Encouragement · Hope · wisdom

Confessions of a Control Freak

Do you crave control?

If your answer is yes, you are not alone. Although unpopular, my guess is that many people wrestle with a need for control. If we used the word order instead of control, I suspect all the hands in the room would go up. Order seems to be instinctive—maybe it does not manifest in the same way for people, but I think it is there, nonetheless.

There was a significant amount of disorder in my childhood home, and I learned to crave order. Not only was this a coping skill, but it was also a survival skill. Bringing order into chaos provides a sense of security. If my need for order stopped there, it wouldn’t seem so bad, and I might even be applauded for my resilience and strength. Until we deal with the depth of our brokenness, we leverage bad habits that turn into obstacles in our relationships.

As I have been doing work in my private life, a new discovery about my need for order surprised me. Let me explain by taking you into my living room this week. My oldest children and their significant others spent several days under my roof, and it was absolutely wonderful. Having everyone in one place is a treat I hope to never take for granted. However, the joy of their presence made the goodbye that much harder. As the children returned to their separate lives, sorrow bubbled up in my soul.

I needed order—or did I? My instinct was to jump right in to taking down the Christmas decorations and cleaning up the house. Why? I sat silently while I sincerely pondered the question. What was motivating my need to control the moment? Then it hit me. Order and control were how I learned to avoid my feelings.

The fear and pain I experienced as a child would have taken me out if I let the floodgates of my feelings open. Instead—I learned to create order in lieu of listening to what my body was telling me. You are sad. You are lonely. You are afraid. I clutched control like it was my job.

Was I a control freak?

My behavior said yes. I resented that label because it carried a negative connotation, but I certainly resembled the title. If only I understood why way back when.

I resisted the urge to get up and start removing the ornaments from the tree last night. Oh, how I wanted to. My self-talk game was strong, and my words willed my body to stay put. I sat in the tension of loving and longing. As I let the emotions surface, I gave myself permission to feel the feelings.

My need for order was and is innate. The nature of my Creator is to bring order, so there is little to indicate a desire for order is wrong or unhealthy. When order preempts feeling, then I have a problem. I am learning to be at home with my feelings. For a girl who learned to fly under the radar [and not have needs], this is a major breakthrough.

Do you crave control?

Have you ever considered what motivates your desire for order? Sometimes we have to call a thing a thing and find a new way to reframe an old habit. As we head into the New Year, there’s no better time than NOW to flip the script and start something new. Meanwhile, I will be taking down Christmas decorations—but not because I am avoiding my feelings. 😉

–>If the concept of reframing interests you, check out my new book–Broken Vessels.  

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