The Ways We Try To Control Our Lives – Control Patterns Exercise

Identifying All The Ways You Attempt To Control Life by Susan Campbell

self reflectionA Control Pattern is any behavior or thinking habit that you use unconsciously to help you avoid feeling out of control, anxious, not knowing, foolish, or to help you avoid the risk of being criticized, controlled, judged, abandoned, rejected, ignored (or any other feared outcome).

A Control Pattern helps you feel “right, safe, or comfortable” because you have not yet learned to show up  “real, unique, and open to surprise.”

Control Patterns are the enemy of self-confidence and authenticity. They are ways that you treat yourself as too fragile to handle life as it actually is. Denial is a Control Pattern. So is pretending you know something that you think you’re supposed to know….or pretending to be listening when you’re really bored.

Control Patterns Exercise

Read through the list of Control Patterns below. I have categorized the various behaviors under the typical personality styles associated with each pattern. I generally prefer not to have you use labels for yourself. This is to help you see that there are a number of patterned ways to avoid the same type of thing.  So Control Patterns are ways people try to avoid emotional pain or discomfort and appear “fine” to themselves or others.

Look over the list below and identify any CP’s you have noticed yourself doing over the past few years. A CP can be a behavior or a thought.

  • Think of a situation where you used this CP.
  • What was the situation?
  • What was the behavior?
  • What do you imagine you were trying to avoid?

Write your answers down.

MULTI-TASKER

-keeps busy

-has lots of options and alternate  plans

-fills the silence, so there’s no room for others

-asks a question and answers it

AVOIDS THE ANXIETY OF NOT KNOWING, OF FEELING EMPTY, OR OF NOT HAVING A PLAN; AVOIDS BEING DISAPPOINTED

KNOW-IT-ALL

-explains,  rationalizes

-finishes peoples’ sentences

-interrupts

-speaks with authority

-tells people the right way or how things are

AVOIDS THE ANXIETY OF NOT KNOWING, AVOIDS BEING SEEN AS WRONG OR BAD

ANALYZER

-thinks and thinks before acting

-hesitates and “misses the moment”

-does a lot of research before deciding to be sure of being right

AVOIDS MAKING A MISTAKE

IMPULSIVE

-acts quickly without giving himself time to connect with what he really wants

-gets into situations and later wonders “how did I get here?”

-jumps to conclusions about what is meant (doesn’t really take in, pause, listen)

-reacts to a difference of opinion by taking quick action (such as walking out or giving an ultimatum) rather than experiencing the facts about the difference

AVOIDS FEELING WANTS, FEELING EMPTY, OR FEELING DISCOMFORT

JUDGE

-judges/criticizes self

-judges others

-compares self to others

-speaks with righteous tone

-if someone disagrees with him, he re-asserts his reasons vs listening to why

AVOIDS BEING SEEN AS WRONG OR FEELING DISCOMFORT

PLEASER

-compliments others (often telling them what they want to hear)

-yields to others’ wishes

-frames bad news so as not to disappoint others

-uses long explanatory/apologetic preamble

-lies to avoid hurting someone’s feelings or to avoid creating distance

-if someone is upset, tries to talk them out of it (helps them look on the bright side)

-pretends to be more pleased than he really is

AVOIDS DISAPPOINTING OR UPSETTING OTHERS; AVOIDS DISCONNECTION, REJECTION, OR ABANDONMENT

INDIRECT ASKING

-says, “I’ll do this for you so now you can do that for me.”

-says, “I did this for you so it’s your turn to do that for me.”

-gives to another person with the secret hope that other will give back to him

-asks a question and then answers it

-asks, “Would you like to…” instead of saying “I want to…”

AVOIDS HEARING NO/AVOIDS THE AWARENESS THAT THE ANSWER COULD BE NO

CAPTAIN

-if he is not getting what he wants, he tries harder vs letting go or giving up

-says some version of “my way or the highway”

-expects others to comply

-gives orders and directives

-ignores the other’s refusal or “no”

-one-way communication

AVOIDS THE ANXIETY OF DISAGREEMENT OR CONFLICT

CHEERLEADER

-re-frames pain or mistake as lesson

-if disappointment occurs, finds the “silver lining” or the lesson

-speaks in enthusiastic tone of voice

-re-frames misfortune as “for a good reason” or “for the best”

-when a friend expresses self-doubt, says “You can do it!”

