Price for Emotional Over-Control


but all it gets me is more trouble!

Previous: Price for Over-C Ourselves

REMINDER: Go to Acronym PAGE for abbrev.


Obedience vs Self-Control
• Obedience is the willingness to follow commands, orders & instructions without question, because they come from a legitimate authority. It is most often seen as ‘necessary for the common good’ – usually to uphold social order. It requires that the individual give up control to another, supposedly for their own benefit, such as protecting children from the dangers of painful, tricky, or damaging situations.

— The rationale for promoting obedience, especially in the young, is that at some point, with maturity, the training is transformed into self-control – being inner-motivated.  This can happen if children grow up in a relatively benign atmosphere with a fair & respectful authority figure. But when subjected to a coercive (controlling) environment, as most ACoAs were, we learn to obey the Toxic Rules by denying /discarding the very parts of ourselves that would be needed to become autonomous. So as adults we’re still functioning as  symbiotic extensions of the family instead of motivating ourselves based on our True Self.

Appropriate Self-Control is the opposite of obedience – because of where our motivation is located – inside vs. outside of the Self
— It represents having internalized the rules of our family & society, (hopefully positive, beneficial ones), but only to the degree that they fit our personality & our ethics
— It requires enough S & I from our family of origin that we can actually think for ourselves, deciding daily what works for us & what doesn’t.
From the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders: “In recent years, the term ‘self-management’ has replaced ‘self-control’ because self-control implies changing  behavior through sheer willpower. Self-management, on the other hand, involves becoming aware of the natural processes that effect a particular behavior and consciously altering those processes, resulting in the desired behavior change.” (ie: making autonomous choices)

Some RESULTS of Emotional Over-Control (EOC)
The following list is specifically related to ACoAs who are very shut down – O-C that they are visibly repressed & withdrawn. Their need to still protect themselves from the abusive adults they grew up with is ongoing, even when they’re no longer in that kind of physical or emotional danger.  The Lost Child Role is the most obvious version, who is mute & feels invisible.  But since this coping mechanism has to do with negating our True Self, even those of us in the Hero Role can find it hiding under all our accomplishments – if we dig deep enough.

• We don’t trust our own thoughts & intuition, so we keep making the same mistakes, over & over, like picking the wrong people to trust
• Without internal balance, we don’t know when something is
too much for us, so we can end up exhausted, burned out & sometimes develop a chronic illness
• We only notice & focus on the negative or rejecting things in our environment, reinforcing the paranoia & depression we carry from the pastOC hiding

• We keep our feelings hidden & are so self-protective that we become social isolates, incapable of genuinely connecting with others
• We’re so defensive that it’s very hard to have mature adult relationships. We stay in the one-down victim role, giving others too much power over ourselves
• We assume that all future outcomes in our life will be as disappointing & hurtful as they always have been. SO – we can never relax & have fun!

• We can’t understand other people’s responses to our persona (how we present ourselves) or why they treat us so ‘badly’. We react to being scorned or ignored by being over-sensitive & avoiding or rejecting others
• We’re attacked by others for our seeming lack of: caring, openness, sharing, communication, emotional awareness, responsiveness, support or signs of warmth. This reinforces our conviction that we are right to be withdrawn, making us go deeper into our shell. It’s not that we are incapable of these qualities, but that we’re afraid of caring too much & being acting wierdtaken advantage of.

