You’ve heard it many times. We all have. It’s a phrase that abounds by arm-chair psychologists and most people seem to think they have a license to say it several times a day. Yet it’s a phrase that’s as full of myths and misunderstandings as any. The phrase? “Oh that person has control issues.” So, what does it mean to have control issues?
We generally use it to mean, “The person tries to control too much.” Or, “The person is too bossy.” Or “The person is mentioning too many details.” Or, “What the person wants is different from what I want.” Yet what is too much control or details? What can we control and what can we not control? So when it comes to “taking control,” let’s begin by asking:
What are you in control of?
What can you control?
What can you not control?
What can you partially control?
To what degree can you exercise some control?
The answer is actually so profoundly simple that it is very easy to dismiss. I did for years. For many years as a psychotherapist, I kept looking elsewhere for the heart and secret of personal empowerment. Eventually, however, I came back and in what seems so obvious, so simple, so small I found the source of all human power and “control.”
The answer? Your four fundamental powers that comprise your powers-of-response (e.g., your response-power or response-ability). What profound simplicity! Every “power” that you have (i.e., ability, response, capabilities, skills, competencies, etc) arises from and are made out of these four powers. You can boil down every skill, no matter how complex, to these four powers. In fact, that’s precisely what we do in several of Neuro-Semantic workshops and what Meta-Coaches do constantly with their clients.
It is when these response-powers come together that they create various meta-state gestalts (something that is “more than the sum of the parts”). Within personality they create a strong sense of responsiveness, proactivity, initiative, confidence in self to act, and responsibility. So if you are interested in any of these more complex states, the place to start is with the four powers. They are that important! And, of course, your personal sense of energy also arises from these four powers.
So what are your four powers that have all of this importance, value, and significance? They are your two private and internal powers of thinking and emoting and your two public or external powers of speaking and acting. And even though you do not have total or absolute control over these powers, you and you alone are the one in control of them. No one else is. It is over these powers that you have control to influence your life, your world, your environment.
Many people do not know this and because they do not, they also do not appreciate their powers, do not own their powers, and do not “count” their powers as the source for empowerment. Others may have some awareness, but default to others—and so, with their powers they give their powers away.
This way of thinking and feeling is described by the meta-program ofexternal referencing. This describes the response of referencing to others in terms of one’s authority or right (and hence power) to act. Others default by conforming to external standards of how to think, feel, speak, and act. They believe that circumstances make them think, feel, talk, and act as they do. They believe that they are not free or able to respond as they want. To dis-empower yourself—focus on what you cannot control.
The truth is that these responses are yours. You and you only can make them. Others can invite you, provoke, influence, and affect you in your responses, but in the end, they are your responses. So even when you default to others or to outside influences (circumstances, life, God, etc.) you are the one powerfully making that response! You are the one believing in some ironclad concept about yourself that’s undermining your self-efficacy or self-confidence. You are the one giving your powers away!
One of the sources where I originally learned this was Viktor Frankl. This is what I wrote in Unleashed! (2007) about this:
“Viktor Frankl described these powers poignantly in the concentration camp when he said that although they could take away his freedom of movement and perhaps of speech, they could not take away his other powers. “They cannot make me hate them.” In this, he claimed the ultimate human power—the power of choice, the power that each of us have in choosing our thoughts and our emotions. These are our responses and no one can “make” us think, feel, or say anything.” (Unleashed, p. 160)
You can always respond! Whatever happens, whatever someone says or does, whatever challenges you face in life— you always can respond mentally to think whatever you choose to think about that, and as you think, so you feel. So you can manage your emotional responses, they are, after all, yours. And what you say and how you say it, those are your verbal and linguistic responses. They also are yours. And so also your actions— your behavioral responses are the responses that you make to the triggers that stimulate you to respond. This then is the bottom line for your powers:
Your personal power to manage or control your life falls back to your power to respond in four dimensions— mentally, emotionally, verbally, and behaviorally.
Your power to respond mentally involves everything involved in thinking, representing, languaging, evaluating, associating, believing, framing, metaphoring, deciding, remembering, imagining, and so on.
You have the power to represent things, to picture goals clearly and compellingly.
You have the power to set your mind on something.
You have the mind to describe what you experience, to create meaning, set frames, make evaluations, invent solutions, and a thousand other things.
Your power to respond emotionally involves sensing, feeling, associating, somatizing, mind-to-muscling, etc.
You have the power to access emotional states, to access courage, desire, hope, love, joy, playfulness, and a thousand other emotions of pleasures.
You have the power to experience sadness, tension, fear, anger, and a whole range of emotions that help you register loss or danger or something else that might help you.
Your power to respond verbally includes using words, languaging, conversing, naming, labeling, framing, narrating, promising, requesting, forgiving, blessing, cursing, etc.
You have the power to use words to define things, words to support someone, to inform, to negotiate, to create relationships, to navigate your future, and to engage in a thousand other activities.
Your power to respond behaviorally includes acting, gesturing, creating and using semantic space, relating, initiating, etc.
You have the power to act on your understandings, to experiment with testing what you think could offer new possibilities, to invite others to join you, to finance a new opportunity, to flexibly alter your plans, and to do tens of thousand of things that can enhance your chances at success.
All of these powers serve as the core of your responsiveness to life and to the worlds that you live in. As you now recognize this, you can take ownership of it. You can say to yourself: “I am totally in charge of my own thinking, believing, valuing, framing, emoting, caring, wanting, setting goals, speaking, acting, etc. These are my responses!” Now, if you don’t control these inner—outer powers that you have, you’ll be out-of-control. You will not be able to control yourself, that would dis-empower. Instead, step up to take control of yourself in all of the dimensions of your powers!
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Everyone as best as he can!
Everyone as best as he can!