Anxiety and Controlling Behavior
Fear and anxiety is common to everyone. We all find ourselves in situations in which we feel fearful or anxious at one time or another. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 40 million adults suffer from anxiety disorders. That’s almost 20% of the United States. No wonder Bible Gateway lists Philippians 4:6-7 as one of the top 10 searched verses online.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:6-7
My favorite word in the definition for anxiety is “uncertain”. Isn’t that what so often causes anxiety. We’re uncertain about the outcomes. A case of the “what if’s” creep in. What if I quit my job and I can’t find a new one? What if I don’t like my new job? What if we don’t live happily ever after? What if my kids turn out the way I hoped? What if those people don’t like me? What if I get hurt in this relationship? And the list goes on and on.
I love certainty. I love guarantees, warranties and good return policies. Unfortunately life and relationships don’t work that way.
So then what?
Connecting Anxiety and Controlling Behavior
Anxiety creeps in and drives our behavior. We try to manage the anxiety by controlling everyone and everything around us. Controlling other people and circumstances relieves the anxiety. As a result, sometimes it works and then we have a fleeting moment of peace. That momentary peace is short-lived because as anxiety sets in again, we start to control again, striving for more peace.
Can you see how the emotion leads to the behavior? The emotion of fear leads to anxiety and controlling behavior.
Consequently, until we understand this we will continue to seek the quick win. The quick win is relieving the anxiety by controlling behavior.
This is similar to mowing down the weeds rather than pulling them out by the root. In other words, what is causing the anxiety? The thought comes first! Thoughts lead to emotions and then behaviors.
Instead of controlling others to relieve anxiety, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”.
Problems With Anxiety and Controlling Behavior
- Lack of faith: Controlling behavior fueled by anxiety is a demonstration of our lack of faith in God. We’re essentially saying, “I’ve got this – it’s too big for you God”.
- Increased anxiety: We quickly figure out we can’t control others or every circumstance around us. This only leads to more anxiety and desperate attempts to manipulate the environment around us.
- Wastes time: It’s a waste of time and energy. Attempting to control the world around us is mentally and physically draining. Trying to control what you have no control over, is like spinning your wheels in the mud. You may gain a bit of traction, but then it’s back to spinning your wheels.
- Relationship killer: Control and manipulation destroys trust, intimacy and peace in relationships.
Learn 6 strategies to stop controlling behavior here.
Circle of Control
Circle of Concern
The circle of concern represents what you don’t have control over. These are things that concern you and may affect you, but you can’t control. Things included in the circle of concern are other people’s thoughts, actions and emotions. This is the area that you prayerfully entrust to your heavenly Father.
Circle of Responsibility
This circle represents what you are called to do as a child of God. These are the things that are your responsibility and cannot be offered up to anyone else.
Strategies to Combat Anxiety
Know God’s Word
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~2 Timothy 3:16-17
Prayerfully Ask for More Wisdom
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ~James 1:5
Seek Wise Counsel
The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. ~Proverbs 12:15
The work of navigating life and relationships can be challenging. It’s not unusual for the lines to become blurred between the “circle of responsibility” and the “circle of concern”. Our own emotions and knowledge or lack of knowledge play a huge role in how we respond to each circumstance.
We are all a work in progress and we all will fall short correctly identifying which “Circle” we fall in. Grab onto those three tools- God’s Word, prayer and wise counsel. His grace is sufficient for each of us as we put off fear and put on courage! Once we make the choice to put on courage, we put off anxiety and controlling behavior.
Learn how to change anxious thinking…check out the online course, “Taking Every Thought Captive” here.
If you find yourself struggling with anxiety and would like more personalized help, consider online Christian Counseling. Learn strategies to get rid of anxious thoughts right away! Make an online Christian Counseling appointment here.