Who’s Controlling You?

Who’s Controlling You?  Who Are You Controlling?  Strategies for Change by Carol Rogne.  Outskirts Press, Inc. Denver Colorado.  2011.

Pg 8:  Attributed power is power that is given to others.  In our culture we often assign power to persons who are male and are of the majority race.  We may also attribute power to persons who have high intelligence, special talents, wealth, and are attractive.  People who have inherited a powerful name or reputation from their parents may be viewed as having more power than others.  We view these people as superior, which causes an imbalance in the power structure.  In personal relationships this imbalance will eventually cause communication and other relationship difficulties.

Pg 11:  This diagram illustrates the positions of one-up, and one-down and the neutral position.  There are only two power positions: up or down when one uses a competitive, dichotomous, either-or way of thinking.  Taking a one-up position is sometimes called capping.  Being critical, taking over conversations, or ordering, directing, and commanding are ways of taking a one-up position.  Sometimes one-up comments are about trivial things, for example, “You eat weird.”  But more often, controllers establish a one-up, superior position by more serious personal attacks such as, “You can’t think your way out of a paper bag!”  or, “You wouldn’t last a day without me!”  or, “It’s always better to do it myself because you always mess things up!”

In contrast, a controller might take a one-down position, especially when a one-up position is not successful at getting compliance.  This is posturing as being helpless or victimized and using guilt or other one-down strategies to control another person.  An example of a one-down statement is, “You have time for everyone else, but not for me.”  The unspoken message is that the person being manipulated is unkind and inconsiderate.  Or, “I can’t possibly pay you because I have so many other bills.”  The unspoken message is that the person is insensitive because they expect to be paid by someone who is financially overburdened.  By taking a one-down position, the other person will often agree or comply because they feel obligated or guilty.  When this happens, the controller re-claims the one-up position.

Pg 12:  The following is a one-up, one-down scenario:

Controller A:  “You are over-reacting!”  (This is a one-up statement to establish a superior, one-up position).

Person B: “I am not over-reacting.  Your behavior is abusive.” (This is an assertive statement.  Person B is not manipulated into a one-down position.)

Controller A:  “Abusive!  What is that supposed to mean?”  (Another one-up statement.  The unspoken message is that Person B is exaggerating and way off base.)

Person B: “I am not over-reacting.  Your behavior is abusive.” (Person B is taking an assertive position and repeating what was previously said.)

Controller A:  “Well, I guess I must be a really bad person!” (This is a one-down statement, meant to manipulate Person B to retract the statement.  If the person retracts, Person A resumes the one-up position.)

Person B: “Your behavior is abusive.” (Person B does not retract the statement.)

Pg 15:  Despite how controllers stay in denial and distort the truth, emotional and mental abuse is interpersonal violence because it is an assault on the emotional and mental health of the recipients.  The harm that is caused by emotional and mental control is like a broken leg that does not heal, causing everyday pain and hindering movement and life itself.

Controlling persons use their power to create fear or guilt so that less powerful persons will be subservient and compliant.

Pg 19:  Emotional and mental control within relationships adversely affects people that we claim to love, sabotages healthy communication and problem solving processes, and slowly destroys emotional bonding and intimacy.  Very often, neither the controller nor the person controlled realizes that power used to control others is corroding the relationship.  Emotional and mental abuse can be overt and recognizable, but often is subtle, manipulative, and difficult to describe.

Though it may be difficult to believe, we are often unaware of how we are controlling or how we are enabling the control, though it is often evident to others.

Pg 20:  Whether the controlling behaviors are intentional or unintentional, they are behaviors that are disrespectful, abusive, and interpersonally violent.

Pg 27:  controllers are both male and female, but our society gives permission for males to be dominant and discourages the same for females….Controllers can be polite and very caring, especially in the early stages of relationships.  They can also be mean, moody, and critical of others to get what they want.

Research confirms that people who use their power to control others act more selfishly, impulsively, and aggressively.  They have low self-esteem, are often insecure, are self-consumed, and have difficulty taking others’ perspectives….lack skills in handling their stress, anger, and disappointments.  The most common forms of controlling behaviors are anger causing fear in others (the one-up position), and projecting guilt toward others (the one-down position) in an effort to get compliance.

There are a number of reasons why controlling behaviors are not immediately recognized by people who are emotionally and mentally controlled:

  • Controlling behaviors can be subtle and manipulative.
  • Controlling behaviors are so prevalent that they are often viewed as normal.
  • Recipients of control often blame themselves for relationship problems.
  • It is difficult to think clearly when being badgered with criticisms and other controlling tactics.  Energies are spent emotionally dodging arrows rather than stepping back, assessing the situation, and developing proactive strategies for coping or dealing with the control.
  • We love someone who we thought was right for us and to acknowledge that a controller is emotionally harming us is an assault on our beliefs.
  • During courtship we may not have experienced being controlled.  Controlling behaviors often escalate as the relationship progresses.
  • Because we usually like and trust people, it takes time to realize that controllers do not have our best interests in mind.  Rather, they have their best interests in mind.
  • We may not share our experiences of being controlled with other people because we don’t want to complain about the person we love.  We may think that it is bad-mouthing when we decide to talk about the emotional and mentally abusive behaviors we are experiencing.  We often feel guilty about sharing what goes on in our relationship because we think we need to keep the family secrets.  However, this only serves to protect the controller’s dysfunctional behaviors.

