Recognizing a controlling person and how to deal with them.
And food for thought - is gentrification a bad thing?
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Mostly, when people talk about control freaks, they think about narcissists, sociopaths, or people with an anti-social personality disorder. The garden variety of controllers out there either get labeled as “caring” or “difficult” and get a pass. Knowing how to spot a controller and what to do about it can help you avoid a lot of confusion, headaches, self-blame, and doing things you would normally not do that can cost you a ton.
Whether the person is your boss, a friend, or a loved one, pay attention and take care to prevent them from taking advantage of you, controlling your life, or talking you into things you’re not comfortable doing. If you discover that this is your situation, don’t feel stupid for not recognizing it sooner or bad for having to pull back. Likely you are a nice, trusting person, and likely you didn’t understand the dynamics of that relationship. Hopefully, this will illuminate your thinking and empower your actions.
I know what to look for and I still find myself surprised at how far someone can take me for a ride before I wise up. Sometimes, another person must point it out or question the situation before I start paying better attention.
The best relationships bring the best out of each person. They feel rewarding and naturally flow easily. Even through challenges, they feel fair and balanced in input and output from each side.
It is not true that relationships are hard. It is true that relationships fall on hard times. Still, if the people involved are good to each other and have each other’s best interest at heart, the difficulties get resolved rationally, caringly, and equitably. There are no losers, only winners. Both emerge on the other side of the conflict better off, with more understanding and more bonded.
If one person constantly asks and always wins, even if they ask nicely, this is a setup, not a relationship. Even your boss should know how to reward for the asking if he or she wants to keep employees happily cooperating.
There are many ways to make someone miserable and to control their actions with or without their knowledge or consent. One does not have to be a diagnosed mental health case to be a perpetrator.
How controllers do it:
The obvious way – demanding. Some people have no issue stating what they want and making it sound like you have no choice but to deliver. They constantly ask for things, favors, compliance, help, etc. They expect you to do it. They give you no choice. They act superior and entitled. Depending on how close you are to them and if you want to avoid a fight or save your job, you’ll likely comply. If they come to you with authority, pull a rank with an “I know better” attitude, you’ll likely comply.
The not so obvious way – they make it look like it’s your idea. They whine and complain about the situation until they make you feel sorry for them and want to do something to help. Their distress becomes your responsibility, which you take seriously. Except it’s not a one-time thing, it never ends. You end up going beyond anything you expected to make the person feel better, do better, and be better. Your compassion has become a codependency.
The tricky way – slowly, over time, until you can’t get out. They find out what makes you tick – your pride, your insecurities, your need for approval and acceptance, etc. They charm you by giving it to you. They tell you what you need to hear. You see them as generous, accepting, and nice. A few months down the road, you find yourself having to wear clothes you usually don’t, buy them things you usually wouldn’t, and make promises going against your own beliefs. They preemptively construct the reality around you for the world to see in which they portray you the way they want you. They commit you to an image and leave you no choice but to act accordingly. They isolate you from other influences that could go against their interest. Whenever you try to pull back or get a better look at the situation, they meet you with an emotional outburst making you feel guilty for not caring enough, not showing up the way they expect you, making all other options wrong and inappropriate.
The jerk way – violence and threats. Yep, a threat to safety is a very convincing manipulation. You become the puppet on the stings of their temper and outbursts. Even if they never physically come at you, threatening you can be enough. Even if they’ve never been violent, threatening to leave, to tell on you, to embarrass you, to withhold resources or affection, to take your children away can be just as powerful as threatening physical harm. It elicits compliance.
The demining way – breaking you down. Sometimes, controllers amplify your insecurities, making you dependent on them. They make fun of you, point out your mistakes and make you feel stupid. They tear you down in front of your friends, embarrassing or deliberately contradicting you. When you feel worthless, they tell you to count your blessing for having them still around. You can’t imagine life without them because, let’s face it, you can’t do anything yourself. You have no redeeming qualities, no skills, no good judgment. Who are you anyway?
