10/14/2014 03:56 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

Controlling: Harmful or Beneficial?


The word "controlling" can be confusing. Is control harmful or beneficial? Are there times when we need to be in control of ourselves or of others?

Whether control is harmful or beneficial depends upon your intent.

When your intent is to be loving to yourself and others, then control can be beneficial -- like stopping a child from running into the street. Self-control -- actually I prefer the term self-discipline -- is definitely beneficial. Self-discipline is when you don't indulge in acting in ways that are harmful to yourself, such as eating badly, behaving in ways that are harmful to others, watching too much TV, overworking, abusing alcohol or drugs and so on. When you want to act out in ways that are harmful to yourself or others, you need to exert "control" by gently limiting your behavior in the same way you would limit a child who is acting out. In other words, you act as a loving adult, preventing your ego wounded self from acting out. This is self-discipline, and the intent is to be loving to yourself and others.

This is quite different from your ego wounded self being in charge and trying to have control over not feeling pain through various substance and process addictions. The intent of our ego wounded self is to have control over getting love and avoiding pain. It has nothing to do with being loving to yourself and others.

The "control" of the wounded self is always about getting love and avoiding pain. The "control" of the loving adult is about choosing the intent to learn, limiting the acting out behavior of your wounded self, limiting an actual child's behavior in areas of health and safety, or taking action over injustice. The loving adult always has one's own and others highest good at heart, and is connecting with a spiritual source of Guidance regarding what is in the highest good of all. The intent of the wounded self is never about the highest good. It is always self-serving - getting money, power, love, and avoiding rejection, abandonment, engulfment, failure, embarrassment, loss. The loving adult is willing to suffer pain in order to be loving, while the wounded self will do anything to avoid that which it fears.

We have only two intents available to us in any given moment:

  • To avoid pain with some form of control
  • To learn about loving ourselves and others

When our intent is to control, we are operating from our ego wounded self. The intent of the loving adult is never to control oneself and others but rather to be loving to oneself and others, and sometimes this includes self-discipline or limitations on others to stop or prevent harm.

Things become clear when we look at them in the light of intent. If you discern your own and others' behavior in terms of whether it is self-serving or genuinely supportive of the highest good of yourself and others, you can begin to understand what is loving and what is just controlling. In our society, we have far too much controlling behavior and very little self-control. Developing our loving adult means developing self-discipline through utilizing the power that comes from Spirit to limit self-destructive behaviors and behaviors that are harmful to others. This is not a matter of willpower. The wounded self tries to use willpower as a form of control over oneself, but it doesn't work. Self-discipline is using the power of Spirit to strengthen one's own will and ability to take loving action. This occurs when we consciously invite Spirit to act through us rather than trying to act on our own.

When it comes to control, it's important to remember that the only thing we actually have control over is ourselves -- our attitudes, our beliefs, our behavior and our intent. Beneficial control is the control we have over choosing the intent to learn about love. Harmful control is when we attempt to control our feelings rather than learn from them, and attempt to control others and outcomes.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, and join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships." Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.

Connect with Margaret on Facebook: Inner Bonding, and Facebook: SelfQuest.