Pg 32:  He always thought he did things right and I did things wrong.  If the kids made noise while he was watching TV, I was at fault for not making them be quiet.  If I happened to be watching an interesting show on TV and he came in the room and wasn’t interested, he simply changed the channel and I felt like a non-person and that he must be better than I am.  There was never any compromising.  As a result, I stopped watching any TV.  He didn’t like it when I felt good and was excited about something, so I started to act like I felt badly when I was really feeling good.

Pg 33:  I have decided that sarcastic humor is a coward’s way of expressing anger because the anger is not expressed directly and appropriately.  With this realization, I once asked him, ‘Let’s talk about what you are really angry about.’  He had no response.  Usually, when he was confronted, he would be silent and walk away.  But as far as sarcastic humor, I’ve been there, heard that, done that and won’t put up with any more of it.

Pg 35: 6. Control by maintaining one knows what is right:  Controllers think that they are right and anybody that questions or confronts the controller is wrong, stupid, or incompetent.  They overtly or covertly communicate that the imbalance in relationship power is right and is how relationships should function.  Controllers’ spoken or unspoken words are, “I need to correct you!” However, the other person is never allowed to decline the offer.  Another tactic is patronizing and giving advice with a haughty attitude of superiority.

Controllers also think that people should have the same priorities because they think they are right about priorities and get upset when others have different views as to what is important and less important.

Pg 36:  Anything that inconvenienced him was deemed as either wrong or unnecessary.  This different way of thinking was a major discovery for me.  Once I saw through this self-serving way of thinking, I could more easily dismiss it and not take it seriously.

Kelly talks about her priorities being different from those of her husband:

His priorities for me were that I work, be sexually available, keep the house clean and last, be the primary caretaker of our children.  My priority list was different.  My top priority was my children, then work, then keeping the house clean and bills paid, and last, be sexually available because I had difficulty being sexual when there was no emotional intimacy between us.  He often told me I had my priorities all wrong.

Pg 36: 7. Control by diminishing the self-esteem of others: Attacking what person say, do, or their personhoods, diminishes self-esteem and self-confidence.  If self-esteem is diminished, the recipient of control is less able to confront or leave a controller.  Controllers will sometimes preface their conversations by such statements as, “Don’t take this personally, but…” or, “I’ll be honest with you…” and then say something that is very demeaning and often untruthful.  If the recipient is offended because the statement was personal, he or she is accused of being too sensitive or inadequate in some way.

Pg 37:  9. Control by directing a partner to stop associating with family, friends, coworkers or a support group:  Controllers often criticize anyone connected to the recipient of control or make guilt statements when spouses choose to be with other people.  Often, controllers insist that the relationship with them should be top priority, despite the fact that their behaviors provide no motivation for a spouse to be with them.

Pg 38:  I now realize the importance of my family of origin and how we all got lost to each other in our marriages….I slowly lowered my expectations on my spouse regarding wanting an emotional connection.  I finally came to realize connecting emotionally would only happen if there were some kind of miracle.

Pg 39:  11. Control by expressed or unspoken expectations:  Controllers’ expectations regarding activities, need for help, or need for attention and affection are seldom expressed directly, but in round-about and subtle ways.  If controllers’ expectations are not met, they do not believe that it is because their expectations are unreasonable.  Rather, controllers believe it is because of the controlled person’s inadequacies, faults, or lack of compliance in not meeting what is viewed by the controller as reasonable expectations.

Pg 41:  Now I am more centered on myself, with an inner focus, rather than being focused on him.  I am not sacrificing myself by trying to be who he wants me to be, whatever that is; I’m not sure.  It may not look from the outside that I have made changes, but on the inside, I am very different in a good way.

  1. 12.    Control by having an attitude of entitlement:  Controllers often think that they are entitled to others’ services, love, and attention.

But it was a lot easier to be sexual with him, than to put up with his moodiness and sarcasm the next several days.

Pg 42:  13.  Control by lying, exaggerating, or distorting information:  The words “never” and “always” are clues to untruthful or exaggerated statements.  Besides taking a superior stance, these communications are used to protect or defend the controller or to make another person feel guilty.  These tactics create a lot of unnecessary confusion and drama in a relationship and nothing is accomplished.

Pg 44: 16. Control by keeping the “Relationship Rule Book”: Controllers make the rules and enforce them whenever, however, and wherever they can.  They believe that they know what is best for other persons.  i.e., The rules were, ‘I am superior, you are inferior, and you are to be subservient and compliant.  You need to please me, but I don’t have to please you.  I am important but you are not important.  I can scold, interrupt and have expectations of you, but you can’t scold, interrupt or have expectations of me.  You are to make all the emotional investments in the relationship because that is your responsibility, not mine.  You are to dress, act, think, and feel in ways that please me.  You need to appreciate me but I don’t need to appreciate you.  I am independent.’

Pg 46:  19. Control by non-approval:  This critical approach conveys the message, “Regardless of what you do, I know you’ll mess it up some way.”

The fact that I had a right to live by my own standards and not hers was a major, life-changing revelation for me.  When I ignored her silence and moodiness and went about my life using my own rules, I was amazed that a bolt of lightning didn’t strike me down.  Rather, I felt better.

Pg 92:  Controllers are critical of others because they are critical of themselves and compensate by making others feel inferior.

