In this podcast, Dr. Margaret Paul, co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding healing process, talks about the difference between the intent to control other people and the intent to be loving to ourselves and to others. She cites several controlling behaviors people use, including being nice and asking questions, and how these could affect our relationships.
Dr. Margaret also shares a few stories about her clients that help us better understand what it means to be loving rather than controlling. She also teaches us several ways to determine whether we’re being controlling or being loving in any situation.
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We seem to be living in a very polarized time, where it’s becoming more and more obvious whether a person is coming from love, caring, and compassion for the highest good of all, or coming from their fearful greedy ego wounded self who want power and control over others. The racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, climate change denial and many of the causes of climate change, violence over masks, mass shootings, as well as domestic violence, all stem from the ego wounded self, which is lodged in the lower left brain. People who operate from their higher brain, especially from their spiritually connected upper right brain, and whose actions are informed by their higher source of love and truth, are the people who come from love, caring, and compassion.
This polarization of intent is not only affecting our whole planet, it also affects our relationships with each other. Much of this comes from the sad fact that most people never learned how to see, love and value themselves. Instead, they judge themselves as not being good enough, no matter how much they accomplish, and then project the self-loathing that come from their self-judgments on to others, trying to control others.
This self-abandonment and intent to control rather than learn about what is loving to oneself and to others, is not only the major cause of the problems in our society, it‘s also the major cause of relationship problems and relationship failure.
Being able to tell the difference between authentically caring behavior, and behavior that looks ‘nice’ but is really controlling, is an important skill to develop. The very same outward behavior has a very different energy, depending on the intent to love or the intent to control.
When you are being nice, are you being loving or controlling?
Our society has long trained children to be “nice.” Being nice might mean:
- Telling white lies so as not to hurt another’s feelings, such as agreeing with them when you really disagree.
- It might mean listening politely when someone is going on and on, even when you are so bored you can hardly stand it.
- It might mean pretending to not be affected by rudeness or sarcasm.
- It might mean giving compliments that you don’t really mean.
In your relationships with others, being nice often means being inauthentic. It can be a form of control – attempting to control how others feel about you or how they respond to you.
Being loving, on the other hand, means being honest and authentic. It means being kind, but truthful. Being loving is about caring about yourself and the other person, rather than trying to control the other person by being nice. The way to know the difference regarding when someone’s niceness is loving or controlling is to tune in to how it feels inside. Loving behavior feels good and safe inside, while controlling behavior may cause your stomach to tighten up.
My client, Laurie, was contemplating leaving her 21-year marriage, but she still had two children at home and was reluctant to break up the family. The reason she wanted to leave is that she was bored with her husband, Jeffrey, and felt they had no emotional connection. Whenever she tried to have a meaningful conversation with him, he would change the subject.
When I asked Laurie what she did or said when Jeffrey changed the subject, she said that she didn’t say or do anything because she didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“So,” I said, “Jeffrey doesn’t even know you are so bored and feeling so disconnected from him that you are contemplating leaving the marriage. Don’t you think it would hurt him more for you to leave than to speak your truth?”
“Well yes,” she said, “but then I wouldn’t have to be there and feel guilty when he’s sad.”
“So it’s more important to you to be nice than to be loving, is that right?”
“I never thought about it that way,” Laurie said. “But aren’t I being harsh and judgmental if I tell him the truth?”
“You will be harsh and judgmental if your intent is to control him, but if your intent is to be loving to yourself and to him, your energy will be kind and caring, not harsh and judgmental. Your intent determines your energy.”
Laurie decided to be honest with Jeffrey. He was shocked that she felt this way, and initially hurt and angry, but because he loves Laurie, he joined her in working with me and their relationship is improving.
My client, Hailey, talked with me about the following situation with her friend Emma. Hailey and Emma have been good friends for a couple of years. They speak regularly on the phone and meet for lunch fairly often. In one of my sessions with Hailey, she explored a situation concerning Emma that is a problem for her.
“I really like Emma, but I frequently get bored with our conversations. She tends to go on and on telling stories that don’t seem to have a point to them. Most of the time the stories are really complaints about the people in her life. I’d be interested in the stories if they led to some interesting learning or exploration, but without that, I just end up feeling dumped on. It’s getting so that I don’t look forward to talking with her anymore.”
“Hailey, how do you respond when Emma does that?”
“Well, sometimes I say, ‘It would be more interesting to me if we could explore and learn something from this situation. Other times, I just listen.”
