By Mike Finecey, MA, LPC, LISAC

If our childhood included pain and we didn’t have someone to teach us what to do or we were unable figure out what to do, the controlling self was created.
The purpose of the controlling self is to instill necessary defenses and avoidances so we can survive the pain. Growing up, we learn what we need to do and what works or not to solve the emotional issues of our life. We also learn how to take care of what we feel, what we want and need to create a life where we can exist, and how to have control over our environment.
Somewhere around the sixth grade someone may have told us “don’t let them see you hurt.” This is an age where our brain begins to understand our surroundings and we begin to interpret and solve our problems of the day. Each of us at some time began to develop a defense system allowing us to have control over our lives.
Our defenses can be healthy when we have support from others, and we’ve been taught how to take care of ourselves in a healthy manner with healthy boundaries.
The rest of us needed a way to cope with the pain of being a child long before we knew how to resolve the hurt. And the effect as we grow older is to use defenses to find places to hide, numb out or simply repress. Some of unhealthy defenses can be rage and anger which pushes people away, people-pleasing, protecting ourselves from being rejected, showing a fake smile and not being authentic so one will know our core pain and hurt. Addiction is another route in which masks our pain.

Seeking Pleasure vs. Avoiding Pain

Addiction often times is disguised in the power of pleasure and can become a false god used to support the inability to cope with the reality of being “me”. How many times have we sought pleasure as a relief from pain? We’ll even argue that “getting high” is about pleasure. All the while, our reality is lost in the pleasure. The possibility exists that we rarely seek pleasure, but seek to remove ourselves from pain. We create a controlling self to keep the pain away and it is the controlling self that found addiction to minimize, ignore, hide, repress and deny the pain. Even the drug we choose can define the pain of our childhood. Opioids can be used by someone who has seen traumatic events as these drugs allow the addict to finally close their eyes in quiet and isolation.
Work, as an addiction is often used by someone who was never taught how to be vulnerable and intimate.
The controlling self, is often created long before the sixth grade and it had to develop skills to hide pain before our brain was developed to solve problems in a healthy way. The pain masked from childhood by the controlling self can also be a trigger no one notices.
When we are seven or eight and couldn’t deal with fear, more than likely we still do not know what to do with fear if it occurs today. If we believed we were not enough at nine, we may still believe it today. We may know the truth in our logical thinking, but emotionally, we continue to believe we’re not enough.

Choosing To Be Enough

As adults we need to make a choice of who’s running our life, a ten year old controlling self or an adult. We need to thank the controlling self for the job they did in keeping us from hurting so much. Without them, our fear may have overwhelmed us. Today, it’s time to thank that part of us and create a new direction of support and genuine self-care. We can choose to matter. The need to matter evolves from a fear of being alone; a fear of rejection or abandonment and can create neediness or shame that “I don’t matter.”
Today we must be responsible not to reject ourselves and realize no one has the permission to reject us without our permission. We can choose to be enough. The need to be enough evolves from a fear of being known; a fear of intimacy and can create shame that “I not enough” or “I’m unworthy.” We must be willing to be vulnerable and share who we are to be enough. When we believe we’re not enough, we will prove it. When we believe we matter, are worthy or enough, we will prove that too. We no longer need to control what we feel, but as adults learn to protect who we are, share what we feel and know what we want and desire to resolve our emotions in a healthy manner. Healthy boundaries along with healthy intimacy will create the person we want to be. To be the adult knowing  — we are worthy to be as we were born to be.

Mike Finecey, MA, LPC, LISAC is the co-founder and Clinical Director of North Pointe Counseling Center specializing in the treatment of Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation. He is the co-author and facilitator of Breaking Free…a Journey, a 20-hour intensive workshop that focuses on healing from traumatic life events. Breaking Free is offered monthly to the public and is privately contracted with organizations such as treatment centers and community-based foundations. For more information: 800-273-3429 or