I’VE ALWAYS HAD TO CONTROL
everything to feel safe
PREVIOUS: Types of Self-Control (Part 2)
SEE post: Healthy UNIT – Adult & Parent
QUOTE: “Wealth is not about having a lot of money. It’s about having a lot of options”. ~ Chris Rock
STUDY from Humboldt University, Germany: Broad styles of emotional control can be identified early in life. This study followed children for 19 years, starting at age 4, eventually dividing them into —
• Under-controlled: people who are disagreeable and lack self-control. “When feeling frustrated they may act aggressively towards others, notwithstanding the negative consequences.”
• Resilient (balanced): those who are self-confident, emotionally stable, with a positive orientation toward others, & are “good at modulating their emotions, interacting with others & bouncing back from adversity”, AND
• Over-controlled: who are emotionally brittle, introverted, tense, quiet, self-conscious & uncomfortable around strangers “… control their emotions too much, so are less ‘natural’ & ‘spontaneous.’ Being slow to warm up, they are seen by others as shy.”
We are all 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. Regardless of what type were born as, pre-Recovery ACoAs are rarely ‘Resilient’. We’re either over- or under-controlled because of all the stress we endured as kids.
— SO: coming from a turbulent, dysfunctional home, the impulsive kid can easily turn out to be the trouble maker or drama-queen, AND the shy one ends up isolated, depressed & marginalized
One observation from the study was that – “compared to the resilient children, the other two types took longer to move into adult roles, such as leaving home, starting a romantic relationship or finding a career. Accomplishing these milestones requires a social adeptness that over- and under-controllers take longer to develop….”
— BUT: if someone came from a loving family, the extroverted kid could grow up to be a dynamic go-getter AND the shy kid be the quiet one who successfully uses their influence & skill in-the-background
• Jerome Kagan, from Harvard University, studies whether personality changes with age, & noted that brain wiring is a fundamental factor. He & his colleagues used MRI scans to show that the brains of young adults – who were identified as shy when they were toddlers – work differently than those who had been more extroverted as kids. But there are many other factors, including class, that make a difference in how kids mature.
STUDY – by the U. of Alabama of people with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) done in an inpatient rehab program to see what effects personality types would have on assessment and intervention. Using the MMPI, patients were grouped into Resilient, Over- & Under-controlled, based on Block & Block’s 1980 theory of 2 psychological functions needed to effectively adapt to change & conflict:
• Ego control : able to act on or inhibit emotions & desires
• Ego resiliency : the flexible & appropriate expression of ego control in the face of uncertainty, change & environmental demands – without which people tend to become either over- or under-controlled.
• Patients were separated into categories based on the ‘Big Five’ personality traits: A = agreeableness, C = conscientiousness, E = extroversion, N = neuroticism & O = openness
(C = self-disciplined, careful, thorough, organized, deliberate & needing achievement) :
— Resilient – the smallest group, were assessed with low N, above-average scores on all other factors & were relatively well-adjusted
— Under-Controlled – the highest percentage of patients, assessed with low C, who sometimes also had low A & high N, generally with more external problems.
People with SCI are more often under-controlled extroverts, with traits such as sensation seeking, risk taking, high activity levels, and low C.
— Over-Controlled – the group who were high in N, low in E, & had more internal problems. They were prone to obsession, pessimism, avoidance & internalization (taking things personally). They most often reported being depressed & less likely to find meaning in their circumstances, compared to the active and flexible types.
— Over-controlled/Non-desirable was a sub-category of patients who had less C and A, along with the high N & low E and were in the greatest need of intervention – more negative, pessimistic & internalizing.
• These last 2 types showed the highest levels of depression at admission and lowest acceptance of their disability at discharge.
• In spite of having SCI, people who were able to be socially active & mentally positive experienced less emotional distress or interpersonal difficulties after leaving the hospital.
ACoAs tend towards extremes, being either :
Under-Controlled – angry, controlling, dramatic, impulsive, over-doing, risk- addicted.… The Laundry List says “We became addicted to excitement”, from being exposed as kids to endless chaos, unpredictability & danger. Now we think ‘drama’ & anxiety are normal, constantly recreating it in our lives to keep the adrenalin going. It’s one reason why it takes so long even in Recovery to relax & be at peace – emotional swings are the only states that feel ‘normal’. When things are calm & sane we feel bored!
Over-controlled – complaining, depressed, fearful, invisible, isolating, passive-aggressive, sullen, victims…. reacting to the early abuse by being Risk-Averse, sometimes to the point of not functioning well at all.
• Fortunately, the addictive pull of Hi & Lo extremes fades as we heal, just as -always hiding out from the world – gradually becomes less satisfying than making appropriate connections.
NEXT: Types of Self-Control (Part 4)