We try to control ourselves, people and situations to meet our
needs or to get what we want.
Often we are not aware that we are doing this. We may walk to the
shop to buy something we want but be unaware of our surroundings as
we walk down the street. Indeed, we may be "a million miles away" in
our minds, daydreaming about something but still end up in the shop
we wanted to go to: we were able to control our direction and our
walking even though we were not aware of what we were doing!
Everybody needs a certain amount of control to meet their needs
for power, belonging, freedom and fun.
The most important word to notice here is "everybody".
You need a certain amount of control. Your partner needs a certain
amount of control.
The boss needs a certain amount of control but so does the worker.
The parent needs a certain amount of control but so does the
The customer needs a certain amount of control but so does the
When people fail to recognise that the other person also has a
need for control, the stage is set for conflict. If, however, we are
willing to negotiate and compromise we can find ways to cooperate and
create a better life.
Sometimes we ask for what we want. This respects the sense of
control of both parties. (If you don't believe asking is an attempt
to gain some control consider the outrage in the workhouse when
Oliver Twist "asked for more." )
Sometimes instead of asking, we demand what we want. But demanding
what we want ignores the other person's sense of control and they
will want to resist us.
Control is all around us:
If I'm scared to go to work and stay in bed instead, I am
controlling my situation at least to the extent of not going to work.
If I buy a lottery ticket I am trying to exercise a little bit of
control over my future, however poor the chances of winning.
If I hear there's going to be a petrol shortage and I hoard
petrol, I am trying to gain a little control over the future.
If I boss people around I am trying to get control over them.
And if they find a way to cheat me or con me they are trying to
get some of their control back.
WHAT WE CAN
There are four aspects to everything we do: Thinking, Doing,
Feeling and Physiology.
So if I am angry I may think what a rat such and such a person is
(Thinking), kick the dog (Doing), have that burning angry feeling
(Feeling) and have adrenalin and other chemicals in my bloodstream
Of these four aspects, the one that is most in our control to
change is what we do.
Regardless of how we feel we almost always have some control over
what we do.
Law, morality, politeness and many other human institutions
recognise this fact. I may feel angry with you but I am not entitled
to assault you: I am expected to exercise some control over what I
The key point to remember about changing what we do is this:
If you do something that is better than what you are doing now,
there is a good chance that your thoughts and feelings will also
change in a more positive direction, even if though the change may
not come straight away.
To put it more simply:
Doing something better than you are doing now will push your
feelings towards the positive.
To put it more simply again:
Do better to feel better.
Don't wait until you feel good about doing something that might
help. If it might help, do it even though you may not feel
enthusiastic at that time.
Doing comes first. First do better, then feel better.
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