Humans have an innate need to control their environment. We control our environments in all different kinds of ways, sometimes even in ways we don’t think about in terms of “control.” Even if we’re not a self-proclaimed “control-freak,” we still exert control over things in our lives in order to keep things at a manageable level. We clean (control) our homes, our yards, our work spaces, our vehicles, and the things we use and wear. We manage (control) our finances by working for money, paying bills, budgeting, couponing, saving, and spending. We control our bodies through diet and exercise. We do whatever we can to manage every aspect of our lives in order to keep the calm, contain the clutter, and quell the chaos.
But what happens when control slips away and the management level is breaking the ceiling?
I see two typical responses to losing control. We either smile, throw caution to the wind, and go with the flow (although we still control the situation to some degree within reason.) Or, we buckle down and break out every tool we have to grab a hold of what we feel we’re losing or have lost. We might show this vain attempt at control in extremes as we yell, scream, cry, or even physically try to manipulate the situation (or the people) we’re dealing with. We might show it in more subtle ways, like pulling on the heavy duty rubber gloves and going to town with cleaners or oils or whatever we use to show dominance over our environment. Some kids with autism deal with sensory overload by doing things to control their environment. When they cannot control what’s happening around them, they may exhibit odd behaviors, such as ordering their rooms, turning lights on and off, lining things up, collecting certain items in one place … all of these things are ways for them to control something. Kids may dress or style their hair in outlandish ways because it is the only thing they can control in a home that is in chaos.