One of the things that I absolutely hated being called, ever, was a “control freak.” For one thing, if I were such a thing (and I don’t think I am) why does it have to have the word “freak” in the expression? Who likes to be called a freak? If someone is insistent on being in control, that does not necessarily make them a freak, a weirdo, an oddball or, as my mother used to say in 1950 “a queer duck.” People who are very disciplined, or very careful, or very responsible, or even very manipulative, authoritarian, or natural leaders are not all known as freaks. So ya. I hate that expression.
I think it is because I hate the expression “control freak” that I have done a lot of thinking over the years about emetophobia and control. The infamous Dr. Phil believes that all phobias, and most other anxiety disorders are about control. Don’t get me wrong, I kind of like Dr. Phil. He sure sees things clearly, which can be helpful, even though I don’t think anyone would want him for their therapist and he pretty much agrees with that. I don’t, however, think he’s right about everything and I definitely don’t think he’s right about this.
Many of my emetophobic clients talk to me about control. They don’t like the fact that vomiting seems to be out of their control. And furthermore, it’s a bodily function that’s out of their control. I point out to them that most bodily functions are out of their control: breathing, heart beating, blood circulation and oxygenation, digestion, urination and defecation. Sure you can hold your urine, your feces or your breath for a time but not forever. At some point, your body would take over and you would not be able to control it.
You can also control vomiting to a certain extent as well. I remember reading an article many years ago by Dr. David Veale, the world’s leading researcher on emetophobia (or as he likes to refer to it, “SPOV” or Specific Phobia of Vomiting.) He believed at the time that there was absolutely nothing that you could do to stop you from vomiting, so there was no point in any safety behaviours such as hand sanitizers, avoiding sick people, taking mints, ginger or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. After doing part of a research study some years later he discovered that people with emetophobia do indeed vomit less than the general population. So we do have some control over it, although if you get sick enough or poisoned enough you will vomit, no matter what you try to do to prevent it.
People who are often labelled as control freaks, in my opinion, are just people who want things under control. They don’t want the whole situation to be chaotic, out-of-control, crazy. Sometimes situations do get that way, and so people who have natural leadership qualities tend to take charge to get things under control. Many people labelled control freaks are quite happy to sit back if someone else who is a responsible leader is the one getting things under control. If they jump in and take charge regardless, I believe that they’re just scared. If you’re all on a raft heading down the river to Niagara Falls and the leader is not coaching everyone to row to shore, then you’re going to freak out and take over the lead.
The thing is, sometimes you just think you’re headed for Niagara Falls and you’re terrified so you take over when you don’t need to. We phobics can be like that sometimes. But don’t let anyone tell you that you’re a freak.