My life didn’t please me, so I created my life.
Coco Chanel (French fashion designer)
Having a sense of control is a universal need. An infant’s crying, for example, is a way for her to control her environment. Yet what control really means can be easily misunderstood. So in this area we will consider various types of control, what affects control, and the difference between control and being controlling. But let’s see first why this subject is important.
Why a sense of control matters
Experiments on both humans and animals show that ‘the organism responds differently to conditions characterised by controllability on the one hand, and lack of control on the other’.(1) Diminished control increases feelings of insecurity and discontent, and reduces efficiency. On the other hand, having a sense of control has a positive effect on coping and also decreases the after-effects of distressing situations. The evidence from several sources indicates that this sense is an important factor not only in coping with stress, but for health more generally.(2) This is because it reduces excessive anxiety and physiological stress responses (such as adrenaline and cortisol secretion). Furthermore, it can also enhance motivation (e.g. if you feel that you are in charge of your kitchen, you may be more enthusiastic about cleaning it).
Control feeling: remember a situation when you had a sense of control. How did it feel? Where did you feel it in your body? Make a mental image or draw a picture of that state (e.g. sitting on top of a big balloon). Next time when you feel that you are losing the sense of control, recall that image in your mind and this should bring with it the sensation of control too. Beside an image, word or even movement (such as flicking one’s fingers) can serve the same purpose, as long as it is not used in other situations.