'My friend almost boasts that she is a control freak. Is it really something to be proud of? Her micro-managing drives us all crazy but at other times she is really easy-going. What's going on?' T.

#Step 1: Many of us take a quiet pride in our control issues, not only because they mean we are self-aware, but also because they mirror our craving for perfection. Our need for control is also activated by contemporary reality, in that so much of our experience feels chaotic due to overpowering technological intrusion. The desire actively to pursue control because our lives are so multi-dimensional makes sense to us; otherwise we are in danger of feeling overwhelmed. It provides a means of psychologically containing that which feels uncontainable and masking our insecurities.

Step 2: The demands made by working long hours combined with information saturation mean that we obsessively control the little we can influence directly ourselves, which sadly often means our relationships. Additionally, the immediacy of technology confronts us with global catastrophes, so we feel scarily unsafe, despite statistically never having been safer. Control therefore becomes a touchstone – I control therefore I am in control – but the reality is that the more we try to control, the more out of control we feel, because we are asking the impossible. Women are particularly vulnerable, because we often combine work with family duties, trying to do both perfectly, flooding us with responsibilities. The fear of losing control when overburdened twists rapidly into being over-controlling to compensate.

Step 3: The key in skilfully managing our control issues is to accept that we have them and then learn to let go of them when they stop being helpful to us. When faced with controlling relationships, we can soften our position and accept that our friends also have issues of control that, if we are honest, we recognise in ourselves. We then no longer have to struggle for ownership of control because, in reality, it is a shared experience. We have to accept that the perfect, beautifully controlled life some of us desire is unrealistic and in letting go, move closer to actually enjoying the beautifully uncontrolled life we do have.

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