We cannot control or change others

A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still

Benjamin Franklin

Any attempts to control people are a delusion as well as an illusion. People will either resist our efforts or redouble their efforts to prove we cannot control them. They may temporarily adapt to our demands, but the moment we turn our backs they will return to their natural state. Furthermore, people will punish us for making them do something they don’t want to do or be something they don’t want to be. No amount of control will affect a permanent change or a desirable change in another person. We can sometimes do things that increase the probability that people will want to change, but we can’t guarantee or control that. (Melody Beattie, in Co-dependent no more)

Control is an illusion:

  • You can’t control alcoholism
  • You can’t control anyone’s compulsive behaviours – overeating, sexual activity, gambling
  • You cannot control anyone’s emotions, mind, or choices
  • We cannot control the outcome of events.

Sometimes our reactions provoke other people to react in certain ways. We help them justify their behaviours. Sometimes reacting narrows our vision so much that we get stuck in reaction to symptoms of problems. We may stay so busy reacting that we never have the energy or time to solve the real problem, much less figure how to resolve it.

With that in mind – then support is support – it is not control.

If someone is addicted to a behaviour, then they are trying to distance themselves from painful or empty feelings with a behaviour that gives a quick fix.

We might want to control, and justify this as:

  1. Control in the name of love
  2. We think we know what we’re doing
    1. “We are only trying to help”
    2. We are right, and they are wrong
    3. We know best how things should go and how people should behave
    4. We think we must
    5. We are afraid not to
    6. We don’t think
  3. It’s all we know
    1. We control because controlling is all we can think about – ultimately, we may control because that’s the way we have always done it.
So, don’t focus on the behaviour but focus on values

“Oh, great spirit, keep me from ever judging a man
until I have walked in his moccasins”

Native American Proverb


Punishment isn’t the only solution