Holiday Stress: Trying To Change Or Control Others

by Doc Orman, M.D.

Issues related to control are frequent causes of stress for most human beings. During the holidays, this hidden cause of stress can surface in several different ways.

One of the most common manifestations is the action pattern: Trying To Change Or Control Other People.

Trying To Change/Control Others

During the holidays, we all have our own ideas about how people should and shouldn’t behave.  We have ideas about how people should:

  • Behave at parties
  • Behave at the holiday dinner table
  • Help out with planning events
  • Spend or not spend money
  • Handle giving and receiving gifts
  • Manage consumption of food and alcohol
  • And much, much more!

When immediate family members, relatives, friends or other people fail to live up to our expectations of proper holiday behavior, our first impulse is to try to get them to do so.

This means we try to say things, or do things, to change their behavior to better match what we think is appropriate.  In other words, we try to “control” the behavior of others.

Control Begets Resistance!

Of course, you already know that trying to change or control other people most often leads to resistance.  And this can lead to anger, resentment, frustration, hostility, and sometimes even violence. 

Now the interesting thing about this pattern of Trying To Change Or Control Others is that even though we know it’s not likely to have a happy outcome, we can’t easily stop ourselves from engaging in it.

That’s the way most hidden causes of stress function.  They tend to happen “automatically”—like knee-jerk reflexes—in response to certain situations, or types of behaviors, that we’ve reacted to similarly in the past.

Don’t Expect This To Stop

If you have a tendency to fall into this very common action pattern, when people don’t behave as you might like, there are two things you should be aware of regarding this hidden cause of stress:

1)    There will be many more opportunities for this pattern to get triggered during the holidays, than during other times of the year;

2)    There is very little chance you will be able to stop yourself from automatically reacting this way.

However, all hope is not lost.  While you may not be able to stop yourself from reflexively “wanting to control others,” you can catch yourself in the early stages of this pattern and decide to do something different.  You can choose to not follow through with the full-blown pattern, and decide to grant others a little more slack to behave as they see fit.

Be on the lookout for this very common hidden cause of holiday stress.  I’m sure you’ll have many occasions to spot it, and to decide what to do with it, in the days and weeks ahead.

Here’s a link to my free holiday stress relief e-book on Facebook.

Here’s a link to some additional holiday stress relief information from the Mayo Clinic:  Stress, Depression, And The Holidays–Tips For Coping

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tish November 23, 2011 at 3:17 AM

Hats off to whoveer wrote this up and posted it.


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