Backlash of Over-Control (Part 1)


or I’ll explode!

PREVIOUS: Price to pay for Over S-C

SEE: ACRONYM page for abbrev.



HEALTHY age-appropriate self-control is an integral part of mental health, which comes from the ‘UNIT’ ego state.  But constant self-restraint, from S-H & FoA, can backfire.  Among other things it ties up a lot of our energy resources.
Eventually we break down or blow up.

1. Self-Restraint & Aggression 
• Past studies in the Journal of Consumer Behavior showed that exerting too much self-control can increase irritability & anger
• New research also found that making a constant effort to stop ourselves from ‘undesirable’ actions can backfire:

a. extreme self-discipline contains the seeds of its own undoieventually explodeng – an explosive failure of control called “dis-inhibition.”  People who are trapped in this pattern can suddenly shift from one unhealthy extreme (being ‘perfect’) to the other – acting out a rebellion against too many self-imposed restrictions over too long a time (becoming a ‘failure’).

b. people who try to suppress emotions & behaviors, in a variety of ways, most often end up in emotional distress & with cognitive disruption – loss of focus & obsessing about the very things they’re not ‘allowed’ to do!

• Participants in one study were chosen by 2 criteria – those who did vs. did not restrain themselves emotionally – to see how each would react to neutral things presented to them labeled as ‘angry’ or ‘not angry’.  Different categories of self-control were chosen & subjects’ behaviors noted.

Observations re. ‘restricters
✼ they more often preferred the ‘angry’ options
✼ the active dieters preferred public service ads framed in threats
✼ those who carefully controlled their spending of a gift certificate were more interested in looking at angry faces than fearful ones
✼ those who picked an apple over chocolate were more irritated by ads with controlling phrases like “you ought to” or “need to,” & were more likely to choose movies with a theme of hostility over other genre

ACoAs: It makes sense that the more we deny our legitimate needs, the angrier – & more depressed – we get!  But this does not mean that it’s OK to blow people off because we happen to be in a bad mood or feel overwhelmed (not letting them know we’re unavailable or have changed a plan), nor to harm anyone when we’re in a rage.

2. Self-Control & Prejudice
A study from Tufts University showed that deliberate, continual self-control can cause emotional unease & guarded behavior, which could be misinterpreted as racial prejudice in some circumstances
• Researchers ran 2 group of white volunteers through a series of computer-based mental exercises:
— one group’s set was so stressful that people were temporarily depleted of the mental reserves needed for discipline
— the other group was given a less stressful set

• Once the subjects were finished, they met with either a white or black interviewer & discussed racial diversity, a social situation with the potential for racial tension.
Later subjects rated the interaction with the interviewer for comfort, awkwardness & enjoyment.
• Those who wprejudiceere mentally depleted (lacked discipline & self-control) talked about race with a black interviewer more enjoyably than those with their self-control intact, presumably because they weren’t working as hard to monitor or curb what they said
• Also, independent black observers found that the powerless & therefore less inhibited whites were much more direct, real & less prejudiced in conversations

✶ CONCLUSION: Relinquishing power over oneself (temporarily) seems to prevent over-thinking & so ‘liberate’ people to be more authentic, which could benefit both individuals & society

ACoAs: Of course this study does not imply it’s OK to be unruly or a doormat as a result of lowered inhibitions.
It’s about “Letting Go” of anxiety, looking good, projecting failure, fear of disapproval, trying to be seen, heard, accepted …. but just being open-hearted & in the moment. Then we can enjoy ourselves, be respectful & put others at ease

NEXT: Backlash, Part 2

3 thoughts on “Backlash of Over-Control (Part 1)

  1. • Energy drain: This is especially obvious when we waste so much effort worrying, projecting failure, obsessing about some abandonment….. that we have little felt for actual accomplishments that would make our life better!

    Oh yes, I know this one from being on the end of it!

    (Should it read “we have little left” ?


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