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Is Your Need for Control Controlling You?

ControlDo people you know say you’re a “control freak”?   We like to joke or complain about those who need to be in control, but it’s usually a sign of anxiety.

Many people who have it will tell you they don’t like the pressure it puts on them. They’ll even get sick because of the stress it creates. It’s also why some people die before they get to live out their dreams. Almost everyone has at least one bucket-list trip they want to take. A place that’s spectacularly beautiful or exceptionally meaningful like the Vatican, or a beloved parent’s homeland. Why don’t they go?

Some suffer from agoraphobia, an extreme fear of being away from home, or of crowded places. People with this condition will do practically anything to avoid shopping in Walmart on Saturdays, or standing in long lines anywhere. Most of us don’t exactly relish the idea of waiting in line, but for agoraphobics, it’s a show stopper. They often depend on a loved one to do it for them, “Honey, will you stop at the store and pick up some milk before you come home?” An innocent request at first, but it can wear down their loved ones over time time if there is no give-and-take on the shopping, outdoor chores, or going out to a movie or concert where crowds congregate.

Most of us don’t suffer from disabling agoraphobia, but we can still find it hard to leave home if its we’re not headed for work. Leaving home means letting go of some control. Think of it as an emotional push-pull. First you push by letting go of the security you feel at home. Then you pull by taking in all the sights and sensations around you. If you have difficullty allowing things to unfold naturally and without purposeful effort, you’ll find both are equally hard to do. That’s why pushing off the bucket list is so easy. It’s like the diet we intend to start “tomorrow.”
Test Your Need for Control. Here’s a quick quiz to help you gauge how hard it is for you to let go when you travel.

1. When I travel I research all the hotels ahead of time.

  • 0-Never
  • 1-Sometimes
  • 2-Always

2. I only stay in hotels with high Consumer Ratings.

  • 0-Never
  • 1-Sometimes
  • 2-Always

3. I only travel to countries where my language is commonly spoken.

  • 0-Never
  • 1- Sometimes
  • 2-Always

4. I must travel with at least one other person.

  • 0-Never
  • 1-Sometimes
  • 2-Always

5. I need an itinerary before I travel because I don’t like to travel without plans.

    • 0- Never
    • 1-Sometimes
    • 2-Always
  • Scores
  • 0-3: You probably have little difficulty feeling comfortable in new places, and it’s likely you feel free to explore without a plan.
  • 4-6: You are most likely dynamic in your ability to explore new places, and take a more balanced approach with your travel.
  • 7-10: You probably have difficulty releasing your worries about traveling to new places, preferring to stay with the familiar.

It’s not a scientific instrument, and only has face validity, but it can give you a feel for how difficult it may be for you to break free, and get out there in the world, standing up to live.

Pltvick
Having fun in unfamiliar places requires a degree of spontaneity, letting each moment unfold with curiosity instead of fear. The active decision to stay open to shifting events along with a  readiness to “check things out” can open up some wonderful experiences. I know I’ve gone to some places on my bucket list where I’ve been so awed by the beauty around me that I’ve said,  “I could die right now and feel completely at peace.”
Hmmm… maybe that’s what the bucket list is for.Don’t forget the second part: taking in. This requires practice for some. Others do it naturally like when they step off a plane, car or train and take that first big breath. Some people like the way a new car smells. Others like to take in the sensations of a different country. They look forward to eating exotic foods with with new flavors and aromatic spices. Then there are the unusual drinks with almost medicinal effects like kava in Polynesia, which reduces nervousness and Grappa in Italy, said to aid in digestion. Taking in is not just about the olfactory and gustatory systems. It takes practice to see and listen to new people in new places without judging or feeling critical, “Well in my country, we do it this way.” Or, “That’s not how we do it in the South.”
Giving up control in an unfamiliar land is like learning a new sport, it takes effort to get started but it gets easier and more fun with practice. The payoff is usually worth the effort: meeting new friends, learning about other cultures, and checking one more place off that bucket list instead.



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