Codependent relationships are “A-frame” relationships, and if one side of the A-frame falls, the other person topples over as well.  We try to orchestrate each other’s life at the expense of keeping our own life in order.

Pg 95:  Controllers minimize the significance of power differences so that the existing inequalities remain as they are, and the unfairness is not confronted.

Pg 96:  To the extent that subordinate people or groups are willing to conform to the standards and expectations of more powerful persons, they are considered to be well adjusted.  This requires them to be submissive, compliant, and dependent, which are behaviors that are contrary to all definitions of positive mental health.

Pg 97:  It is not uncommon that when women demonstrate their personal power, the outcome is criticism from men and often from other women who view their leadership behaviors as aggressive.  This discourages the use of personal power in a direct way.  As a result, women often use their power indirectly to get around, under, or over men in order to proceed with a project.

Whenever there is an imbalanced power structure, there is anger, distance, dishonesty, stress, and distance within the relationship.

Pg 98:  Many of us can create our own ways of relating and living, rather than behaving as a dominant or a subordinate person…We can surrender our control if we are controlling others and learn ways to confront emotional and mental abuse, rather than enabling it.  We can be our own person, functioning in ways that make moral and ethical sense to us.

Pg 103:  The down side of the competitive model is that it does not work well in personal relationships.

Pg 105:  Males are expected to be dominant and are given societal permission to control, whereas women are expected to be passive, subservient and enable the control.

Pg 146:  When I confronted, I did not cry or have angry outbursts.  Before, when I lost control of my feelings, I was told I was over-reacting, out-of-control and that I was the problem.

Pg 153:  I had no quarrels with anyone and had no other relationship problems other than in my marriage.  With growing awareness I started seeing the controlling behaviors that created problems.  It became clearer that I couldn’t stop the relationship from continuing to deteriorate.  I realized that the problems and the emotional distance in our marriage were not all my fault.  I began realizing how he was creating the hassles and then blaming me.  I finally started to think my own thoughts, feel my own feelings, have my own opinions, and make choices that were more in line with my values.

Pg 154:  Sue shares how she felt that there was something wrong with her:

Not just once did I think this—I thought this for several years!  That is what my controller said in sarcastic ways so frequently that I think I was brainwashed.  I just kept buying into his statements.  I thought I had to have a good enough reason to leave like if he would have an affair or if he would physically abuse me.  Sometimes I felt like I was right in the middle of a country western song!  Then I started to think that I could survive if I needed to make a change, despite being told I would never make it.  The most important thing for me was to understand the ways of control and develop a language for my experience.  Part of this understanding was figuring out his one-up, one-down way of thinking and talking.

Pg 155:  I now realize that he taught me how to be single because he was never a true emotional partner.  Since my relationship began, I was really emotionally single but had the restrictions of marriage.  The only time I was lonely and vulnerable in my life was the years I was in an empty marriage and wanting an emotional connection.  After I left my marriage, I never felt lonely again, and at fist, this surprised me.

Pg 156:  At times, controllers think they are being controlled by those they are controlling because they are experiencing reactive controlling behaviors of the control recipients, such as rebelling and behaving in other ways to upset the controller….They often blame others, refuse to take responsibility for relationship difficulties and seldom acknowledge any weak areas within themselves.  Closed minds do not hear, distort what is heard, or reject what is heard as false or unimportant.  Controllers often create their own reality, which is saturated with denial, self-protective attitudes, and ways of thinking.  Information which is challenging to the controller is rejected.  Controllers often stay in denial about their own unacceptable behaviors, which for them are viewed as normal and not abusive.

Pg 157:  As a result, attitude and behavior changes are unlikely to happen.

Controlling persons, behind the façade of being emotionless do have emotions and many are very caring.  Their emotions include feeling rejected, insecure, confused, and hurt, as well as feeling love and concern for others that may be held within and rarely expressed.

Pg 158:  controllers also excuse their inappropriate behaviors by using outside factors, such as drinking too much, having a stressful day, or having to work with incompetent people….Understanding subordinates carries no interest because controllers view them as inferior and not worthy of concern.  Dominants fail to ask for input from subordinates, which results in a poor understanding of less powerful persons’ experiences, thoughts, and feelings….Typically, controllers look strong on the outside but have less inner strength than most subordinates.  Emotional pain develops inner strength, but by staying in denial and blaming others, controllers can side-step their pain for a considerable length of time….controlling persons have power but may not feel powerful.  They may think that they are expected to make the decisions and be a major source of the family income, but do not receive the recognition or appreciation they deserve.  They are often shocked when a spouse announces that he or she is leaving.  They usually have not heard the previous conversations and confrontations or ignore the indicators that the relationship is at risk.  Because of denial, intervention in earlier stages of marital dysfunction is seen as unnecessary to the controller and as a result, the relationship continues to deteriorate.

Pg 159:  Other common behaviors of controllers

  • Minimal listening, negotiating, and communicating with family members
  • Difficulty understanding why people are reactive to their behaviors which they often view as helpful rather than controlling.
  • Uses a do-it-my-way approach

Pg 164:  Joey talks about his criticizing:

Okay, I criticized her and it probably wasn’t right.  But she makes it sound like I am abusing her or something.  I’ve never laid a hand on her.  But she has turned really cold and uncaring.  Sometimes she doesn’t even have supper made when I come home and I get upset.  She gets home at 4:30 so should be able to put together something to eat.  She always takes care of the kids, but they always come first, and I am sick of it.  She’d do anything for them, but if I ask her for one little thing, it’s a big deal.  And I let her do anything that she wants to do.  I don’t know what is wrong with her—seems like she just doesn’t want to be around me.  I hope she gets over her moods.

