Editor’s note: Liberty Forrest, author of several self-help books and a certified Law of Attraction Life Coach, explains an empowering concept — even when you feel like you’re being pressured or forced to behave in a certain way, in truth, you choose your actions. Read more about Liberty.
By Liberty Forrest
Although control issues can happen between people of any gender, let’s just use the example of a husband (“Tom”) who “won’t let” his wife (“Jane”) see certain people, wear certain clothing or go somewhere that doesn’t meet with his approval. It is important to remember always that you choose your actions, and other people have only as much control over you as you give them.
Therefore, Tom says, “You’re not allowed to see Suzy.” Perhaps Suzy is single, beautiful and has lots of men around and Tom is afraid Jane will leave him for one of them. Or perhaps Suzy doesn’t like him and she’s not afraid to show it, so he’s afraid she’ll convince Jane to leave him. All of his controlling behaviour (which is emotionally abusive) is about his fear of being rejected or abandoned.
By the way, it’s important to note that this dynamic between two people doesn’t happen overnight. Usually, it happens by stealth over a period of time.
Eventually, Tom thinks that if he can keep his wife on a short leash and under his control, he will never be left alone.
A Shift in the Balance of Power
Whatever his reasons, Tom attempts to control his wife by saying she’s “not allowed” to see Suzy. The moment he says it, the ball is now in Jane’s court. She’s actually got more power than she realises. She is now the one with all the control. She’s the one who decides if she’ll go along with what he wants (thereby giving the control back to him), or if she will keep the control and do what she believes is right for her.
If she chooses to keep her power and see the forbidden friend, Suzy, she could remind Tom that she is a grown woman and is entitled to make her own decisions about the friends she chooses to see. She could remind him that she does not make his decisions for him, nor does she tell him who is or is not permitted to be his friend.
Whether it’s about friends or clothes or make-up or anything else, the bottom line is the same. She could tell him that the more he tells her what to do, or not to do, the more it will push her away because he is being disrespectful of her.
I’m not suggesting that such a response is going to make him happy, or that he’ll suddenly back down. He might, but if she’s given him the control all along, and then suddenly she changes the “rules,” it’s more likely that he’ll step up his efforts to make her be the way she used to be. He’ll probably become more forceful and use intimidation tactics to get her to comply with his wishes. And I’m painfully aware that sometimes, sociopaths can become violent when crossed, and that standing up to them can be dangerous — but let’s discuss that another day. I just need to make my point about who really has the control.
How to Keep Your Power
When our fictitious husband, Tom, tries harder to make Jane stop standing up to him and be the way she used to be, she has to be like a parent to a stubborn child and just be firm and consistent. If she isn’t, the moment she caves, he learns that he just has to keep pushing and eventually, he’ll get his way. Just like a parent with a child who is having a tantrum. The moment you give the child what she wants, she has learned that all she has to do next time is have another tantrum.
If Tom yells at Jane because he doesn’t like the meal she prepared, his bad temper and rude response are his responsibility. If they’re talking while he’s driving and he misses an exit, then screams at her that it’s all her fault, she must realise that he is the one driving. Therefore, it is his responsibility that he missed the exit. Not hers.
Whether you’re dealing with substance abuse and other addictions, or any other behaviour that is not conducive to a harmonious relationship or home, the principles are the same. It all comes down to having clear boundaries.
You Choose Your Actions
One of the easiest ways to understand what it means to have good boundaries is to remember that what other people say and do is their choice. You have no control over what they say or what they do, and no one has that control over you either. You choose your actions, your words and your responses. If you choose to do what someone else wants, needs, demands or expects of you, it’s your choice.
You might want to blame that person for your choice and say, “He made me do it!” But the truth is, you chose to do it. You could have refused. No one picked up your arms and legs and made your body move like a puppet, no one manipulated your mouth and larynx to make you speak. You could have responded differently. You did not have to get angry when he called you a rotten name and tried to provoke you. When his behaviour was way out of line and he hit you or insulted you, you didn’t have to give up your power by feeling like a victim.
Every single thing you say and do is your choice, and it’s the same for everyone else on the planet. You may have been trained to believe that another person’s words or actions are your responsibility, your fault, or are under your control, but not everything we believe is the truth. Hidden in plain sight, right in the middle of “belief” is the word, “lie.” You may have been trained to believe that you must give up your own thoughts, needs and feelings for others, but that is false. You choose your actions. If you want to give up your own needs, that’s one thing — and that’s fine. But if you feel like you’re doing it because of what someone else wants and might even be pushing you to do, remember that it’s still up to you.
Knowing what you need and how you feel, and honouring those needs and feelings by speaking your truth, is what it means to have good boundaries. Respecting yourself in this way is what empowers you. It puts you in the driver’s seat, where you know you’re in control of yourself and your life — and that’s the first step to finding fulfillment and happiness.
This article was originally published at LibertyForrest.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.