Monday, June 20, 2011
You Tell Me: Control
In my work with clients, I spend a lot of time talking with parents about their children's "high need for control." They wonder why a child would do something so obviously self-sabotaging as laughing at a parent's reprimand or intentionally hurting someone. They're shocked that the child seems to be so excited and delighted at causing them distress and frustration.
Sometimes the word "manipulative" gets used.
I always shy away from that particular term. Words are powerful, and if you use a word like that, I think it attaches a lot of adultish meaning and intention to the behavior of a child.
So instead of "manipulation", we talk about control. And how some kids, some people, seem to need it more than others. It comes out in so many different ways, too. Some good, some bad. The need for control is a basic human feature, after all. One central to many of the rights and values we hold dear. It's important. But some of us are better than others at letting it go, or at facing the reality that we don't really have that much to begin with. And some of us struggle with it.
That's what I've been thinking about. Now I'll give you an example from my own life, from just last week, which, I confess, was a rough one. Because she is lovely and sensitive, Kathleen, my agent, asked me if there was anything she could do in light of the various things I'm dealing with (nothing life-threatening or devastating, so no worries!). She reassured me I could take longer to get certain things done, et cetera. And I said to her--send me the revision notes for my WIP as soon as possible, please. I need to dive into them. I need to bury myself in something. I need to feel like I have control over something.
She came through for me; she sent me a five page editorial letter. And for the last few days, I've been happily tinkering with the world I've built within this WIP, writing new chapters, clarifying character motivation, slicing out inconsistency, wrestling with how to shoehorn the economic concept of the gold standard into a futuristic monetary system based on electronic credits (it's an action-packed urban fantasy/romance, I swear).
Let me tell you, this revising felt good. Cleansing and thrilling. This was something that was all me, all about what I could do in response to critique, how far I could stretch my creativity, whether I could meet the challenge. If these revisions suck, that's because I screwed them up. If they're good, that's me, too. I'm so grateful to have had this task--because I needed something to control.
While I sort out my control issues, tell me. Do you have a high need for control? How does it come out in your life? How about your writing? When does it help, and does it ever hurt you or get in the way?
Remember to check out Lydia's Medical Monday post and Laura's Mental Health Monday post today!