Pg 170:  Levels one and two are ways we communicate to colleagues, supervisors, sales persons, and customers.

For people who are uncomfortable or not interested in talking about feelings, there are ways of ending communications on level three and four.  Diverting to a different topic, or using trite phrases such as, “Well, it will be better tomorrow,” or, “You are always too emotional” are ways of shutting down the communication and forcing movement toward more comfortable, unemotional topics such as sports or the weather.  Closing off communication is a way of controlling another person by the way we communicate.

Pg 172:  A place where men share feelings and are accepted is in Twelve Step recovery meetings.  For many men, this is the fist experience of seeing other males self-disclose, share deep feelings, and be emotionally supported by other people.

Pg 173:  Most responsible adults want to make their own decisions, rather than being told what to do and will ask for advice when they want feedback or someone’s expertise.  They would like their thoughts, likes, dislikes, frustrations, opinions and feelings to be acceptable communication topics, especially when communicating with a significant person.

Pg 175:  We may be very effective communicators, but when power structures are unequal, our communication skills are disabled.  For dominant people who think in terms of one-up and one-down, speaking is often considered to be the one-up position.  When a controller takes a superior position, there is judging, criticizing, minimizing, ridiculing, and offering what are believed to be the right solutions.  These controlling behaviors sabotage meaningful conversation.

Pg 177:  When we develop an emotional language and use our own voice, we can articulate our experiences, which is self-empowering…When we discover a word to describe the feeling, we can then “pin it down” and make it real to us.  Naming the feeling clarifies it.  It is no longer eluding us….when we name the feeling, we can then work with the feeling.  It is ours.  We can take charge and make choices as to what we are going to do with the feeling.

Pg 178:  By developing our language and discovering and using our own voice, we are more able to identify the controlling behavior and directly state what we are thinking and feeling.  We can speak with clarity when we set limits and state that we are no longer willing to be a recipient of emotional and mental control.

Pg 179:  When we are aggressive, we are not respectful of others.  Assertiveness is being honest and respectful to both ourselves and others.  When we experience controlling behaviors directed toward us, we can make statements clearly, firmly, and directly, such as “No!” or, “What you just said is verbally abusive to me,” or, “Please stop manipulating me with guilt.”  It may be a challenge for us to actually communicate these simple statements without taking them back, apologizing for saying them, or feeling guilty because our controller chooses to have hurt feelings when faced with the truth.

The basics of being assertive:

  • Communicate in a neutral, middle power position rather than a superior, one-up, aggressive position; or an inferior, one-down, passive position.
  • Set a time and place to speak to the controller.
  • Rehearse in your mind or write down what needs to be said.  You can also think about possible responses by the controller and mentally prepare assertive responses in return.
  • Start sentences with “I,” rather than “You,” to avoid blaming statements.
  • Speak with truthfulness, firmness, respectfulness, kindness, and in normal tones.
  • Listen as well as speak.
  • Be specific about the behavior that is offensive to you by speaking directly, rather than expecting the person to “get the drift.”
  • Use short sentences when confronting.
  • Resist the temptation to end the conversation because of emotional discomfort.
  • Stick to the specifics of the current situation rather than bringing up past hurts.
  • Repeat the original statement if the other person becomes defensive, starts discounting what is being said, or changes the topic.
  • Go slowly and pay attention to what is happening in the communication process.
  • Take a time-out if there is the possibility of an eruption of anger.
  • Practice calming inner self-talk.
  • Being assertive also means affirming others.  Thank your controller for listening and for her/his time.

Pg 180:  Communication is a process.  When there are communication errors the process breaks down.  It is like driving a car.  When the wheels fall off, or the brakes don’t work, or the engine breaks down, the car is unable to take us to our destination.  We automatically stop and repair the car.  It is the same with communication.  We cannot continue to communicate with a process that is broken down and expect good results.  We have to stop and reflect on what needs to be repaired.  Did we start attacking each other?  Is someone shutting down?  Is someone becoming angry?  Is our partner not listening?  These errors have to be corrected before we continue to share feelings, ideas, or negotiate problems in the relationship.

Pg 181:  When communication is abusive, we can tell the controller that we are no longer willing to put up with verbal or mental abuse.  At the end of a sentence, we need to drop the level of our voice, which conveys that there is nothing more to talk about.  Self-advocacy is using our words and asking for what we need.  It is learning to say no when we need to say no, or we can say, “Not now, but I could do it later,” or, “I have plans, so I can’t do that.”

Standing up and advocating for ourselves is likely to be viewed by a controller as being aggressive, selfish, and unappreciative.  If we suspect that these accusations will be made, we can be prepared for such statements.  We can resolve to not internalize the statements as truth.  We can decide whether or not to confront the statements.

Pg 182:  Some statements are so off-base, false, and manipulative, that they are not worthy of being heard.

  • About silence: there is a type of silence that is created because the controller is taken off-guard and has no response, because he/she is faced with the truth.  When this silence happens, do not break the silence in order to make it more comfortable for the controller.  This is a learned skill in how not to be a rescuer.  Silence can be quite uncomfortable but let it take its course.

