Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Turn up the Controls

The word controlling came up at dinner last week at my parent’s house and has been on my mind ever since. I’ve been struggling with the subject in an effort to write about it in this blog.

I was discussing my problem with how to begin the discussion about control with Thierry the other night in the car, and he commented that the word control has a very negative connotation… when used in the context of controlling other people’s lives. A few synonyms for control: dominate, power, be in command of, regulate, rule, govern, master. No attributes you would want in a marriage, friendship, or at work!

So, let’s take a look at a few of its definitions... the verb form:

a : to exercise restraining or directing influence over : REGULATE. I spent a good part of my last marriage trying to control situations that arose at home. My husband was doing the same thing. Instead of trying to work together to come to conclusions and having open and honest discussions we battled, each one trying to win the argument. When the focus of a relationship is on control, passive aggressive or obsessive behaviors take over. Needless to say, we wasted a lot of time and energy on nonsense, when we could have been having fun.

b : to have power over : RULE. I don’t know about you, but I have always had violent negative reactions to individuals who try to rule or dominate me in any way. I left a board because the president was just that type. Oh, she would sometimes go through the motions of discussing the issue, but ultimately things had to go her way. I’m sure you’ve experienced a boss (or even a parent) whose idea of leading was to basically rule.

Another usage for this definition is the ability to control our emotions and reactions in an attempt to deal with situations and reason through a discussion or disagreement. We can control our thought processes by thinking before we act or speak, and we can control our emotions and how we view our life and the people in it. This takes conscious effort, being aware of our own egos and being able to set them aside to understand the other’s point of view. This sounds simplistic. Yes, we can step back and try to find common ground, but ultimately, the other person has to be willing to do the same. We may just have to walk away.

As I sat on my perch in my chemo cube at the oncology center on Thursday, I couldn’t help but think about how little control I had over anything. I was barely able to control my emotions after a conversation with the doctor, even one in which she expressed how thrilled she was at my progress. This juxtaposition is an interesting one. I am in a relationship where the issue of control doesn’t come up at all. Thierry and I just seem to be able to work together, to get things done – with no big debate or discussion. Yet day-to-day, I am constantly working to keep my emotions in check and not let them get the better of me.

Perhaps that is one of the lessons I am supposed to master in this lifetime… one of control, but over myself. So, I’ll try to concentrate on controlling as much of each day that I can to ensure that time isn’t wasted on negative energy and that it is a good one.


Barbara Gruenwald said...

Good subject Mary. Regarding Control (rather than Controlling), we were discussing this at home after Lucas had to answer the question in essay form on a test about how much control people have over their lives. We all make choices and work towards goals at varying degrees, but often I hear myself saying "it is what it is". Thankfully you have the strength not to lay back and accept defeat. One of the many things we admire about you is your ability to be in control at the most difficult of times. I do believe that even more than the drugs, your control, determination, positve attitude and faith can conquer all.
Love to you, Barbara

ann mcn said...


thank you for bringing up this subject. I think most of us struggle with it, either because we recognize ourselves as control freaks or we know someone who is a control freak. The longer I live, (as you know 1.12 is my birthday and this year was a big one), the more I have come to realize that I cannot control much of what happens in my life. That realization has helped me to let go of many things.

Oh yes, I think friends would still call me a bit of a control freak, but I'm way better than I used to be. More importantly, I'm happier and more accepting of the things that life hands me on a daily basis. I'm learning to replace the need to control with a sense of gratitude about the wonderful people and experiences that are in my life every day.

Once again, you have inspired us all, your family and your friends to see more clearly a part of our daily lives that we usually take for granted.

luv ya!