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High self-control is generally considered a positive attribute, often associated with success in various areas of life, such as career advancement, maintaining a fitness routine, or resisting unhealthy food cravings. However, a theory proposed by Professor Thomas Lynch in 2018 suggests that high self-control might not always have positive effects and could be associated with specific mental health issues.

The good and bad of undercontrol and overcontrol

Lynch’s theory suggests that individuals tend to exhibit either undercontrol or overcontrol in their personality styles, influenced by factors such as genetics, societal reinforcement, life experiences, and coping mechanisms. It’s crucial to note that neither undercontrol nor overcontrol is inherently good or bad, as most people possess psychological flexibility to adapt to various situations and effectively manage life’s challenges and setbacks.

Both undercontrol and overcontrol can lead to problems when biological, social, and personal factors reduce flexibility. Problematic undercontrol is often characterized by a lack of inhibitions and emotional control, resulting in unpredictable behavior influenced by their mood, which can adversely impact relationships, education, finances, work, and health.

Numerous therapies are available to assist individuals who struggle with undercontrol, helping them to manage their emotions and enhance self-discipline. Examples include cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on regulating thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, and dialectical behavior therapy, tailored for those who experience intense emotions.

Excessive overcontrol can negatively impact life

However, the issue of overcontrol is often overlooked, as traits like persistence, planning, and emotional control are valued in society. Nonetheless, excessive overcontrol can have detrimental effects on various aspects of life.

Highly overcontrolled individuals may find it challenging to adapt to change and are resistant to new experiences and criticism. They tend to be rigid in their ways, struggle with envy, and have difficulty enjoying social situations. They often hide their emotions, leading to social isolation and loneliness, ultimately affecting their mental health.

Conventional psychological therapies may not be effective for overcontrolled individuals as they emphasize self-control and emotion regulation, whereas what they need is a therapy that encourages relaxation and letting go.