“What happens when you do say that?”
“She just keeps going on and on.”
“Hailey, it sounds like you are being nice to Emma as a form of control, rather than being loving to yourself and to her. You are letting her use you, which is not good for you or her. What are you afraid of in being authentic and speaking your truth?”
“I guess I don’t know how to say it without being harsh and judgmental. I don’t want to hurt her.”
“So, what would you say to her if you were to tell your truth?”
“All I can think to say is that I’m bored, and I think that would be hurtful to her.”
“Hailey, the key here is to really let her in on your truth with a desire to learn about her rather than control her. For example, you might say, ‘Emma, I have a hard time staying connected with you when you complain and tell stories. I find myself feeling bored and my mind wanders. I’ve mentioned it before, but you keep doing it. There must be a good reason that it’s important to you to do this.’ How do you think she would respond if you said this?”
“I think she would be open to it. We could probably get into a really good discussion about it and it would be far more interesting than the story-telling and complaining.”
“The challenge,” I said to her, “is that you may need to do this many times, each time she goes on and on. For most people, their behavior is habitual. Emma may be addicted to complaining as a way to get attention and sympathy. She will likely not stop just because you speak up once. You will need to speak up over and over, focusing on being loving rather than on being nice. The only way you will be able to do this is if it is more important to you to be loving to yourself and to her than it is to attempt to control how she feels about you by being nice. It is not loving to yourself to allow yourself to continue to feel bored and used, and it is not loving to her to allow her to continue to behave in a way that pushes people away from her. Your honesty and desire to learn is far more loving than your niceness.”
“Well, I’m going to try this. It will be a challenge for me. I think I’m addicted to trying to control others by being nice, but I really like the idea of being authentic!”
Just as being nice can come from either an intention to control or an intent to learn and be loving, ask questions can also come from a controlling or learning intention. Again, we know the difference by the energy and by how we feel.
I was having my second session with Lily. Lily had consulted with me because she was feeling panicked over a breakup with her boyfriend. In the first session, I helped her to begin to connect with her inner little girl, and she felt some relief. But she started off the second session with a barrage of questions:
“Exactly how am I supposed to treat myself in order feel better? What if I’m treating myself well but others are treating me badly – what do I do? How do I know when I’m being loving to myself and when I’m abandoning myself?”
All of these are actually very good questions. The problem was that Lily was shooting them at me from her head. Her wounded self wanted the answers, and she wanted them NOW! She was actually not, at that moment, open to hearing anything information from me, nor was she interested in learning how to access her own answers.
Her questions felt like a challenge and an interrogation – like she was saying to me, “Prove to me that you know what you are talking about.”
Given that I was listening to my feelings and to my guidance, as well as to her guidance, I did not step into the guru trap of answering her questions. I knew immediately that Lily wanted answers in order to control her feelings and others’ feelings and actions by doing things “right”, rather than to learn more about loving herself and others.
“Lily, what do you think your intent is in asking all these questions?”
“Well, I want to get this Inner Bonding stuff and you’re the expert. Are you going to answer my questions or not?” she asked with the same challenging tone.
“No, I’m not. But I will help you to find the answers within yourself when you open to learning. My job is not to give you answers, but to empower you to discover how to find your own answers. Right now, you are making me the authority over you, which is not a job that I want. Lily, please take a moment to tune inside and see how you are feeling right now.”
“I’m angry at you.”
“Okay, be angry at me. Let me hear it.”
“I’m working with you so you can help me feel better about myself and right now you are making me feel worse.”
“Now, I’m wondering if you would be willing to let your inner little girl say that very same thing to you.”
Lily sighed and rolled her eyes and finally said “Okay…..You are supposed to help me feel better about myself but you are making me feel worse.”
“Lily, do you want to know how you are making your little girl feel worse?”
“I guess so. But I think it’s you, not me.”
“Would it be okay if I pretend to be your little girl for minute?”
Role-playing Lily’s little girl, I said with anger, “I hate it when you do this. You do this with everyone. You go to everyone else for the answers and then you don’t like what they say. I need you to be here, inside, with me. You spend all your time in your head, leaving me alone. I want to feel your heart. I want you to ask ME what makes me feel loved – not Margaret!”
Lily was silent.
“Lily,” I said gently, “When your daughter was little, did you keep on trying to get someone else to take care of her, or did you like taking care of her.”
“I loved taking care of her.”
