reply

    Thank you, Sandra. I feel the reason why we have an “automatic resistance” to letting go of control is because we are raised in a control environment from the time we are young children. After all, who could be more controlling than our parents, albeit much of parental control (instilling good values and morals, fostering education and the like), is essential to our well being. Control is thus deeply ingrained in us and we feel we need to control to succeed in life, and the idea of giving it up can be quite unsettling. However, we all too often fail to realize the harm it does to us–and others.

    The first step to changing our “automatic resistance” becoming aware of how much and how often we do control. That is why I have a “Are You a Controller” test on my website.
    Danny

  6. Evan April 29, 2011 Reply

    My difficulty with this book is when is controlling excessive or when it is just enough or too little?

    Does the author provide guidelines for what he thinks or to figure out what we think?

    An alternative way is to describe different qualities of living rather than quantity of control.
    Eg. you have too much control if your shoulder muscles are uncomfortably tight; you aren’t in control enough is you find it dissatisfying that you can’t get to the first thing on your to-do list.

    • Danny April 30, 2011 Reply

      You raise some good questions Evan.
      I do provide guidelines in my book for determining when you are controlling excessively. One indication of over control is when you feel “dis-ease” or resistance from your actions. I also provide guidelines for when we are over-managing our children’s lives. What it ultimately comes down to is being able to find the right balance between control and surrender–for us.
      Your not getting to the first thing on your to do list has more to do with fear than control. I have a chapter about that called “Avoiding Avoidance”.

  7. Jonathan April 29, 2011 Reply

    Hey Danny, Just wanted to welcome you to Advanced Life Skills and say how much I enjoy your work. I was actually a control freak for many years and didn’t even realize it until one amazing day when my daughter brought me face to face with my own ego. You can read the story here if you are interested. Anyway, my point is that letting go of control changed everything and I highly recommend your book to anyone with even the slightest “controller” tendency.

    • Danny April 30, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Jonathan, I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this great forum! I read your insightful post about your ego and your daughter and I think your daughter and mine would get along just fine! I’ve learned from her that my way is not always the best way, or even the only way. It’s just a way, no more, no less. One thing I don’t think controllers have ever been accused of is being too humble!

  8. Riley April 30, 2011 Reply

    Hi Daniel,
    Good post. Our control is never as strong or our influence as relevant as we would like or fantasize. Letting go of the myth of total control is the epiphany that brought me peace in many areas of my life.
    Riley

    • Danny April 30, 2011 Reply

      Yes, Riley, I agree that our influence on events is highly overrated. I have found that the more that I can accept “life as it is”, the easier it is for me to give up control. It also brings greater serenity.

  9. Nancy May 1, 2011 Reply

    Thank you Jonathan,

    Your words are very wise and so very true – the more we want to hold on to something the quicker it leaves us. Flowing like the river is the best way to be. Without any expectations of something or someone then our lives would be so much more in line with the universe and peace!

    In gratitude,
    Nancy

  10. Danny May 1, 2011 Reply

    Beautifully expressed, Nancy. I very much relate to your river metaphor. The last chapter in my book is called “The Wave” because the mystery, randomness, and freeness of waves closely parallel the expansive life path the book explores.

  11. Stuart May 2, 2011 Reply

    Wonderful read Danny, thanks for sharing these aids!

    It’s very important to let go if we want to gain a deeper connection with our loved ones, but some people are afraid to open themselves up. They ‘want’ to experience the amazing bliss of intimacy, or the deep bonds with their children, but they are afraid to relinquish their need to control, and so they keep their ‘gates’ closed in order to protect themselves from any harm. If no-one can get in, no-one can harm them, they reason.

    But it’s like the tea-cup analogy, how can more tea go in if you don’t first empty your cup? :-)

    • Danny May 2, 2011 Reply

      Stuart, what you say about intimacy is very important. Control pushes people away; acceptance brings them together.

  12. Michaela May 3, 2011 Reply

    It’s a very tough lesson to learn, but there is definitely no happiness in control. Thx for this wonderful article!

    • Danny May 3, 2011 Reply

      Thank you, Michaela. It is a tough lesson to learn. It took a series of painful “wake-up” calls before I started letting go of control, and it is my hope that others will not have to endure what I did before they start learning to give up at least some control in their lives.

  13. Nea May 3, 2011 Reply

    I really love this post. I grew up with a controlling parent and I developed into a controlling person. It’s taken so many years of deliberate self improvement to overcome this. And I’d be lying if I said there aren’t still times when those controlling thoughts jump into my brain. But for the most part, I can proudly say that I’ve nearly mastered the difficult task of letting go. It’s so unbelievably liberating and peaceful.

    My advice to anyone still struggling with control issues is: Remember that people are different, they take different paths, they need to learn different lessons…and just because something is not done in the way that works for you, doesn’t mean it’s being done the wrong way.

  14. Danny May 3, 2011 Reply

    Nea, so well put. Your advice is especially pertinent with respect to our children. It is important that we recognize (and accept) that they are different than us, they process things differently than we do, and they have their own unique life paths–which can be special if we don’t get in their way. I write about this in the chapter of my book entitled “Losing Parental Control: Reducing the Struggle”.

  15. Leslie Green May 5, 2011 Reply

    Hi Daniel,
    Thank you so much for your post. I liked the three topics you chose to focus on and the ease in which you communicated your points so clearly. I very much enjoyed reading your article. Thank you.

    -Leslie

  16. sytiva May 18, 2011 Reply

    :) Just let go of all expectations this month.. Living simple these days. I have enjoyed your articles and I just had to join. Thank you for putting yourself out there.. I am just in a whole new simple life now.

  17. Marianne April 16, 2013 Reply

    I wish I had seen this a few months ago. My relationship has ended because of the constant fighting because of the fear I carried with me over losing him. We have remained friends. We talk every day but it’s the hardest thing for me since my feelings are still strong and his are completely gone. Ive tried to explain to him that it was FEAR that took over my emotions and although he seems to understand, his feelings have not come back for me. I will however, practice what you said about letting go in the future. It’s not easy but I will try.

    • danny April 17, 2013 Reply

      Hello Marianne, you’re correct, it’s not easy to let go of control, particularly when we are engulfed in our fears. Your commitment to try letting go in the future is very important. It starts with small things, and as you experience (and enjoy) the gifts that follow, it will be much easier.
      I would suggest that you try to address your relationship fears as soon as they arise.

      Danny

  18. Lori June 12, 2013 Reply

    Wow, I really needed to see this! I have a 14 year old son who is well adjusted, lots of friends,great grades. The past few months he’s been pulling away and wanting to hang out with friends more. While I know this is normal, I myself have had a hard time with it. I’ve been a stay at home mom who works as a substitute teacher, and we are on summer break and I have way too much alone time! To top it off, my husband is traveling more with work. Just last year I was saying I never had time alone, now I have too much! I ‘ve become insecure and nervous about what my son is doing with his friends and going through some sadness and loss that my time with him is more limited. I know this has to happen but I don’t always have to like it! For me, it’s all about control and learning to let go! Thanks!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>