Control Vs. Command

Posted on May 6, 2019

A good therapist doesn’t have all the answers.  She knows the right questions to ask.

A few months ago, a fellow psychotherapist and coach posed the question, “Do you want to be in control or do you want to be in command?”

That’s what I call a THINKER!

It almost sounds like a riddle or a trick question.  Or something Yoda would say.

I had to repeat the question in my head several times to fully understand it.

Control is motivated by the external.

Without really being conscious of it, we quickly assess situations or people to make sure everything is safe. Once safety is confirmed, we begin to interact with the world.

It is human nature to want the outside world to match the inner concept we have about it. When we judge something as positive, it is because it matches how we want it to be. When we judge something as negative, it is because the two viewpoints are out of alignment. It’s this misalignment that creates anxiety. (It’s kind of like having blurry vision).  Thus, we try to control a situation, believing that if we get them into alignment, we’ll feel better.

Command is a fully inside job.  When we are in command of ourselves, we don’t need the external world to meet our inner concept for that alignment.  Instead of judging a situation, being in command allows us to observe, to take time to understand the external, and then make a choice or respond based on our own internal insight. When in command, it’s as if there is a gravitational pull to be in alignment with yourself.  It’s not effortless, but there is less resistance.

It may seem easier to spot ways that you can potentially gain control of a situation.

Trying to exert control is certainly effective in some situations, but it is not a recipe for long-term success.  Remember, the desire to control is often rooted in fear or angst, and ultimately, the need to control others will damage your relationships.

It is better to develop command of yourself than to try and control an external outcome.  When in command of ourselves, we feel more confident. We make better decisions and experience less anxiety.

Do you want to play with this idea of control and command? Here’s a quick trick:  Imagine you are working to motivate yourself to keep trying. Do you say, “You can do this” or “I can do this”? Which one feels more empowering to you?  It’s very subtle, but the “you” voice is externalized. The “I” voice indicates an internal sense of command.



How do you develop command of yourself?  Stay tuned for a series of posts where we’ll walk you through the process. When it comes to growth, self-awareness, a clear understanding of your core values, and setting boundaries play vital parts along the way.