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Kindness vs. Control

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 31, 2006

Conflicts can be resolved when kindness has a higher priority than controlling or not being controlled.

KindnessMarian was concerned about whether there was enough money in their bank account to cover the check they had just written. She was rushing to get ready to leave for work and did not want to take the time to call the bank herself, so she asked her husband, Mark, to call - a simple request that led to a major conflict.

The initial interaction went like this:

Marian: Mark, would you call the bank today?

Mark: Get off my back.

Marian left for work feeling hurt and angry. When she came home, she and Mark were distant.

In their session with me, they unraveled the conflict. Mark's experience of Marian's energy when she requested that he call the bank was that she had a parental edge to her voice. He experienced it as a demand rather than a request and, not wanting to be controlled by Marian, went into immediate resistance. Marian then felt rejected by his resistance and told herself that Mark didn't love her, which led to her feeling hurt and angry.

For both Marian and Mark, in that moment control was more important than kindness.


Let's see what would have happened if kindness had held the higher priority...

If kindness had been Marian's highest priority, her tone of voice would have been neutral rather than parental. However, even if her voice had been neutral, Mark might still have gone into resistance. Mark has a deep fear of being controlled, having come from a very controlling mother, and often goes into resistance even when Marian is not being controlling.

If Marian's intent was to be kind to herself, she would not have taken Mark's resistance personally. She would not have told herself that Mark did not love her. Instead, she would have opened to her spiritual guidance and asked for the truth: "Does this mean that Mark doesn't love me?" Her guidance might have said, "No, it means that Mark is afraid of being controlled and his intent is to have control over not being controlled rather than to be kind and loving to himself and to you. He is in a wounded place. Don't take his behavior personally. Speak with him about it with an intent to learn when you get home."

If Mark's intent had been to be kind to himself and Marian, he would not have reacted with resistance. Instead, he might have cared about the concern that Marian was feeling. If his intent was to care rather than resist being controlled, he would have just said, "Sure," in response to her asking him to call the bank, even if she did ask with a parental tone. He could also have said, "I'd be happy to do it, but I would prefer being asked without the parental tone."


In every interaction with another, we choose our intent, consciously or unconsciously...

When our intent is to control and not be controlled, we will create conflict in the relationship. When our intent is to be kind to both ourselves the other person, our response will be a loving one.

Because of our experiences with being rejected and controlled when we were growing up, our automatic, unconscious response is to protect against rejection and engulfment. In order to change this, we need to become conscious of it. We cannot change what we are not aware of. When we choose to be on a path of awareness, this means we need to become conscious of our intent rather than react automatically.


Being kind is not automatic for most of us...

If we do not make a conscious choice to be kind, we may unconsciously choose to control, as did Marian and Mark. It is certainly easier to remain unconscious of our intent, but this will always keep us stuck and limited in our lives, as well as create our relationship problems. Our challenge is to be awake, aware of what we are choosing. This will not occur until being a kind and loving human being is more important than having control over not being rejected or engulfed.

What would it take for you to make kindness your conscious priority? What would you need to do to keep this intent in mind? Some of the things I find helpful are:

  • Practicing Inner Bonding daily, which develops the loving adult. Making sure that I schedule in the time for Inner Bonding practice so that it becomes an automatic part of my day, just as eating and sleeping.
  • Praying throughout the day for help in staying conscious.
  • Replaying any unkind interactions to see how I wish I would have handled it. Then I rehearse how I wish I would have behaved so that I can, hopefully, remember to do it next time.

Most important, I don't judge myself when I forget to be kind to others. Judging myself is unkind to myself, and staying kind to myself is a vital part of remembering to be kind to others.

Heal your relationship with Dr. Margaret Paul’s Intimate Relationship Toolbox, a 12-week online course.

Join IBVillage to connect with others and receive compassionate help and support for learning to love yourself.


Photo By John Hain


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