Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Control and Command: Shift to a New Mindset

For over a year now, I have been asked by my clients to write an article on the difference between control and command. Control and command are important because this is the distinction between whether you respond to your life because of being forced, or you choose to exercise respect and empowerment.

"I should have been able to control it." I have heard this statement throughout 40-plus years as a therapist as well as a life and addiction recovery coach. But I must ask you, can you control anything in life? The answer is a resounding: No! When reality sets in, you cannot control how you think or feel … you can’t control other people or the events in your life. The concept of control is actually an illusion.

Let me explain by starting at the beginning. Everyone has been told since childhood that we can control anything if we are good enough and focus hard enough. People would tell you, "just stop doing it" or "just control it." I always ask the question "where did you get that?" The response is generally, "I was taught that. If I can't control it, then I am weak person."

The fact is, the more we think about controlling a thought, feeling, behavior, another person or situation, the more unable we are to exercise any control at all. Can we control our physical organs, such as stopping our breathing, heart or thinking? No. Control is based on a false expectation, achieved through power and manipulation. The more we try control a thought, feeling, or behavior, the more it comes to the foreground. Why?

3 Stages of Control

Thinking of achieving control over someone or something? Gaining control is not possible, in fact it is an illusion. You cannot control yourself other or life situations. 

There are 3 stages that you would go through when attempting to control someone or something. Here are three stages of trying to control something. 

The first stage is the plain "control" stage. In this stage control is the act of forcing something against its will. When we want to control something (ourselves, another person, a situation, or a feeling), we work and work, but in time we find that we just cannot control. It reminds me of a person trying to be perfect. Nobody's perfect, at least I haven't met that person yet.

Our failure to control can really frustrate us, so we think "I have to work harder at it." This forces us into the second stage which is "over control." In this stage we focus harder and work more on controlling the subject, situation or person by using everything in our arsenal. Again we are not able to achieve our "unreasonable" expectation.

Not achieving control in the second stage drives us into the third stage of control which is "out of control." We wildly do unreasonable behaviors or say things which are uncharacteristic of ourselves. Then the realization finally hits, we cannot control anything even ourselves. At that point hopefully, we stop, yet that is not always true. Disappointment, fear, rejection or failure sets in hard and we go into a downward spiral.

 So What is Possible?

What is possible is a skill called "command." Is there a difference? Yes. Commanding can be learned and can be achieved. Command is not based on power or manipulation. Commanding is based on respect. Command can be a learned skill and mastery can be achieved through practice. Really now … can you stop thinking? No, but you can learn how to shift your thoughts from negative to positive. The more you practice this skill, the better you will become at it. 

Will it ever be perfect? No, but who would want to be perfect. I tell people all the time: if you are perfect then that means that you never have to get out of bed. You would know everything, have done everything, seen everything, and felt everything in life, so there is no challenge or reason to function in life.

There is a law of command. The law of command is based on earning respect. You respect certain positions in life only because the person in the position has earned it, like a parent, the President, a religious leader, etc. (you get the idea). You may not like or agree with everything they do in that position, but you do respect them for earning the position. Another example you should be able to relate to is a five star General in any military service. A service person may dislike the General, may not agree with their decisions or orders, but they will follow the General's orders because they respect the rank. The General did not get the rank automatically and was not born into the rank. The General worked very hard from the bottom as an enlisted person, studied and trained for many years and weathered all the internal politics to achieve that rank. Therefore, the soldiers follow the general’s orders into battle at possible peril of their own lives out of respect of the rank that the General holds.

After Thoughts

The same is true when you apply this idea to yourself. You should have respect for yourself. How is that achieved? Plain and simple … you earned it. How? You earn yourself respect in two ways.

First way is by being conscious that your word matches your deeds. The second way is by acquiring a skill and achieve a high level of performance through practice. Over time, you will see that your need to control an issue, situation or person will decrease. You will also see a corresponding increase in the ability to competently respect yourself therefore gain command of previously unruly areas of your life.

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  1. Again, I have to say, reading this article could not have come at a better time. I know that I can't control my addiction/alcoholism, but I can command it. I respect the drugs and alcohol, I know it has a power over me that I cannot control. It has gained my respect because it has earned its rank. It has worked very hard to keep me in its grasp, even in sobriety, the alcoholism and addiction is still working hard on me, but I respect that its there and I act accordingly. I have no control over myself, but I can, in time, when I've gained my own self respect, command myself to behave differently, and possibly, have more respect for myself than the disease. I also know that I cannot control how others are going to act or react to me "making a positive change," but I can command myself to respond to their actions/reactions according to my sobriety and my ability to shift my thoughts. This is by no means an easy thing to achieve, but if it were easy, or we knew everything, why would we get out of bed every morning?

  2. Thanks for reading and writing your comments. I am glad that you understood what I was writing because this is a very important issue in addiction recovery. Command is based on respect and you have earn it, even from yourself.

    Another important issue in addiction recovery is thought addiction. Here is a link to my HUB Pages article on Thought Addiction - If you read it you find out some very important knowledge to help you reverse the power of addiction holds over you.

    Thanks again. Keep reading other articles and subscribe to this blog for more.

    Blessings, Dr Bill


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