Pg 183:  And I can never do anything right according to you!” (angrily walks out of room)

As in most power struggles, nothing was resolved, but there were a lot of personal attacks, which feel like arrows coming from someone that we care about.

Pg 184:  There may be some underlying relationship issues that are festering and rather than discussing the real problem, partners engage in power struggles over minor issues.

…we need to keep in mind that in the early stages of an argument or power struggle, we can either escalate or de-escalate the argument, which requires self-control.

If anyone has been drinking or using drugs, there is no point in engaging in communication because it is likely to end up in a power struggle.  We can also reduce the number of power struggles by deciding whether an issue is important.  If it is a minor irritation or incident, it is not worth a power struggle.  If it is important, both partners need to commit to talking about it rationally and respectfully and agree to solve the problem.

Pg 185:

  • We can refuse to engage in a power struggle in front of children or the first thing in the morning before everyone goes to work or school.  We don’t want our children to start their school day being upset and we don’t want negative feelings to bleed into our whole day.
  • Validating the thoughts and feelings of the other person is a way to diffuse defensiveness and anger.  “That is a good idea,” or, “I think I understand you, so now we need to think of how we can resolve our differences” are statements that reduce the tension and increase the chances for successful brain-storming and resolution.
  • If verbal statements become more aggressive, the best strategy is to take a break: “Let’s take a time-out and have this discussion after we have both cooled down.  How about 7:00 tonight?”

Power struggles simply drain our energy, create stress and negative feelings, and nothing gets resolved.  Besides having an emotional hangover, there is usually a period of silence between partners who are each stuck in negative feelings that can last for long periods of time.  This is not a good use of our personal energies and is not respectful of ourselves or of the person we claim to love.

Pg 186:  When we have a re-occurring conflict, each person can move slightly toward the center in their positions.  For example, if one partner tends to spend too much and th other person is extremely frugal, both persons can agree to move toward the middle.  The changes need to be clearly defined.  We can become skilled in conflict and understand that almost everything is negotiable, except for safety issues.

We need to be specific when talking to our controller about the mental or emotional abuse.  Making it clear as to what we will no longer tolerate is important.  Statements can be made, such as, “I am no longer going to be quiet when your controlling behaviors are affecting the children,” or, “I’m no longer going to ask permission to spend money on needed supplies for our family,” or, “I am no longer going to be worried about hurting your feelings when I confront your verbal abuse,” or, if the conversation is escalating, “I am excusing myself from this conversation,” or, when frustrated, “I am tired of living like this.”

Pg 187:  Don’t be surprised if your controller acts as if nothing has been heard.  Controllers’ ways of dealing with confrontation might be to ignore what is said, and think that we will eventually settle down and forge about it. Or, controllers may use their pattern of excusing their behaviors by assigning blame to an external cause.  If we are confrontational about a situation that was hurtful, they may tell us that something stressful must have happened during our day and that we came home and dumped our anger on them.  By focusing on external causes, they excuse themselves from taking personal responsibility.  If communication ended at this point, the controller did “win” because he/she managed to end an unpleasant conversation, but we also “won” by standing up for ourselves and confronting, even though there was not a totally successful resolution.

Staying credible requires not having angry outbursts or emotionally breaking down and crying.  When we lose control of our behaviors, we will be dismissed as out-of-control, and we become “the problem.”  It doesn’t’ work the same for controllers.  When controllers get abusive with their anger, they often claim that someone made them lose control and often do not take responsibility for their aggressive behaviors.

Pg 188: Staying credible is talking about specifics and speaking in normal and confident voice tones.  In all of our interactions with controllers, whether they are a spouse, mother, father, child, or employer, we want to present ourselves in a confident manner, neither superior, aggressive, and one-up; nor inferior, passive, and one-down.  By doing this, we will not be giving our controllers a reason to discredit what we are saying.

Regardless of how credibly we confront an issue, we may be accused of creating a hassle.  Controllers twist and distort words, and disagreeing with them is often viewed as creating an unnecessary problem.  When a controller is confronted, the person who is confronting may be labeled as mean, unreasonable or other derogatory names.

We can communicate in ways that put the responsibility where it belongs, rather than assuming we are at fault.  For example, rather than saying, “I don’t understand you,” (suggesting we are at fault), it is better and perhaps more accurate to say, “Could you explain that more clearly?”

Pg 198:  If our request or statement is met with defensiveness or anger, which is a one-up position, or a guilt statement, which is the one-down position, we can repeat the same request or statement in the same, credible manner, using normal voice tones.  Controllers often don’t know what to do when someone stands firm in an assertive, equal, middle position, which is neither one-up and superior, nor one-down and inferior.

Pg 191:  We can ask questions such as, “What do you mean?” or, “Could you repeat that, so that you are more clear?”  A controller often hesitates to repeat a remark because it was abusive, distorted, exaggerated, or untrue.  A typical reaction of controllers, when they are asked to repeat what they just said, is silence.  Or, they may become defensive because they feel they are being challenged.  We can then restate the question.  We are conveying the message that we are no longer willing to be doormats to walk on, dumping grounds for their anger, and are holding the controller accountable for what she/he says.

Pg 192:  When we provide too many details, it sounds as if we have done something wrong.