• We’re always looking to others to validate us, give us permission, solve our problems, tell us what to think or do
• People become so frustrated with our verbal & emotional unavailability that they complain or nag at us, verbally attack, are angry at, fight with or reject us
• Our passivity & withdrawal makes ‘present’ people uncomfortable (those who are more active, talkative & emotionally open), which can: subject us to their disdain, cause us to be blamed for all kinds of problems not our fault, have our intentions be misjudged & misunderstood, even be seen as the ‘sick’ or crazy one

• We are too anxious to work for anyone else, finding it hard to take direction or be under someone’s thumb – because we grew up with chaos & abuse we have an intense need to control everything, at all timesOC at work
• Our lack of social competence & problem-solving skills makes us ignore or deny inter-personal or task difficulties. These accumulate & end up overwhelming us – so we can’t deal with anything
• Our need to avoid conflict, disapproval & taking risks, when faced with problems, actually makes others angry at us, sometimes even aggressive – the very thing we were trying to prevent
• Our silence in uncomfortable situations can aggravate others who want to talk about or fight things out, magnifying the original problem

BOOK:  We can find this personality type in “BARGAINS with FATE”, taken from Shakespeare’s plays. Dr. Bernard I. Paris describes the Detached / Resigned character, whose only goal is safety via total ‘freedom’. Their Bargain is: “If I ask nothing of others, try for nothing, expect nothing …. then no one will bother me & I won’t fail or get disappointed” – which is their Reward. What is suppressed is their aggressive side.  (SEE all 5 on the ACoA website)

NEXT: Backlash of O-C – #1


2 thoughts on “Price for Emotional Over-Control

  1. Hi Donna! Been a while.

    Thank you for the work you continue to do. Since adopting a level of understanding of the Inner Child model, it has been very helpful in me seeing how some of my outlooks and behaviours were formed and how to deal with them now.

    In addition, I have been able to recognize certain weaknesses in others as manifestations of their own wounded inner child. Viewing matters in this light continues to have a lot of meaning and has helped me to be more patient and effective in dealing with self and others.

    From your most recent post, although it is not the main topic of your post, a sentance that really resonates to me is, “Everyone is born with our own style of emotional reactivity but environmental experiences also effect brain chemistry, modifying the outcome. How we ultimately react to life as adults will depend on this combination”.

    On this basis, it makes even less sense to compare ourselves to others. I find this is a habit I am continuing to work my way out of. It has certainly got better over the years and continues to improve.

    The mere fact that we start out as unique individuals, then are further moulded and conditioned to the level of brain chemistry by our environments, particularly in our younger years amidst our families of origin, really shakes things up even further to the point where it is entirely valid to say that no two of us are alike.

    We all process differently based on two relatively random variables of basic makeup and environmental experiences.

    There are indeed broad similarities between many of us with similar experiences… such as us ACOAs. For example, most of us experienced a degree of unpredictability due to our alcoholic parent. Yet still, even though this factor was similar, we all processed it slightly differently so we all have a different result in who we have become and how we behave.

    Another part of your post that resonates is “we were deprived of the opportunity to learn healthy self-control – which requires a SELF to implement!”

    This so brings me back to young teen Chaz when the chaos and instability of my alcoholic father’s behaviour left me feeling completely alone, unsupported, and self-reliant. Now I am careful to not step into self pity with this observation. It is just a fact and a memory. I was horrified of life. My emotions felt like they ran wild so I did whatever I could to keep them at bay. But how could I? I had no effective strategies. Just grit and determination… which wasn’t the right approach. So I became an emotional mess on the inside with a forced appearance of control.

    I can even recall someone, who’s opinion I valued, tell me that he felt I was the most even-tempered people he ever knew. What? Did I really fool him? And then subsequenlty myself? What he was seeing was probably the over-control you discuss. I held it together by a thread but most people couldnt tell.

    Then, when I reached a point of maximum error…. BOOM! And when the lid blew off of the fascade of over-control, where did I go? … to the bottle that I thought I despised, yet was so familiar through its ever-presence in my upbringing. What a cocktail of disasterous ingredients!

    So glad it blew up with such magnitude that there was nothing left to return to. Meaning the whole set of coping mechanisms blew up so painfully and dramatically, that there was no denying that that was not the way to think, live, behave, and feel. I HAD TO find something different… and gladly I did.

    So I find great meaing in your writing. It really helps me recognize and understand a lot of the things that have happened.

    Look forward to staying in touch.




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