“That’s what your inner little girl needs from you right now. She needs you to ask questions from your heart, with a genuine desire to learn about what she needs – rather than questions from your head in order to try to have control over doing it ‘right.’ You might want to start noticing that when you shoot questions at people, your little girl feels abandoned by you. How are you feeling right now?”
“Actually, I’m feeling more peaceful right now. I think the light-bulb just went on!”
“Great! And what generally happens when you shoot questions at others? Did you shoot questions at your boyfriend?”
“Oh my God! I did that all the time! I always wanted to know what he was doing when he wasn’t with me, and what he was feeling about me. And he would get so annoyed when I did this, and I thought it was because he was hiding something from me. And I thought he broke up with me because he was hiding things from me and didn’t care about me, but maybe he broke up with me because my questions pushed him away.”
“Lily,” I said, “questions coming from your heart with a true desire to learn is a loving way to connect with someone, but questions coming your head with an intent to control will push people away. It sounds like with your boyfriend, your intent of your questions was to control him rather than to learn.”
Again, the light bulb went on regarding why her relationships were not working for her.
One of the things you might want to start to notice is whether trying to control others makes you feel happy and peaceful.
When your intent is to control others, are you thinking about happiness or are you more concerned with safety? Are you confusing the two – thinking that trying to feel safe by attempting to control others will make you feel happy?
As I said at the beginning of this podcast, people who try to control others are coming from fear, and that one of their motivating factors is the need for safety. They believe they need to control others to feel safe, rather than learning how to make themselves feel inwardly safe by learning to see, value, and love themselves.
Take a moment to think about your own experience. Since we all try to control at times – and please take all judgment off ‘being controlling’ so that you can learn – it is likely that you can remember a time when you were trying to control how someone felt about you or how they behaved – with anger, shaming, blaming, guilting, compliance, niceness and people-pleasing, withdrawal, resistance or many of the more subtle ways we try to control each other. Our ego wounded self has learned many ways to try to control others so as not to feel helpless over them, and not to feel the loneliness and heartbreak of others’ unloving behavior.
When you think about a time you were controlling with someone, was happiness even a consideration? Do you recall ever actually feeling happy or joyful when you managed to get someone’s temporary approval, or when you managed to bully someone into complying? You might have felt the momentary relief that comes from feeling some power over another, rather than feeling helpless over the other person, but did it fill your heart with peace and joy?
If you are honest with yourself, you will discover that the momentary feeling of safety derived from not feeling powerless over another person was what you were seeking. And if you continue to be honest with yourself, you will discover that, not only did this not bring you happiness or joy but knowing that you manipulated someone might have even undermined your sense of self-worth. I have many clients who tell me that they are often afraid someone will find out they are a fraud – that they are not who they seem to be – because of their controlling behavior. They are willing to pay a high price for the illusion of safety.
Illusion? Yes. The kind of ‘safety’ that comes from controlling behavior is very different than the true safety that comes from loving yourself and sharing your love with others, and from taking responsibility for your feelings – rather than making others responsible for you. Even if another does seem to give you the love, approval, or behavior you are seeking, they can always change their mind, or they can leave, or they might die. How is that safe?
Real emotional safety, happiness and joy come from being loving to yourself and to others – not from trying to get love, approval, or compliance through your controlling behavior.
When you are willing to shift your intent from trying to control others, to learning to love yourself, you will experience the huge difference between the ‘safety’ and relief that you may momentarily experience, and the true inner peace and joy that is possible when you learn to love yourself and share your love with others.
I know it is scary to the ego wounded self to even contemplate learning about your controlling behaviors and how they make you feel, but I can assure you that it is worth it. I never felt true joy until I opened to learning about my controlling behaviors and to learning to love myself.
In order to learn about the many ways you might be trying to control, it’s vitally important that you see this learning as an exciting discovery process, which you can do only when you take all judgment off your controlling behaviors. We all try to control, so let’s not make it a bad word or a bad thing to do.
Each person who shifts from an intent to control to an intent to learn about loving yourself and others helps to shift our world toward more peace and true caring. And in my view, there’s nothing else more important to our planet right now that doing all we can to care about ourselves and each other and bring peace to our relationships and to our planet.
I hope you join me in my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships,” as well as for my 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
My recent books will also be a big help to you: The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting With Your Divine Guidance, Diet for Divine Connection: Beyond Junk Foods and Junk Thoughts to At-Will Spiritual Connection, and 6 Steps to Total Self-Healing: The Inner Bonding Process.
And, of course, we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.
©Dr. Margaret Paul, 2022