Keeping communications shorter is more effective because we are not taking a one-down, apologetic position and there will be fewer verbal accusations or sarcastic comments that come back at us in an abusive way.  It is also a way to retain our personal power by proactively choosing what we want to share.  To a controlling question, we can make short statements, such as “I was doing errands.”  It doesn’t hurt to be a bit mysterious at times, rather than spilling out everything that we did, all the reasons for doing it, and making excuses for doing things that do not require excuses.

We don’t have to feel as if we have to justify the space we take up on the planet, nor do we have to make excuses and apologize for where we go and whom we are with, or be dishonest about what we are doing when there is no reason to be dishonest.

We can convey in kind and short sentences that we are responsible adults who do not need a controller to tell us what to do.  Controllers’ behaviors are about being superior, but if we refuse to play their mind games, controllers are disarmed.

Pg 194:  However, talking negatively about a person [bad-mouthing] is different than describing negative behaviors, which we have a right to do when we are being emotionally or mentally controlled.

Pg 195:  Instead of complaining that we never get to do what we want to do because of our controller, we can make plans for ourselves and proceed with our plans.  If a controller is angry and obnoxious, we can leave the house with our children, if there are children.

We can stop participating in meaningless activities or spending time with dysfunctional people.  We do not have to explain our decision, lie, make excuses, or attribute our decision to someone else, which are all ways we avoid saying the word “no.”

We have a right to make choices.  If we are hesitant about doing what we want to do, we can ask ourselves, “What is my controller going to do, divorce me?”  That probably won’t happen because the controller is often more dependent upon the person being controlled than the reverse….many spouses end up thinking that the bottom-line of their relationship and their divorce was about money and possessions.  They wonder if love was ever a part of the relationship.

Pg 196:  We can give ourselves permission to take our time and be thoughtful in our responses.  This is keeping our power.  We can put the controller “on notice” about a future meeting by saying, “We have some things to discuss.  7:00 tomorrow night works for me, how about you?”  This conveys the message that both people’s time is valuable, not only the controller’s time….we have to be realistic about outcomes.  We do better if we don’t attach high expectations to outcomes when we confront issues, or when the emotional and mental controller makes promises or actually makes small changes.  This is not being pessimistic.  Rather, we are being realistic.

Pg 202:  By preparing ourselves, we can remain in control of ourselves, be calm and confident, and say what we need to say.

We may or may not be successful when we confront our controller.  However, our confronting means that we have made internal changes and are no longer giving our power away by enabling, allowing, accommodating, adjusting, complying, protecting, sacrificing preferences and dreams, and pretending that everything is fine when everything is not fine.  If we have gathered up courage and confronted an issue, regardless of the outcome, we are successful.

Pg 203:  Being controlled is emotionally devastating.  However, it is not helpful to view ourselves as victims.  We can learn strategies to empower ourselves and reclaim our life.

Pg 205:  Twelve Step groups are very helpful and are available to persons in a relationship with someone who is controlling, whether or not they are involved in a substance or activity addiction.  Controllers have many alcoholic, “dry drunk” behaviors.

Pg 207:  Typical data includes the date and times of abusive verbal statements or behaviors of the controller, the outcomes of confronting the controller, and what happens when we refuse to agree, comply, excuse, or enable the controlling behaviors.

Data will give us a clear picture of the emotional dues that we are paying in our relationship.  These dues involve the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual sacrifices that we are making by being in a relationship with a controller.

When we move out of denial, we recognize the reality of emotional and mental abuse and clearly see that controlling behaviors are harmful to a person’s mind, emotions, and spirit.  We stop doubting our perceptions, stop minimizing the emotional damage, stop telling ourselves that things will get better, and stop making excuses for the controller’s behavior.

Pg 209:  Stepping back and focusing on ourselves is empowering.  There may be no change in the controller’s behaviors, but because we are more centered, we realize with certainty that we are not crazy, that here is not something innately wrong with us, and we are not the one who is always at fault, as the controller claims. When we shift our focus from the controller to ourselves, we can begin to take better care of ourselves, which is necessary whether we decide to stay with the controller, are indecisive about the relationship, or decide to leave the controller.

Pg 217:  Our low self-esteem makes us feel undeserving, so we are hesitant to ask for help.  We will often allow our partners to invade our personal boundaries, usurp our personal energy, and steal our freedom and joy.

We are often less emotionally dependent on the controller than she/he is on us, although we may not be aware of this.  Controlling marriage partners teach us to be emotionally independent because they are often not responsible when emotional support is needed.

Pg 219:  In an asymmetrical, unequal power relationship where control is active, communicating is a disappointing experience.  As recipients of emotional and mental abuse, we can stop blaming ourselves and stop thinking that there is something wrong with us for not being able to make communication work.

Pg 220:  …by speaking the words we need to speak, we take back our power.

Pg 224:  When we detach, we emotionally step out of the circle of drama and control.  In our minds, we stay in our own emotional circle, which usually includes our children, supportive friends, and family….We have to stay out of the drama and control circle long enough for the controller to notice that something is changing.

Pg 225:  Whether a spouse or significant other does or does not abuse chemicals, a controller displays many alcoholic behaviors such as blaming others, being aggressively angry, demanding, being dishonest, and living in denial.

Pg 233:  Focusing with our minds is necessary when we learn new behaviors such as setting limits, confronting unacceptable behaviors, making the decision to end a relationship, or planning the steps of actually leaving.  Relying more on our mental abilities rather than allowing ourselves to be ruled by our emotions will result in thinking clearly as we address practical matters and make important decisions.

