A Control Freak’s Lament

Euhemerusdepression, doubt, fear, Mormon, questioning, repentance 8 Comments

I’m a control freak. Yep, both professionally, by training, and naturally. I like to be in control of machines, robots, airplanes, my life, my spirituality, my kids, my wife, etc. Some of this is healthy! Some if it is not. Yet, despite my proclivity to control I occassionally find myself in situations where I am not in control of my emotions, my spirituality, etc.

For the bulk of my not-so-long life I have been in a perpetual cycle of shame with varying frequency and intensity. My worldview was shaped by my Mormon upbringing and I worked diligently to fit the mold completely. I was a good kid. No, I was a GREAT kid! Seriously, I did well in school, got my Eagle Scout, served a successful mission, never committed any egregious sins, read my scriptures nightly all through my teenage years, never touched any coffee, tea, tobacco, or alcohol, and pretty much put a checkmark in every box in the proverbial Mormon checklist!

Nevertheless, this was part of the cycle. As long as I was perfect I never had any problems. I merrily went on my way convinced my worldview was a correct interpretation of my existence, assured that my lifestyle choice would reap rewards. I will not deny that this leaked over into a self-righteous attitude which, on more than one occassion, led to my snarkiness toward those whom I perceived were not living these standards. In fact, though I’ve not been told this, I hold this attitude responsible for destroying more than one relationship in my life.

But alas, I am not perfect. I make mistakes, and when I do, I beat myself up badly over them. Keep in mind I’m not talking about major things here like murder, or chastity sins, or something, I’m talking about little things – things that really should be in the noise. It’s these times when the shame monster rears its ugly head and takes a bite out of my otherwise healthy self-esteem. This isn’t just some sort of twinge of guilt I feel, but shame, pure, and awful! And it doesn’t go away until I beat myself up emotionally to a sufficient level. Obviously the shame is further aggravated by the sure knowledge that once again I have failed to live up the expectations my worldview dictates.

It’s during these times the control freak in me is like a belligerent 5-year old, wanting to get his way, using all sorts of behavioral tricks, tantrums, pouting, all to try and restore order, control, and most importantly that self-confidence that has been shredded! During these times the result might be anger, or a bout with depression. Perhaps the object of frustration becomes those I love. In any case, until the control freak is able to restore self-esteem, things will be a bit rough.

Needless to say, such a paradigm is not healthy for me in the least!

And yet, at least one solution is as easy as allowing the control freak to dictate the terms on which I accept my involvement in my tribe. Through my faith crisis I learned this lesson very poignantly. I was in charge of my spirituality – not the church, not my bishop, not my teachers. And just as I could not blame them for my unhealthy worldview, I could also not allow them unchecked access to it either. It is me that decides what I should do and why I should do it. I get to decide the terms on which I participate in my culture. It’s true that I cannot choose the consequences, but my power of choice also allows me the possibility to insulate myself from them in my tribal context.

This empowerment was very enlightening to me during a dark period of my life in which I nearly left the church. I was able to resolve and separate concerns with leaders, history, the organization itself, etc. I could stay a member of my tribe but it would be on my terms, and it would be for my own benefit.

But it is hard to supplant a worldview. Unfortunately I find myself occassionally slipping into the old cycle. Sometimes in an ungaurded moment, the control freak forgets the conditions of my participation and leaves me vulnerable, allowing unchecked access to my healthier, but still budding worldview. The shame soon sets in as I again realize I do not measure up to the completely impossible standard my former worldview erected.

It is a perpetual struggle, one that is naturally built into my personality, but is aggravated, and made to be unhealthy, by a strict culture with high standards. Pulling myself out of the cycle is an exercise in meditation, prayer, challenging false beliefs, understanding, and above all, modifying my expectations!

Comments 8

  1. Hi, my name is Paul, and I’m a recovering control freak.

    Your post spoke to me on many levels. My inner-CF also loved checklists (and still does), though I’ve learned to listen to him less and less. With me it was really a response to stress, and I found as I worked to increase my tolerance to stress, my need to control everything I could see waned a bit.

    As I let go control and succumbed to the reality that there are plenty of things that I do not, in fact, control, it allowed me to reopen my relationship to God, and to realign myself to Him.

    It was startling (and a relief!) to realize that atonement also covered this issue for me. And with that discovery, there is far less shame, and a healthier sense of guilt.

    Among my great revelations was that shame I felt did not come from my faith, but from me. As I released my grasp on things I did not hold anyway, it became easier to see my faith for what it was always meant to be: a comfort and a way forward, a path to peace.

  2. I think peace and happiness come from where you focus your control on.

    Control your mind and your heart and your expectations.

    As they say in Buddhism:
    “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

    Trying to control the world around you or others and I think you eventually find how little control you have over those things, IMO.

    That may be a little pessimistic, but after I had some trials, I had to adjust my expectations from prayer and faith and accept I have little control of things around me…only how I deal with them.

  3. Tell your Control Freak to get his freakin control back in order and restore your self-esteem so you can move on. As he exists only as you allow him to, you could redefine the rules of his appearance and disappearance.

    Control freak now you say “Control freak who?” Great line.

  4. My first progress in dealing with the expectation that the Restoration (either branch) was supposed to be an instrument for redeeming the world, was to realize that I was at least entitled to tell people to get in line. Sad, but true.

  5. Re #1 Paul

    Among my great revelations was that shame I felt did not come from my faith, but from me. As I released my grasp on things I did not hold anyway, it became easier to see my faith for what it was always meant to be: a comfort and a way forward, a path to peace.

    Well said! I agree completely.

    Re #2 Heber
    Yes, this is how I view it too. The problem isn’t really the control freak, the problem is where I allow the control freak to place his focus. I have found happiness in this life when I allow the control freak to control the one and only thing it should be controlling – myself.

    Re #4 Soroto

    As he exists only as you allow him to, you could redefine the rules of his appearance and disappearance.

    You’re absolutely right. His appearance and disappearance is an interesting control problem in and of itself. In fact, for me, this was the bottom line of the post.

  6. Hi, I’m mcarp and I’m a control freak.

    Unfortunately, my control freakishness has really spun me into pretty deep depression when I find I can’t live up to my own unrealistic expectations. I mean, sit in the recliner comatose for two days straight depression.

    Not only am I a control freak, but I can’t say no, so I end up with more on my plate than I can really handle. I’ve started saying no to a few things, but I need to get better at setting boundaries and not being the guy who does everything.

    Good thing I have a therapy appointment today because just typing this is eating me up.

  7. *** Not only am I a control freak, but I can’t say no ***

    As the Oklahoma!n Ado Annie Carnes lamented, “I’m jist a girl who cain’t say n… — n… — Nnnnn… — NNNNN…”

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