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Control Conflict


Explanations > Needs > Internal CIA Conflicts > Control Conflict

Taking control | Ceding control | The central issue |  So what?


We all have a need for a sense of control so we can predict and manage events in the world around us. However, this is a need that is never satisfied as it has inner conflicts.

Taking control

The simplest method of gaining a sense of control is to take control, making your own decisions, doing things for yourself and giving commands, rather than accepting them. In this way you are beholden to nobody else.


A conflict here is that, unless you live as a hermit, you cannot do everything for yourself. You cannot grow all your own food, make all your own clothes and so on. Giving commands is also fraught as not everyone will accept your directions, especially those who consider themselves superior or independent. To live in society, you have to depend on others who may refuse requests, make demands and otherwise grate on your sense of control.

Others also seek control and we may fall into conflict with them over this, so we seek power that enables control. The greater the desire to control, the greater the fear of losing it and more power is sought, although the thought of others having even more power creates a constant tension.

Ceding control

Knowing that you cannot control everything, the alternative is to cede control to others, trusting them to help you feel that all is well.


The conflict here comes first from the concern that not everyone is trustworthy, even though they may claim they are. We know the human species is sadly deceitful and hence we feel we have to take some control with actions to assess and assure trustworthiness. Even this is not enough so we worry about risks and constantly monitor our environment for threats.

It is also possible that we want to give control to others who do not want this responsibility. Giving control also often implies taking a child position, seeking a caring, nurturing adult. Being a child can be frustrating in what you are not allowed to do, yet it also is a place where you will always be rescued and forgiven. Being an adult can leave a deep yearning for that time, for the innocence and safety, for someone who will provide for you and always pick up the pieces when things go wrong.

The central issue

It is not just people who pose risks but nature and random events. Things can happen without intent and, though we may reduce the chance of natural disaster by building shelters and collaborating with others, a residual tension always remains.

The central issue that sustains conflict is the unpredictability of the world and our limited ability to control this. There are constant threats and risks, whether we take control ourselves or cede this to others. Our beliefs in ourselves and others may give rise to an illusion of control, yet experience teaches us that this is not absolute.

So what?

Manage control conflicts by first understanding the natural balance of the person between taking and ceding control, and then comparing this with the situation they face. Increase tension by moving them away from their balance point and help them by moving them towards balance.

Help a lack of ability to take needed control by coaching or otherwise enabling them to be more in control, for example by teaching them to use structured planning.

Where they need to cede control, help them trust others by showing them how people care, are reliable and are largely honest. Get them to let go a little and see that the world does not end and that things still happen as needed.

See also

The Need for a Sense of Control, Trust, Power


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