Pg 235:  We have a right to:

  • Have our feelings and experiences acknowledged as real and valid
  • Live free from unjust criticism, judgments, accusations, and blame
  • Change our mind
  • Be treated with honesty and fairness
  • Have privacy
  • Choose what we do with our body (time)
  • Have friendships and activities of interest

Pg 236:  …when controllers trample on any of these rights, we have a legitimate reason to confront them in a firm and credible manner.

  • If we are afraid of hurting our controller’s feelings by being honest, we need to remind ourselves that controllers are big people, and big people can take care of themselves.  We do not have to enable the control, keep their secrets, or tread lightly so that we don’t step on their egos and insecurities.  If controllers choose to let honest statements hurt them, it is their choice.  If they are upset, they can talk directly to us, share with a friend, or start therapy.

Pg 237:  In honest moments, we may conclude that the love and respect has been destroyed by the controlling behaviors and the relationship is no longer significant to us.  When honesty becomes a principle that we live by, we may no longer be able to pose as a happy couple at social functions.

Because we are being honest with ourselves, we realize that we are making a personal choice and it may no longer be forced choice.

Pg 238:  …believe that we have a right to our thoughts and feelings and are separate and unique human beings.

Pg 239:  Controllers engulf us and as a result, we lose our real selves.

When we are proactive, we plan ahead, take responsibility, and implement a plan in efforts to prevent problems before they arise.  Being proactive is being confident in using our personal power to clearly articulate our thoughts and feelings.

Pg 240:  A pro-active strategy is “pushing the envelope” with our controller to see if we can be who we really are, do what we want, and have the freedom to learn and grow while we are in the relationship.

If we hold resentments toward another, we are bound to that person as if by heavy chains.

Pg 241:  Before we are able to forgive, we have to work through our feelings of hurt, resentment, and anger.

Pg 242:

  • Seeing clearly and acknowledging, rather than denying what we see;
  • Reclaiming our feelings, learning from them, and learning to trust our inner truth;
  • Investing our energies in ourselves, our children, people, and activities where our energies make a positive difference and are welcomed.

Our empowerment helps us to live our lives without someone directing our every move.

Pg 246:  Controllers are known to make sarcastic remarks to the partner who is less sexually interested to instill guilt or to imply that the partner is inadequate or abnormal.  However, the controller’s sarcasm and anger can drive the partner further away, so this type of behavior often results in getting the exact opposite of what one wants.

Pg 247:  There is usually a difference in how emotional pain is experienced in an imbalanced relationship.  A controller, during the marriage, appears to have no emotional pain, whereas the recipient of control may have been struggling emotionally because of being controlled for years.

The reality is more likely to be that the controlled person has been struggling emotionally and is making the decision to leave a relationship that is toxic rather than remain at risk emotionally, physically, mentally, or spiritually.

Pg 248:  Controllers usually do not realize that control creates a time-bomb ticking away within the relationship and a crisis is almost inevitable.

Some controllers will call a counselor to find out how many sessions will be needed to get their partner back, wanting a quick solution to the relationship problems, which is unlikely to happen because the problems in the relationship has become increasingly dysfunctional.

Pg 249:  What the controller does not realize is that his/her many different ways of controlling and the intensification of the control actually confirm that the reasons for leaving the relationship are legitimate.

…there is no way to tell the difference between sincerity and manipulation and whether the behaviors will change for a few days or will be sustained.  There might be loving words and loving gestures, but all of the attention from the controller feels like too much, and too late.  Leaving has taken a lot of thought and energy and because controlled persons are routinely blamed for the relationship problems, they often say, “Blame me, blame yourself, or blame whomever you want to.  I just can’t do this one more day!”

Pg 250:  The difficulty that a controller has in convincing the exiting partner to return to a toxic relationship is made even more difficult if the spouse has physically separated from the controller and is experiencing living without control, which is a new experience that provides relief and emotional freedom.

Controllers often exhibit respectful, non-controlling courting behaviors that are effective when pursuing a relationship.

Pg 251:  They try to determine whether a decision to turn back is based on fear or the reality of the situation…to the difficult decisions in life, including continuing or ending the uphill climb of a dysfunctional relationship or work situation that is emotionally destructive and is unlikely to change.

Pg 252:  Controllers negatively affect their children as well as their partners…But they often gather up incredible energy, courage and strength and go to any lengths to protect and provide physical and emotional safety for their children.

Pg 253:  Considerations when making decisions about a controlling relationship:  The following are typical thoughts of emotionally and mentally controlled persons when they are contemplating staying or leaving a toxic relationship.

  • Receiving what is thought to be the best kind of love the controller can give, even though it doesn’t feel like love and hoping that the loving person in the courting days will come back.
  • Dreading being alone.
  • Holding personal beliefs such as, “This is what I deserve.”
  • Feeling that there will be no one to love again.
  • Thinking, “I am a failure if this relationship fails.”

Pg 254:  Women have been socialized to think in terms of their group, rather than being a unit of one and independent of others.

When taking a risk, there is no way to predict what will happen.  This causes fear and uncertainty until the day comes when a recipient of control thinks, “Regardless of what happens, it will be better than living like this,” and realizes that he/she has no obligation to remain in a relationship with a toxic, dysfunctional partner.

