NOT GETTING CONTROLLED -
depends on my self-esteem!
Previous : Responding to Controllers (Part 1)
WHY “Control” our Responses to Cs? This is a tricky one because as Over-Controlled ACoAs:
a. We are more likely to NOT say anything to controlling, insensitive or abusive people. Our ‘computer’ (frontal cortex) goes blank & we become mute until later – when the moment has passed – & we kick ourselves for not having the words when it counted! This shutting down is from FEAR.
b. THEN, we either hold it in ‘forever’, which eats away at our heart energy, festering in our obsessive thinking — OR — when we’ve let things go on for too long, we may blow up & rage at someone who’s been bugging us, or at someone else, as a substitute. (The ‘kick-the-dog’ syndrome).
THE GOAL is to get to the place where we can speak up from our Adult ego state in the moment, if & when it’s safe and appropriate – so we don’t hurt ourselves. That way our frustration, hurt & anger don’t build up. This ability is the result of lowered anxiety (Es) & practicing things to say (Ts). Choosing Adult responses benefits us in the short & the long-term.
• Being KIND to ourselves – When we react impulsively or fight back we temporarily feel powerful, but it doesn’t help our self-esteem & personal growth. However, while it doesn’t usually resolve conflict or protect us from further attacks, it is sometimes the only way to get thru to a C. & stop them from seeing us a victim. Many Cs only understand ‘tit-for-tat’!
• It’s best when we can step back, mentally & emotionally, to breathe & process how we feel & which of our buttons was pushed. If we can address the problem in a positive way in the moment, great. If not, we can consider what’s best for us & maybe deal with the offender later. In any case, the less we RE-act the more self-empowering & peaceful we feel.
• Freedom of Speech – Other people seem to think it’s OK to say whatever they want but we are afraid to do the same. We need to give ourselves permission to know & express our point of view as well. But over-reacting to volatile or oppositional opinions has to do with our childhood wounds, & not just to what’s being said in the present. Say what you want, but don’t get into a pissing match.
• Minimize Negativity – nurturing all-consuming anger at someone for their comments or actions only hurts us. We then carry that painful energy into other parts of our lives. Malachy McCourt (actor, writer & participant in Occupy Wall Street, October 2011) once quipped: “Holding a grudge against someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” FOR ACoAs, these obsessive reactions come from our damaged past. To free ourselves – we can privately do rage-work, & process our hurt in Program & therapy, so we don’t end up reacting to others in a way that makes us feel bad about ourselves afterwards.
• What’s our Purpose? – What our Adult self wants to accomplish & what the kid wants are often 2 very different things. Any time we get riled up about something, we know it’s the WIC or PP, but how we respond to that annoyance will depend on whether the ‘Unit’ is in charge or not. To get the most our of life we have to be clear about our goal in each situation & act accordingly.
Exp: One week-day evening Ally was in a church auditorium waiting to hear a lay speaker. In the back vestibule a maintenance man was polishing the floor, & the machine was very noisy! Ally went over to the man & asked him to close the adjoining door, but he refused, so she went back & sat down. A little while later a man in her group went down to the worker, & lo-and-behold — the door was closed! Ally smiled. She knew that many years ago she would have taken offense & been very angry that the worker ignored her (a woman) yet ‘listened’ to a man. BUT she was not upset – because her only need was to shut out some of the irritating noise – rather than being respected or validated by that stranger!
• Where’s the Focus? The hardest thing for ACoAs is to not take things personally. Whether someone is mean to us or just tactless – they’re telling us about themselves – NOT US! It’s most productive to mirror back to them what we’ve heard, such as ‘Why did you say that?”, or ‘What did you mean by that?”…. Where attention goes, energy flows. We can only focus fully on one things at a time. The sooner we clear up an obsession, the faster we get our life back. Often speaking up for ourselves will put our energy into balance again.
KEEP IN MIND – when we do find ourselves having to deal with being controlled, manipulated or taken advantage of:
• How well we handle the situation tells us a lot about our level of maturity & recovery. Even when we’re stuck in a bad situation, getting nasty or throwing a tantrum usually makes things worse for ourselves. If we let the WIC react, we’re being like the controlling person or monopolistic company we’re mad at. So – the more we come from an Adult Ego State the more likely we’ll get what we want
NOTE: As we heal, we will be able to handle familiar controlling situations – some better than others, depending on the depth & size each button. Buttons are old wounds – things that hurt us over & over as kids, like being accused wrongly, being threatened with abandonment, being ignored, expected to be ‘up’ all the time, often told to shush…. The milder our re-actions to old wounds the better we’ll feel about ourselves. However, some will take a very long time to heal & others may not at all. In those cases the goal is to recover our dignity as soon as possible. DO NOT give yourself a hard time when somethings still gets to you, even after many years of Recovery. That’s just life & being human!
• In most cases we do have choices, even tho many of us are still functioning from ‘learned helplessness’. When possible, we can try out new options. Exp:
– Immediately end a conversations if it starts to get verbally violent or controlling – by physically leaving, or saying goodbye & hanging up
– Do NOT return abusive or harassing texts!
– End a call with any incompetent Customer Service person and try again until you get someone who can help. We can always choose a different service provider, friend, bank, waiter, church, store…..
– Privately smile or even laugh at the stupidity or ridiculousness of a C’s comments, rather than getting angry or hurt.
– Sometimes the only healthy option is to quit & find a job elsewhere altho that’s not always so easy these days.
NEXT: ACoAs Being Controlling