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Bossy, know it all control freaks

Latest blog from: hopegoesupanddown.blogspot.com - a record of the hope, terror and unknown future faced when the one you love most in the world suffers a brain injury.

The unvarnished truth is that I am a control freak; I like to be in charge, deciding what will happen next and what everyone should be doing. So, not just a control freak but also a bossy know it all. Ha!

This is bobbins if your husband has a severe brain injury and huge swathes of your life and future are in other people's hands. You are in control of nothing, know nothing and no one would do what you told them even if you did.

Lying in bed last night feeling completely out of control and worrying about so many different things it would take to long to blog about, I was overwhelmed by the thought of the strain that is currently being placed on our relationship since I broke Jake out of the Student (Doss) House and into the now too small Korving Towers. We seem to be able to wind each other up in a moment and spend much of our time apologising to, circling or avoiding each other. As I lay there trying to take back control of this problem with imagined strategies and plans I suddenly realised that this is what I have been trying to do and where I have been going wrong, I have been trying to manage him.

Jake is, always has been and always will be a bossy, know it all control freak. Whoever said that opposites attract got it sensationally wrong when it came to me and Jake. We are freakishly alike (I like to think I look better in heels) and my trying to manage him is stupid, arrogant, NOT my role (there is an army of professionals to support him in his rehab) and will destroy what is a wonderful marriage that I am very proud of.

So, just to recap, at a crucial time when he is trying to take back control of his life, rediscover who he is now and create some form of meaning out of all this, his ignorant wife is being a bossy, know it all control freak (BKIACF). Who knew I was such a spectacular idiot?

I should know better of course. I work for a very cool company who are like behavioural alchemists; they can transform organisations with entrenched and negative under performing people, cultures and behaviours into positive, performance focused, collectives who make, do and deliver great things in the right way. I'm supposed to know this stuff (I've worked there for 13 years!) and as I lay there trying not to be engulfed by the terrifying enormity of this thing masquerading as my life, I suddenly thought of Dan Pink. "Dan who?" I hear you ask. Well, I shall tell you.

Dan Pink is a bit of a genius when it comes to behaviour and he has a very cool theory (supported by lots of research) about motivation. He states that "the secret to high performance and satisfaction at work, at school, and at home is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world". This can be distilled into three core elements that drive individual motivation; Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery.

This may all sound a bit fluffy, but I happen to know that it works because I have seen it successfully applied in the work that we do. If you still need convincing, have a look at the amazing animation that Dan did for RSA which explains not just the theory, but clearly articulates the application, relevance and (for all us left brainers out there) the evidence: Drive - the suprising truth about what motivates us.

OK, OK, I hear you...I'll get to the point; if purpose, autonomy and mastery is what drives our motivation to succeed, then how much of this does Jake have at the moment?

Purpose (the reason we do what we do - provides the context for autonomy and mastery): as I am told is often the way following long term inpatient treatment, Jake has become institutionalised and directionless. Prior to the accident Jake had purpose coming out of his ears; I think it is fair to say that he is a bit lost at the moment and needs to rediscover what his purpose is in this new world he has been forced to inhabit.

Autonomy (control to be self engaging, interested and managing): he has someone with him all the time and we're all making decisions and plans on his behalf. I'm so ashamed of this; I always said we should be going on this rehab journey WITH Jake, not doing it TO him. He has no autonomy or control...and did I mention that he is naturally a BKIACF?

Mastery (the desire to get better at something that matters, to continually improve): for me this is where there is a HUGE opportunity. Jake is a complete and utter perfectionist (and a BKIACF). He hates doing something that he doesn't buy into or think he can succeed at. If we can tap into this and break success down to be achievable and meaningful then the concept of mastery could be the key to his taking back control.

The challenge now, of course, is to create an environment, in the unique context of traumatic brain injury, where Jake can safely have purpose, autonomy and mastery without me over-engineering or managing it.

Which won't be easy, I'm a BKIACF you know!

3 Replies

Good Luck! I didnt know what i needed where i was heading and couldnt think past the next hour let alone having a goal to work towards. I think you must be an incredibly strong person to take all this on board and still manage a semblance of normality and sanity.

It is so much easier as the person with the injury because its like being a child again in some ways, whilst still being expected to act like an adult. If you are not aware then you dont have a care. I can see now just how hard it must be on the family.


i wanted to control my world from the moment i woke up

i was not able to do this at the time

i still tryed to be me but was told/yes told/what where when why and how

this did not go down very well and still doesn,t

now i just am my self or i am today

now then who will i choose to be tommorow !!!!!!!!!

good luck to all

friends carers partners

time tells all


its still very early days for you so don't be too hard on yourself. Reading your blog reflects what also happens these days for us. I have a huge amount to thank you for as while reading your blog I realise that there are other people in a similar situation to ours. My counsellor says that when things go wrong try to think of it as a general hiccup rather than blaming yourself. Easier said than done and I get so tired of it all, at times I just want to wake up from this nightmare and have everything back to normal. I find things a bit easier if my husband has had plenty of rest but he will never admit to being tired. The consultants said it would be a long road, my feet are certainly weary but I am thankful of the rest breaks from knowing that I am not alone. Best wishes Dorsetcharlie x


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