Control Fallacy (A Cognitive Distortion)

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How This Mental Trap Is Making Your Life Harder Than Necessary.

Do you find yourself thinking that if only you could control certain things in your life, then everything would be fine? 

If this sounds like something that resonates with you, read on. Your attempts to control and manipulate the world around you likely impact how much happiness and success you experience. The more power we give up by trying to control people or situations, the less effective we become at reaching our goals.

Today I’m going to share a few ways of looking at this cognitive distortion so that it doesn’t impact your ability to reach your goals moving forward.

So let’s dive right in!

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What are Control Fallacies?

In a nutshell, when we think that everything in our life is due to factors inside or outside of our control, we experience a lot of negative emotions. When we believe that something or someone has power over us and our lives, or we believe we hold that type of power over others, it’s called a Control Fallacy.

When we tend to hold others responsible for the things in our lives when they have no responsibility for our outcome.

Or when we can’t control other people and make ourselves upset when we try to do so, are all Control Fallacies.

When you believe that nothing in your life is within your control (external control fallacy), you open yourself up to a world of negative emotions – guilt, shame, regret, and even anger.

The fact of the matter is that while these things can impact us and our choices, we shouldn’t blame the world for everything.

While we can’t avoid these emotions, we can also make an effort not to place responsibility outside of ourselves and instead recognize what we do have control over. Such as how we feel about the situation and what we tell ourselves about the case. Is it something empowering or something disempowering?

Control Fallacy

The same is true for internal control fallacies. And is the belief that you can influence other people’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. And believe that you are responsible for everything, including things you can’t control. Leading to inappropriate feelings of shame or a sense of overcompensation and trying to apologize for things that are not your fault.

You need to learn to stop taking responsibility for problems you didn’t create. And to recognize that you’re not responsible for everyone else’s behavior.

When you experience a situation and start to think about how it makes you feel, ask yourself: what is within my control right now? Is there anything I can do to change the situation, or am I powerless at this moment?

And please keep in mind that while you may not have control over your initial thought over the situation. However, you do have control over the second thought and each one after that. And this is where you truly do have control.

What is within my control right now?

Controlling situations doesn’t mean that you are responsible for everything. It means that you are more aware of what your responsibilities are. For example, you may be thinking, “Well, if I change my actions, I can change the outcome of my situation. Therefore it is within my control!”

However, if you are trying to manage your emotions and sense of self by controlling how others behave or what they think about you, you might be experiencing a Control Fallacy.

This is not an effective strategy!

Impact of Control Fallacies:

When you experience Control Fallacies, it is easy to slip into negative thinking patterns. For example, you might start to think that if you could just control certain situations in your life, everything would be better.

Then you decide to take on responsibility for controlling other people’s thoughts and behavior …and things get out of hand quickly!

Most people who suffer from Control Fallacies are in a never-ending cycle of trying to control things they can’t And blame themselves for not being perfect, particularly when the outcome is negative and apologizing when it’s unnecessary.

Control Fallacy – A Cognitive Distortion

Control your thoughts.

If you are feeling out of control or overwhelmed by negative emotions, take some time to figure out what you are actually responsible for.

Is it other people’s thoughts and feelings about you?

Or the things that have happened in your past?

We all have a past, and everyone has been through hardships. Control Fallacies are not helpful when they come from a place of shame or guilt. Control Fallacies often result from reactions to our own negative emotions.

Negative thinking traps can be difficult to escape, but take heart – your thoughts are not accurate or true. You will be much happier when you can accept the fact that things go wrong even though you make choices.

We all have control over our own thoughts and actions; however, we don’t always choose them wisely. Therefore, make an effort to challenge the thoughts that lead to negative behavior.

Well-being depends on developing “acceptance” of what is out of our control. So if you’re suffering from a Control Fallacy, look for other ways to manage and cope with your thoughts and emotions.

It’s okay to ask for help!

You can give up the responsibility of trying to change everything by accepting that not everything is within your control.

Remember, you can always change how you react to any given situation. You are not responsible for things that are beyond your control.

Practice being gentle with yourself when you slip into the habit of taking on too much responsibility for circumstances that cannot be altered.

If you or someone close to you is experiencing symptoms related to Control Fallacies, you can always refer back to this post and my other posts to help guide you in changing your thoughts and how you experience the world.

Suppose you or someone close to you is experiencing anxiety, depression, panic disorders, or PTSD symptoms and are at risk for Control Fallacies. In that case, it’s essential to seek help right away. In addition, therapy can be very beneficial in overcoming these types of cognitive distortions.

I hope this post helps you know that you are not alone and that things will get better with time.

Because in the end, it’s not about being perfect. It’s just about trying your best and learning from mistakes as you go along. So if this sounds like something that resonates with you, try these three ways to think differently so that your attempts to control people or situations don’t hinder how much happiness and success you experience in life going forward. I would love to hear what has worked for you!

  • I.C.E. – and I’m not talking about “in case of emergency.” 

I’m talking about…

Identify the thought. 

Call it what it is – a cognitive distortion or Control Fallacy. 

Explore a new thought to replace it with. 

  • It’s about the journey and not the outcome – Strive for progress and learning opportunities and not the situation’s outcome.
Daring Greatly book by Brene' Brown Ph.D
Daring Greatly

Check out Daring Greatly by Brene Brown Ph.D. [affiliate]. It’s an exceptionally well-written book about shame and how shame influences how we think, feel and live our lives. And because Control Fallacies sometimes come from a place of shame. I know that this book can prove helpful.    

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