-makes jokes about or makes light of one’s own (and others’) painful situation/feelings

AVOIDS FEELING PAIN OR DISCOMFORT

INSATIABLE NEED FOR ATTENTION

-changes the subject in groups to share his personal stories

-acts cute /says funny or entertaining things

-uses theatrical  facial and hand expressions that draw attention

-criticizes whomever is on stage

-brings the conversation back to himself

AVOIDS FEELING LEFT OUT OR INSIGNIFICANT

HELPER

-suggests a better way

-offers knowledge and help

-asks helpful, often leading, questions (“Do you think that….?”)

AVOIDS FEELING HELPLESS

INVISIBLE

-in a group keeps quiet, watches, waits

-uses qualifiers or ambiguous words re his “stand” or “position” on the topic

-rarely differs openly with others

-laughs along with everyone  else even if he didn’t think it funny (blends in with the majority)

AVOIDS HAVING PEOPLE NOTICE ME OR CRITICIZE ME OR JUDGE ME

TEACHER’S PET

-agrees with the teacher

-in a group speaks (and gives eye contact) mainly to the teacher/leader

-publicly refers to and follows the rules

-criticizes those who deviate from the norm

-goes along with group norms

AVOIDS FEELING SEPARATED FROM THE SOURCE OF POWER

CONTRA-LEADER

-criticizes the teacher

-interrupts teacher with questions or to add information

-makes one’s own rules

-breaks rules (may be overt or sneaky)

-calls attention to irrational, unfair, or inconsistent behavior of the person in authority

AVOIDS FEELING DEPENDENT OR OF TRUSTING AND BEING LET DOWN/AVOIDS FEELING HIS ANGER TOWARD AUTHORITY

APOLOGETIC

-says “I’m sorry” often

-uses disclaimers like,  “I’m new at this,” “I didn’t spend enough time on this,” “I’m not much good at this”

-uses preambles like,  “If you don’t mind”

-ends sentences with apologies such as “I hope that’s okay.”

-punctuates sentences with a shrug of the shoulders

AVOIDS BEING CRITICIZED (“I’ll criticize myself first.”)

DEFENSIVE/ON GUARD

-hears criticism where  it’s not meant

-offers reasons for one’s actions—even when this is not asked for

-if the other starts to give negative feedback, challenges HOW it is given—perhaps challenging the other’s timing or delivery.

-anticipates what  to say in case someone gets upset with him (“I’ve got my story ready”)

AVOIDS THE POSSIBILITY OF FEELING ATTACKED OR OF FEELING UNSAFE

PERFECTIONIST

-worries about mistakes and not appearing “together”

-self-talk is self-critical

-compares self to others

-feels anxiety/stress about being good enough

AVOIDS BEING SEEN AS MEDIOCRE OR NOT GOOD ENOUGH (BY SELF OR OTHERS)

EXPLAINER

-when answering a question, gives explanation/defense along with answer

-talks about “why” (why I did that, why that happened)

-speculates why an other person did or said something

-gives more information than is asked for

-spends a lot of energy thinking about reasons

-tries to “be understood” (sensitive to “not being heard or understood”)

AVOIDS NOT KNOWING, BEING CRITICIZED, NOT BEING HEARD, AND DISCONNECTION/ABANDONMENT/REJECTION

QUEEN OR KING OF DENIAL

– thinks or says “It’s not a big deal”

-thinks or says “If it gets really bad, I deal with it”

-thinks or says “I’m not really affected by this”

-thinks or says “I don’t care”

AVOIDS FEELING PAIN, DISCOMFORT, SHAME, GUILT, SELF-DOUBT

SUPER-COMPETENT

-thinks or says I can handle it

-says don’t worry about me

-thinks “I have everything—the other’s needs/wants should take precedence”

-says “Here let me help”

-refuses help from others

-spends time doing and achieving things

AVOIDS FEELING NEEDY OR DEPENDENT ON ANYONE ELSE. THEREBY AVOIDING FEELING LET DOWN, NOT CARED FOR, OR DISAPPOINTED

This is a partial list of Control Patterns. You may add to this list if you wish. I imagine the list could have hundreds, if not thousands, of examples. If you think you have the idea of what a Control Pattern is, I suggest that you go ahead and add other examples from your own life.

Once you have a list of some specific situations and the Control Patterns you have used to help you deal with them, read over the list again, and notice how you feel. Are you feeling happy to see these things about yourself? Or do your feelings tend more toward wishing you were different? Or perhaps you feel a mixture of both.

Whatever you feel, don’t assume there is anything wrong with your feeling. Your ability to notice what is, will increase as your ability to accept what is real.

 

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