Learn what to do, even if you are one of them.
Unless you live on a deserted island, you will need to deal with controlling individuals. Controlling individuals perceive control as an all-or-nothing experience and bid for total control in order to avoid experiencing pain, such as feelings of fear, despair or shame.
Giving up control is equated with “being out of control.” Therefore, they tend to try to manage both the external – people, circumstances, and tasks, as well as the internal – all intangible aspects of their personal lives.
These individuals have difficulty expressing and dealing with their needs, wants and feelings. This in turn leads to anger issues because their needs are not being met. Due to these unmet needs, they are disrespectful of other people’s needs and boundaries. They fear conflict, but have a knack for creating conflict and discord.
The following four styles illustrate common ways control freaks disguise their attempts to control:
1. Sweet Controller – This person is often passive-aggressive, polite, pleasant and sweet in order to get what he or she wants, seemingly innocent and charming. Initially we respond positively to them, but later we are left with a bad taste in our mouth as we recognize we are being manipulated, used and/or played.
2. Distant Controller – This person is rigid, emotionally cold, detailed oriented efficient and often a perfectionist. It is difficult to get close to him or her as they don’t let down their guard easily. He or she has difficulty with teamwork and collaborative efforts as they believe they know best and automatically assume others will let them down. With this individual you can feel invisible.
3. Passive Controller– This person is a Martyr. He or she will tell you to do what you want and that they don’t care. But the hidden message is “You actually better know and do what I want; if you don’t, you will be punished.” With this individual you are in a catch 22 – damned if you do and damned if you don’t; therefore, it leaves you feeling powerless or helpless.
4. Angry Controller – This person is a bully and is ruthless. He or she says to the world, “I want what I want, when I want it, and I will get it.” It’s their way or the highway. With this individual you will feel intimidated.
If you are in a relationship with a controlling individual, the best way to handle their tactics is to ignore the controlling behaviors and keep your focus on your needs or what you want. Do not get sidetracked trying to fix their unhealthy, abusive tactics as this will trap you in a conflict – a negative cycle of defending and offending each other.
If you are in a close relationship then you can request a behavioral change. State the behavior that is upsetting you, let him or her know how it makes you feel and what behavior you would like in its place.
The only areas we truly have control over is our beliefs, attitudes and actions. Otherwise, we have only some control or really no control at all. If you have issues with control, be willing to give up some control. Start with letting go of the easiest things first, such as what movie you’ll watch or dictating to your partner how to load the dishwasher. As you learn to let go of control in those less important areas, you can then proceed towards the harder areas that cause the greatest pain.
Letting go of control will increase your ability to listen to yourself and others and increase your ability to trust. Letting go of control will also increase peace, serenity, balance and intimacy in your life and in your relationships.
Black, Claudia, PhD; Changing Course. MN: Hazelden, 1999.