Monday, 25 February 2013

Bossy, know it all control freaks

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 too 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!


  1. Wow that is a great post. Really interesting. The video was amazing and very informative.

    I suspect that you are being just a tad hard on yourself by saying you are an idiot. I will think your skills mean you are the best person for Jake to be married to. So maybe you are not perfect but I think you are closer to it than you think.

    Something tells me others may take far longer to come to the same conclusion, some would never get there. You're doing a great job. :-)

  2. I totally agree! The previous comment could have been my words, had I not read it before writing.

  3. Hi, I found your blog through the Headway community forum and have enjoyed reading your eloquent posts. For what it's worth, I'd say that you are unusually blessed with self-awareness, and that can be one of your best weapons in the fight to regain happiness for the two of you. Frankly I'm in awe, both of what you're up against and how well you are managing to deal with it! All the best to you both.