There’s nothing like examining my own family dynamics to show me how control steamrolled us all.
First, we are controlled.
Then we become controlling.
At some point we advance to being in control of ourselves.
Or at least this is how it’s been for me.
On being controlled
I remember in grade one I was late for class because I had been at the dentist. I entered the class to sit down, and told the girl next to me where I had been, and I got a detention. A detention! It was a scarring experience for a sensitive person like me and I never spoke out of turn in class again.
Likewise, my daughter had a militant grade one teacher who gave scary scoldings to the class about what would happen to students caught misbehaving in the bathrooms. My daughter was so scared of her teacher that she never went to the bathroom at school. She was too scared to ask to go during class. To this day, she waits until she gets home.
And that’s just grade one!
Being controlled isn’t fun.
Then we become controlling
As we outgrow our tolerance for being controlled, subconsciously we begin to inflict controlling behaviours on others.
I didn’t like that behavior, I’ll make my opinion known and attempt to put a stop to it.
We do this through things like disciplining our own kids, voicing opinion differences to our family, friends and coworkers, or trying to change our partner into someone we will like better.
Was it just me who heard the words from her father, “if you are going to live under my roof, you will live by my rules.” Imagine my surprise when I heard myself repeating those words, not to my kid, but to my (much younger) boyfriend! It came full circle.
And here’s the kicker. I just discovered that many of my controlling techniques I learned from my parents and immediate family. I just do them. I don’t consciously think about my actions. They just exhibit themselves.
Biting My Tongue
The first step on recovering from being a controlling bitch is simply to bite my tongue before opening my mouth and voicing my opinion.
The second is to consider carefully whether I need to say anything at all. Generally, when I look into the other person’s eyes, they just need someone to listen to them. They aren’t looking for advice or someone to tell them exactly what to do. In fact, they are in the midst of figuring it out themselves. I may do more harm by interrupting the process with my two cents.
The third consideration, if I decide to say something, is whether I can soften my words. I can re-frame the message, remove any attitude or bossiness, and speak kindly. Sometimes asking the person a question is better than a statement, and is received less offensively.
Re-learning Communication Skills
Much like learning to walk, we learn how to talk. Depending on our environment, we may need to undertake improvements and upgrades later in life.
In the Tarot, communication is represented by swords. Swords need to be used wisely and are double edged. You can keep them sheathed. You can stab someone with them. It is my goal to become the master of my swords.
In the short time I’ve put my focus on communicating mindfully, with myself and others, the rewards have been substantial. Just another skill I wish I’d learned earlier in life.