The theatrical way – they create drama. Emotionally charging a situation gets the focus on them rather than on the issue at hand. It stops being about things, issues, dilemmas, and ideas. It becomes all about them. They cry, yell, argue, blame, exaggerate, make unreasonable accusations, and demands. And then, they turn around and tell you that their emotional state is all your fault, and now you must concede to console them. After a while, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You will do anything to avoid getting them emotionally upset. You will walk on eggshells trying to spare yourself the drama.
What to do if you feel controlled:
Buy time and get space. The only way to tell if you are manipulated and controlled is to remove yourself from the situation for a period and see how it feels. Do you feel relieved? Do you feel helpless? Do you feel clarity and have ideas you were afraid to have before? Do you feel like life is returning to you? If yours is a healthy relationship, you should not feel any of these things. You should feel yourself, miss the person a little but perfectly capable and at ease with being alone. There shouldn’t be much difference in how you feel and think about yourself when you are with the person and when away from them.
Question. In that time and space alone, introspectively and retrospectively, revisit the decisions you’ve made in the time you’ve been with the person and see how you really feel about them. Did you really want to make these decisions? How easy or hard was it for you finally make them? Are your decisions in or out of alignment with what you believe in general and specifically? What happened to bring about a decision that you would otherwise not make? What conversations took place? What reasons were given to convince you? Were you convinced or simply gave in or gave up? Who do you know yourself to be, and who are you now?
Test the theory. If you suspect that you are manipulated, how can you test the theory? Say, you’ve agreed to buy a house, but you suspect that your partner has been pulling your strings because you are surprised that you are even considering it. To test the theory that you’ve been controlled and manipulated into this, you simply suggest that you guys wait another year or two before you get a house. See what the reaction will be. Will your partner say, “OK, you’re right, let’s talk about it in a year?” Will they say, “no way, we’ve already told everyone we are buying a house?” Will they sulk, throw a fit, make you feel guilty for not keeping your promises? Threaten to leave you? Or just roll with the punches, try to understand your concerns, and remain patient.
Asking for more time to think about something is a legit way to piss someone off who’s trying to get what they want and thinks they’ve got it in the bag. You will know exactly where things stand when you throw a curveball and watch their reaction. Not sure you want to get married – ask for more time to think about it and a prenup. Not sure if you really want children – ask for more time and offer alternatives like adoption or volunteering to work at a children’s organization. Not sure if you want the extra responsibility your boss throws at you – ask to revisit your job description and to think about it.
Even skilled controllers freak out when they feel that they are losing control! And they become more impatient!
Say no. When you suspect you may be controlled, become even more vigilant about your boundaries. Become more consistent with saying “no” when that’s what you want to say. Notice how you talk to yourself and what you tell yourself on the way to saying “yes.” It will tell you a lot about why you are saying “yes” when you are unsure or want to say “no.” If unsure, always ask to think about it. If the person objects, then just say “no.”
Talk to other people. In the grips of a situation, to remain objective may not be possible, especially if heavily invested in it. However, talking to outsiders can give you a perspective, especially if they care about you.
Consider others’ experiences. Look at similar situations and how others have dealt with them. Do you know examples of people in your shoes? What did you think about their decisions then? What advice did you want to give them? If you don’t know anyone, imagine your best friend in your situation asking you for your take on it. Likely, you need to give yourself the same advice, and follow it!
Expect things to become uncomfortable. Once you reject the programming, expect turbulence. The other person, especially if they are used to getting their way, will rebel against your autonomy. Expect time for things to adjust. Prepare and rehearse what you want to say to minimize the negative impact and to make sure you say and do the right thing. Expect the other person to keep trying what they know to have worked in the past. If they don’t correct their behavior, expect the possibility of parting ways.
Share your stories of surviving controllers in the comments! Help everyone with your insights!
I just watched these two videos by Vox on gentrification and affordable housing.
I stumbled upon them thanks to YouTubes algorithm clearly knowing what I am curious about. Nevertheless, I had to think about these subjects for a while because I’ve had these thoughts roaming around in my head for a while. Perhaps, I am not as crazy as I seem. LOL
Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks for reading.