Control Freakiness - Kimberly Thompson


     For every woman who is  “a little bit of a control freak,” there are people she loves who are frustrated. Some of those loved ones are angry, some of them are defeated, and some of them have completely stopped listening. If this describes you, your marriage or your family, it’s time to take back your self-control.

     That’s right, I said “take back your self-control.” It is fascinating to me that the more focused you are on controlling every situation and every aspect of your environment, the less self-control you exhibit.

     If a need to control the details causes you to lose sight of the big picture, you have lost control of yourself.

     If a need to micromanage your family causes you to lose compassion for their mistakes, you have lost control of yourself.

     If the attitude “it’s my way or the highway” has disrupted multiple friendships or intimate relationships, you have lost control of yourself.

     If your husband has ever complained that you treat him like a child, you have lost control of yourself.

     If pleasing you is so hard for your children that they are either anxious or discouraged, you have lost control of yourself.

You can be an occasional control freak, when something unusual stirs up your anxieties. You can be a moderate control freak, when your routine motto is “if you want something done right, do it yourself.” Or you can be a serious control freak, when your very presence causes others to feel nervous and judged. The more serious your control freakiness, the more out-of-control you are.

     At the most severe end of the spectrum, there is obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). If you’re OCPD, you sacrifice flexibility, productivity and personal relationships in favor of “doing things the right way.” Your life is disrupted by your inflexibility. You consistently run behind schedule on projects and show up late to events because you can’t leave the least detail unfinished in the interest of being punctual. You run a huge backlog of crucial tasks because you feel compelled to get every detail perfect. Consciously or unconsciously, you exhibit a critical attitude toward yourself and everybody in your life. Having a parent who behaves like this can crush the spirit of a child, who needs you to encourage her to innovate and think independently. If you see yourself in this description, seek help from a reputable psychologist or other therapist. Surely you do not want your children’s spirits to be crushed.

    Your control freakiness can be a problem even when it is mild. You might have just a few areas where you want to stay absolutely in charge. Some of the most common ones are:

            Your children’s schoolwork: You can’t turn over to your kids the responsibility for keeping up with their own assignments, practice schedules, or college applications. This continues throughout high school and beyond. You believe that if they slip up, there will be total disaster awaiting them. They are beginning to believe that too – and they might be learning to distrust their own competence.

            Your house: You can’t rest until it’s in a certain order or to a certain level of cleanliness. On days that you are sick or exhausted, you can’t let it go. And, everybody who lives there pays the price when you get frustrated about it.

            Your work: This is worse if you have a very responsible job or (heaven help us) own your own business. Your work bleeds over into your home life, because you are a micromanager. It doesn’t matter if you are part of a team or if you are actually paying someone else to do some of the work – you can’t ever let it go.

     What is the difference between control freakiness and a healthy sense of responsibility? Ask yourself these questions.

            Can I really control it? You can burn up a tremendous amount of energy trying to control the uncontrollable.  Admit it when there’s nothing you can do that will make a discernible difference.

            Should I control it? There are situations that you can control, by persuading, influencing, pressuring, or guilting people you love – but should you? Stop a moment and ask yourself if you want to be happy in those relationships or if you just want your way.

     The price of being a control freak is high. Your loved ones will usually respond to your control behavior in one of two ways: hostility and withdrawal. This is especially noticeable in children, who will either become the rebel (“I’ll do it my way no matter what”) or the model child (“I’m afraid to do anything that isn’t preapproved by Mom”).

Control freakiness is a stubborn pattern … but you can overcome it. I work with women every day that are overcoming control freakiness and regaining their self-control. I would love to work with you too.


     I am Dr. Kimberly Thompson, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Lubbock, Texas. I work with mothers and their children to help them heal, grow, and live their most vibrant lives. My particular expertise is pregnant and postpartum women, and moms of “littles.” My book, Perfect Mothers Get Depressed, is available on Amazon and from Praeclarus Press. If you live within driving distance of Lubbock, you can work with me face-to-face; if you live anywhere else in the state of Texas, you can work with me via online therapy. Send me a message if you need more information, or call my office at (806) 224-0200 if you’re ready to book an appointment.