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