Most of us in relationships have an easy time seeing how the other person is being controlling, and a very hard time seeing it in ourselves. Not only that, we generally don't recognize that anytime we are trying to control, we are creating an energy loop that perpetuates the dysfunctional relationship system.
For example, Sadie found herself in the same interaction over and over with her husband, Benjamin. The interaction would go something like this:
Benjamin, in a judgmental voice: "You never seem to want to cuddle or make love anymore. What's wrong with you?"
Sadie, in a kind voice: "Benjamin, are you aware of how often you criticize me? Don't you see what you are doing that is causing problems in our relationship?"
Benjamin: "I'm fine. I'm not the problem. Maybe you need some hormones or something. You're the one with the problem."
Sadie likes to convince herself that she is being open when she responds like this to Benjamin's criticism, and then feels awful when she continues to get criticized. She doesn't understand why Benjamin doesn't hear her when she is being so open and kind.
What Sadie doesn't realize is that her intent in responding to Benjamin is to get him to see what he is doing wrong, so he will change. Anytime our agenda is to get someone to change, we are trying to control them – even when our tone of voice seems kind and open.
The moment she responds to Benjamin's judgmental statement, she has unwittingly hooked herself into an energy loop that keeps the dysfunctional interaction going. When Benjamin senses that she is hooked into the controlling system that they have created together, he feels free to continue his end of the loop.
The Illusion of Control
Sadie keeps herself hooked into negative patterns with Benjamin, his parents, her parents and their children, by indulging herself in the illusion of control. Why? Her ego-wounded self is devoted to keeping this illusion, because if she lets it go, the wounded self has no identity. This is why it's so very hard to let go of the illusion of control.
The basis of the wounded self is control – in an effort to get love and avoid pain, and to feel safe. Sadie’s wounded self does not want her to accept the fact that she does not have control over Benjamin, and that trying to control him actually backfires on her, causing the control system to escalate. Her wounded self sees this controlling behavior as her job.
A major part of the job of the wounded self is to protect against the feeling of helplessness.
Helplessness over others is a very challenging feeling and one that we could not manage at all when we were little children. We created our controlling wounded self to protect us against helplessness, as well as against the underlying core pain of loneliness and heartbreak. As long as we can convince ourselves that if we just do it right or say the right thing, we can get the other person to understand - and then change - we can temporarily avoid these very painful feelings.
But…what is the price we pay for this? The price is that we unwittingly perpetuate the very system that is causing the loneliness and heartbreak.
If Sadie were to simply walk away when Benjamin criticized her, she would stop the perpetuation of the energy loop. But, in order to walk away without anger or blame, she would need to compassionately embrace and accept her helplessness, loneliness and heartbreak over his treatment of her, bringing much love to herself.
Why does this break the loop? Because the loop requires both people to continue it. When one stops, the loop stops. Benjamin will continue to criticize her as long as he believes it will work to control her. Eventually, when he gets that she is no longer reacting to him, he may stop. But even if he doesn't, his criticism will become ineffectual once she is disengaged from it.
I encourage you to develop the courage to lovingly manage your core pain, rather than continue to try to control others in overt or covert ways.
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" – the first two weeks are free! ! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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This article was originally published at Inner Bonding
. Reprinted with permission from the author.