when you want to control or change others

Do you try to control other people?  Do you often wonder why people don’t do things your way?  Where does this show up in your life?  What happens when you try to control others?   Do they feel happier?  Do you feel happier?


I struggle with this on an ongoing basis.  If only everyone would do things my way, all of humanity would suffer less, right?  Every once in a while I check myself and try to reel myself in.  I notice a few things when my inner control freak takes over: When I try to control others, nobody likes me.  Usually there is tension in the air.  People are less receptive to me.  People usually end up feeling crappy about themselves or misunderstood by me or hurt by me.  When I attempt to control others, rarely do I have an understanding of all of the information about the situation.  I can feel myself getting frustrated.  I zero in on the negative.  When I try to control others, I feel out of control.  It feels kind of gross.


I believe that if you can’t let go of the desire to control others, you will live a life of dissatisfaction.  You will lack closeness and understanding in your relationships.  Because you want to change others, you will never be happy with relationships as they are.  You may feel alone and perpetually frustrated.


What does control look like in relationships?  See if you identify with any of the following: blaming, criticizing, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, bribing.  American psychiatrist Dr. William Glasser called these the “seven deadly habits.”  These habits are the stuff of control and will move you in the direction of a dead end in your relationships.  Do you use these habits regularly?


Letting go of the control agenda is not just an act of omission.  It requires a whole new set of skills.  It requires that you listen to others.  It requires you to be open to doing things differently.  It requires curiosity about another person’s point of view.  It may require you to adjust your time frame or schedule of when things should happen.  It requires that you develop Glasser’s “seven caring habits”:  listening, supporting, trusting, caring, negotiating differences, befriending, and encouraging.  For more about the habits, read here, here, and here.


One set of habits will lead to a dead end in your relationships.  The other set of habits will lead to happiness, respect, and strength in your relationships.  Here they are again:


The seven deadly habits









The seven caring habits





Negotiating differences




If you are serious about letting go of the desire to control others, hang the above lists somewhere prominent.  If you consciously practice the seven caring habits, you will see your relationships transform.  Not only will your relationships transform, but you will see yourself transform because you will become a happier person.  It takes time and effort, and you will have many slip ups.  Deadly habits become entrenched.  But so do caring habits.


Until next time,



Individual and couples counselling for those in Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, Sooke, and all of Greater Victoria





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