Ask Abbie: Why do I have a strong need to be in control?

Published 10:31 am Saturday, December 15, 2012

Question: Both of my parents were alcoholics. Both are deceased.

I am in my 40s, never married and have very few friends. Whenever I get close to somebody, they let me down and hurt me.

I also have a very strong need to be in control, and when I’m not, I feel panicked. I know my lack of trust and need for control are somehow related to my past.

I think if I can understand exactly how they relate, it will help me with my issues. Thank you.


By Abbie Long

Answer: You just obtained a file containing your records. This documentation includes a description of your history, a recent diagnosis and a prescription for treatment. You open the folder and start to read.

n Patient History: He was turning five. Mom and dad threw him a party. They smiled for the camera, invited guests, sang “Happy Birthday” and gave him presents. They made him feel special.

After the party, everyone went home and mom and dad “needed a drink.” Dad’s anger increased and mom got defensive and yelled back. Despite his closed bedroom door and the distraction of his new toys, it became impossible for the child to ignore the impending storm.

n Diagnosis: Taking over total control, he implemented emotional suppression to numb the pain threatening to blow down his door and the love and joy he felt earlier that day. He lived in survival mode unable to feel.

His parents’ alcoholic dysfunction constantly produced mixed signals, for example hugs one minute and alcohol-induced anger the next, which not only influenced his need for control, but also his lack of trust for consistent parental love and support.

He accepted the practiced dysfunction as normal. It was all he knew. Wrong became right with potentially destructive power beyond his imagination.

Dysfunction from alcoholism, mixed signals, lack of trust, need for complete control and acceptance of wrong as normal.

n Prescription for treatment: Acknowledge dysfunction, turn wrong into right and right into wrong. Reverse this ingrained effect by re-establishing right and wrong based upon basic personal and instinctual factors rather than on parental practices.

There is a fog of alcoholic dysfunction clouding the instinctually correct idea of right and wrong that must be cleared before it’s underlying principles can be revealed and applied.

Do this by staying on constant alert to any unsettling nudges when something is heard, seen or read doesn’t seem right for they caution of wrong. Don’t ignore the warnings.

In addition, address personal beliefs as the basis for re-defining right and wrong by studying the appropriate religious principles and then implementing its teachings.

Until a new healthy version of normal has been established, stop attempting to form meaningful relationships so to avoid gravitating toward broken people who need fixing. This tendency exists as a result of being expected to fix parental problems as well as personal emotions when growing up.

Hurt people cannot make themselves emotionally available until healing occurs because they, like the partner trying to fix the hurt, have built a barrier of detachment to remain numb. Seek healthy relationships, ones capable of building up rather than tearing down, only when emotional stability has arrived delivered on the coattails of correctly defined right and wrong.

To expedite recovery claim victory over the fear of emotional and personal security vanishing at any moment or else prepare to remain extra sensitive to all criticism and to become unnecessarily defensive toward any person holding a different personal viewpoint.

In addition, a continued feeling of isolation and uneasiness toward others, especially toward authority figures because they threaten the control needed to stay numb, will remain in place until victory over fear is achieved.

Decide to break free from loneliness. It is no way to live.

Kill any and all fear by speaking directly against it. Words hold amazing power to either destroy or give life. Choose their destructive power to annihilate fear by commanding it to leave.

Say out loud “Fear, you have no control over me. You will no longer rule my life. I claim victory over you. You have robbed many years of my life, but that stops today.” Feelings of fear and insecurity will continue to come, but the more these words are repeated, the more they become the natural way of thinking and the less the fear will attempt to attack because it realizes it has been rendered powerless. The co-victim has now become the victor.

Take the full prescription to live life to the fullest. Forgo any or all treatments only to live the rest of life in and out of remission.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to