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... » Find a Therapist » California » Pleasant Hill Therapists » Therapist Profile

Julie Levin, MFT

Control Issues

Do you live or work with someone who's bossy or controlling? Are you that bossy controlling person? The need to control is really an attempt to feel safe. People who are controlling don't mean to drive others crazy or to imply that others can't be trusted. Instead, they are feeling out of control themselves.

This usually comes from a history of having to take on too much responsibility too young. Instead of being able to relax and let a parent or other adult handle life's responsibilities, it became the kid's job. This happens a lot in alcoholic families, families where the parents are overburdened and struggling, immigrant families where the parents rely on kids' language skills, or in families where parents are ill or otherwise disabled.

In some cases, control issues arise due to early emotional neglect or emotional/physical abuse. Kids who grow up with parents who are controlling learn that they have to be perfect or risk getting into big trouble. Kids blame themselves for their parent's disapproval, anger, or lack of attachment. Then they strive and strive to be good enough to win the love they crave.

If you're a controlling person, it's really essential to heal the emotional wounds that made you feel unsafe in the world. The stress of having to be in control wears you out physically and emotionally. It hurts your relationships with colleagues, family members and others close to you.

If you live with or work with a controlling person, it's important not to take their behavior personally. It's not that they don't trust you. It's that they don't trust anyone. When they were too young, they had to fend for themselves. They may have been judged and held to super high standards. Now they hold you and others to those same standards.

If the controlling person is willing to accept help, offer kindness and understanding. Know that they feel tremendous pressure and feel intensely let down when others don't live up to their high expectations. Try compassionate listening if they are able to talk. If the controlling person is unable to talk or gets defensive, let it go. Pushing will probably feel more threatening than helpful to them. Stay as kind as you can while protecting yourself.
If someone you're close to is controlling, therapy can help you learn to empathize with them and not take them so personally. If you were wounded by a controlling parent or caregiver, you may find therapy helpful to heal the scars of constant criticism, demands on your time, or the unattainable need to be perfect.
Julie Levin, MFT, Pleasant Hill
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Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
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Last Modified: 1/17/2022  

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