By Lynn Seiser, PhD
Who is In Control?
Diana came into my office very upset. She wanted to know why men control women. Her husband, Ed, did not know she was seeing me as a counselor. He would not approve. Ed says he is too proud to ask for help and they should be able to handle all of life's problems without any outside help. He recently left for a hunting trip leaving her without money for the bills, without a telephone, and with their three small children. Ed gets offers for jobs with benefits, but prefers to work for minimum wage. Diana is overweight and in a deep depression. She never thought her life would be like this.
When I asked Diana what she wanted, she stated she wanted Ed to change. He should treat her better, less controlling. I agreed. It did not sound like Ed was taking his responsibilities seriously. When he did step in to help he simply took over and kept what he was doing a secret. Ed would say, "Trust me." I asked if Ed had always been controlling, even when they dated. Diana said that it was not this bad, but yes Ed had always been controlling and did not like responsibility.
He had even dropped out before graduation and not intended to return to school. Ed had always been this way. He expressed no desire to change. What made her think he would change? She cried and admitted that he probably never would. She finally admitted that changing Ed was not something she was going to accomplish. Next, she wanted to understand why men controlled women. This question is easy to answer - fear. Men control women because they are afraid. She thought about it and did not understand. If something or someone is not a threat to us, there is no need to control it. We only control those things or people who are a threat. Women threaten men. They always have. After all, let's admit the power women have over men. Women gave us birth. That act alone is worthy of tremendous respect. Unfortunately too many men feel that there is nothing in their lives that match up to such a miracle and feel inferior in comparison. Their mothers usually raise men. They obey mother's rules.
They have also learned not to respect women because their fathers did not. Diana began to cry. She has three little boys and does not want them to follow their father's model. Men have never learned or had permission to deal with deep emotions, like love. Men get lost in love and are afraid to show it. They take everything that their mate does personally. This creates hurt and anger is a reaction to it. To feel better about themselves, they control their mates. Unfortunately, men tend to lose respect for anyone they can control. Diana admitted that family and friends have told her that Ed was controlling because he was afraid she would leave him. Yet by being controlled, she eventually will.
The most important question for Diana was not why Ed was controlling, but why had she allowed herself to be controlled. Diana talked about her depression. She was angry with herself for not being true to herself. She wanted to go to school but did not. She was smart, but made mistakes. She had been a beauty queen and now was overweight. Diana was unhappy with herself. In tears, she admitted to her mistakes. Diana had accepted Ed's control. Now she was getting mad at both Ed and herself for letting their lives get like this.
Diana began to talk about what she wanted from life. I helped her focus on what she could do to accomplish that. Although Ed had a false pride that would not ask for help, Diana was strong enough to know she needed it. She agreed to stay in counseling and started attending Codependence Anonymous. Eventually she started to exercise, watched her nutrition, and lost weight. Diana's changes threatened Ed. He sabotaged her every step. Diana knew that she had to do this for herself and her three children, even if Ed would not. She found a way to get financial aid and went back to school. She felt better about herself because she was in control of her life, not Ed. She decided not to be controlled any longer.
As Diana took control of her own life and felt better, Ed became more afraid she would leave. She was making many of the changes he had tried to force on her. If she felt too good about herself, would she leave? That is left to be seen. Ed has decided that if he wanted to stay with his wife and children he had better do some changing too. He is going back to school and is looking for a better job. He actually likes the stronger Diana. She reminds him of the woman that originally attracted him. Together they attend counseling. Instead of controlling Diana, Ed is trying to learn to control himself.
Instead of being controlled by Ed, Diana is also learning to have self control. Happiness never comes from being in control of something or someone else. Happiness comes from knowing what you want in life and taking personal control over yourself so you can get there.
Thanks for listening and for sharing the journey. Who is in control of yours?
Lynn Seiser, PhD, MFCC, is an internationally respected psychotherapist, consultant, speaker and writer with more than twenty years of direct clinical experience in recovery counseling for offenders and victims of violence, trauma and abuse. He is also known for his work in "holistic" recovery from addictions and his emphasis on "healthy" relationships. He offers 11 web pages at http://members.aol.com/SeiserL/index.html and can be e-mailed at SeiserL@aol.com . To discuss the benefits of his services, to make a referral, or to make an appointment, contact him at 550 Pacific Coast Hwy., #203, Seal Beach, CA 90740 or call (562) 799-1371.
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