So much of the suffering I see in others is self inflicted. People get attached to a particular person, place, thing or idea and when they cannot have what they want they try to manipulate the environment to achieve their desired outcome. They pressure others to change or behave in ways that are not what is right for those people because they are blinded by their own goals. And when people protest or resist – they freak out!
One man was enraged because he was passed over for a promotion at work. “That was supposed to be MY job! I deserved it!” He had made assumptions based on his fantasies and when the job was not given to him, he was hurt – enraged – offended! As we talked about it, I asked him why he thought it was to be his job and what signals had he gotten from management to confirm his assumptions. As we talked it became clear that it was all assumptions on his part! He had created his own fantasy and then his own misery! It was hard for him to admit this for to do so would have meant he would have had to take responsibility for his own creation; a life view that supported a very super-positive, possibly unrealistic view of himself. When his boss did not promote him, his self esteem was offended, his life view was challenged and he was mad!
I have watched people imagine a future event and then imagine some negative consequence of that imagined event, and then get completely miserable about an event that had not yet occurred! For example, “I can’t accept John’s offer of a date because if I did, he would find out how stupid I really am and reject me and that rejection would kill me so I’ll just tell him I’m busy.” “Really? Do you have a crystal ball? You are the judge and the jury! Why not go out with John and let him decide for himself?” But by controlling the situation, the person has a sense of safety or competence which helps them feel better.
Some wise person of old once said that we spend most of our time regretting the past and worrying about the future and very little time in the present.
Living with someone who is controlling is difficult. To combat the controlling behavior requires a lot of boundary-setting and is stressful to implement change. People who are very controlling find it difficult to empathize with the experience of others. They just want what they want.