by Magda Murawska, Ed.M.
The majority of us have encountered times when our loved ones just don’t do what we want them to. Regardless of how much we beg, bargain, scream, whine or threaten, sometimes they just don’t do as we say. It can be so frustrating! I am referring not only to spouses or partners, but to children, siblings, parents, etc. Our desires to control our loved ones’ behavior often comes from a good place – the place of “I know better.” It’s a conviction that we strongly hold onto because we believe that whatever we would do would by far surpass their idea. Though this may sound egotistical, most often it stems from our desire to protect our loved ones from harm.
So when our loved ones don’t do as we say, we may end up feeling a range of emotions. We may feel frustrated and disappointed that the person refuses to take our advice. This is a typical, healthy reaction. When we begin to feel angry about their refusal, that is when our emotions turn from being a healthy, albeit negative to harmful and unhealthy. At times, even hurt may come up as we begin to think that we’re not important to the person, or even more, begin to berate their character for it.
When we’re thinking rationally and clearly, we understand that not much will get accomplished if we become angry. However, in the moment, it may become difficult to control our emotions as we find ourselves reaching towards anger as a solution. So how do we address and change this? What lies behind the emotion is a belief. Like in all things REBT, it is the belief that affects the consequence. Many of us may hold different beliefs about this situation, but one that is common is a need for control (i.e. they have to do as I say). Because we feel that our way is better, we may begin to want to control other people in order to ensure that they do what we consider is best. If you find yourself being control hungry, ask yourself “What right do I have to control this other person? Where is it written that I hold the power to dictate what this other being is supposed to do with their life?” The answer is that we don’t have that control. Just like we wouldn’t want someone else having that control over us, we can’t expect someone else to be okay with it. Once we’ve made this realization, coming up with an alternate rational statement is important. Though I believe that creating rational statements is a personal activity that needs to be catered to each individual’s needs and situation, a rational statement such as “Though I would like to control his/her actions to make sure that they do what is best, I know that I cannot control what another person does and I will have to let them figure it out on their own” may be a potential starting point. This does not mean that you completely stop advising people or giving your opinion, but it does mean that you let go of the rigid expectation that they HAVE TO fulfill your expectations. We all want to figure things out on our own. Sometimes we are able to listen to our loved ones and trust that they know what is best. Sometimes we need to figure out on our own what’s best for us because what’s best for us isn’t always the best for others.