A bottom-line realization in the back and forth thought process is that we are more responsible for our children than for another adult, regardless of what a controller says.  Adults have the power and ability to take care of themselves and can seek out professional help if needed.  In contrast, children need a healthy caretaker.  We are given the sacred gift of life and have a responsibility to take care of it.  We may also have been given the sacred gift of children and are responsible for taking care of them in the best way possible.

Pg 255:  People in emotionally and mentally controlling relationships are the only ones who know what is really going on within the relationship.  What happens in a relationship can be totally different from the image of the relationship that is presented to others.

Leaving a relationship involves disconnection on many levels, including the emotional, mental, and legal.

Pg 256:  Unless the controller agrees to reduce or eliminate controlling behaviors and the changes are sustained, the control issues will resurface.

Male controllers are less likely to have a close, supportive network because their friendships are often not emotionally based.  As a result, they frequently face their emotional pain alone and hesitate to reach out to others for help.

Pg 260:  And often, children believe that the divorce is their fault.

When children are forced to be with a parent who they do not want to be with, they are re-victimized because they are still dealing with the emotional trauma of their parents’ divorce.  Even if lawyers are involved, the children’s best interests are not always seriously considered.  Emotional and mental damage is imposed upon children when parental rights negate the rights of the children.

Pg 261:  Controlling people are usually a closed system, not open to new information, and as a result, do not grow emotionally.  This is similar to being in an addictive process.  We grow older, but our emotional and interpersonal skill development is the same as when the addiction began.  Controllers’ behaviors persist because the behaviors are successful and therefore there is no motivation to learn new skills.

Many controllers do not recognize their behaviors as being interpersonally violent.  However, this lack of awareness does not remove their responsibility, just as ignorance cannot be used as an excuse for breaking the law.

Pg 262:  …the fact that they have many positive values and beliefs.  What is important for controllers to learn is that they are better people than their behaviors indicate.

Controlling people want outcomes and want the outcomes to happen quickly.  In the past, they have solved problems by taking a one-up position, directing others, and making the decisions.  This approach is efficient in terms of time, but is often inconsiderate of others.  Controlling persons often need to learn that changing behaviors is a process, rather than an instant outcome.  A relationship that has been deteriorating for a long time will not be restored easily or in a short period of time.

The first challenge to a controller is to be open to learning about healthy relationships which involve cooperation, respect, and equality.

Pg 263:  What they usually don’t realize is that people who are controlled do not speak to them directly because they know that there is likely to be criticism or conflict.

Pg 266:  Entering a Recovery Process for Addictions

Addictions create a problem in one or more areas of our life.  The substance or activity has control over us rather than our being in control over the substance or activity.  We are active in our addiction in order to escape, distract ourselves or feel normal.  The insanity of addiction involves repeating behaviors that destroy us, but our denial keeps us from recognizing that we have a problem.  Our addiction often becomes our primary love relationship and people become secondary.  Addictions are usually time-consuming, which leaves less time for family relationships.  If we are involved in any addiction or addictive activity, including alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, sex, or video games, we will continue to have problems with ourselves as well as our relationships.

Addictions ask nothing from us, unlike human relationships.  We do not have to communicate, negotiate, or deal with our feelings when we are indulging in our addition.  We can entertain ourselves and become totally self-stimulating and self-absorbed.  When we are active in our addiction, we do not realize that addictions and addictive activities are cunning, baffling, and powerful.  Addictions can destroy relationships, our quality of life, and life itself and need to be addressed before any meaningful changes can be made within us and within our relationships.

Pg 268:  Looking at our experiences as a child often provides us with the causes for our current controlling behaviors.

The following is a review of common survival strategies and the outcomes that we may be currently experiencing:

  • Being dishonest to avoid punishment creates mistrust in our adult relationships.
  • Being superior and dominant ushers in controlling behaviors that are likely to sabotage close relationships.
  • Our emotional walls isolate us from others and hinder our participation in a close relationship.
  • Our denial protects us from unpleasantness but distorts reality.
  • Procrastinating diminishes our success and will anger our partners, colleagues, and employers.
  • Rebelling results in high-risk behaviors.
  • Repressing feelings creates emotional, spiritual, and physical illness.
  • Being too independent results in emotional distance in significant relationships.
  • Becoming ego driven leads to controlling others for one’s own gain.
  • Creating drama is exhausting to other people.
  • Using or abusing chemicals or being involved in addictive activities adversely affects our lives and the lives of people that we love.
  • Not giving up our group, such as spending excessive amounts of time with drinking friends, sabotages family relationships.

Pg 270:  If we hold resentments toward others, these people still have power over us.  We need to work through the emotions, including anger and resentments.  We also need to look at exactly what happened.  We may conclude: “Yes, it happened to me.  I was hurt,” or, “Yes, it happened, and I was not totally innocent,” or, “Yes, it happened, and now I realize that I was responsible for creating the harm.”

Pg 272:  We look outside of ourselves for self-worth and happiness and may be over-involved and codependent on work, money, personal power, and accomplishments.  We have all kinds of ways to control others because we are driven by our need to be superior.  In our codependency we focus on our partner and are critical about what our partner is doing and not doing, saying or not saying, and how our partner doesn’t meet our expectations.

Pg 273:  As we underestimate our partners’ abilities, we overestimate our own.

Pg 274:  I learn that surrender and being humble is more important than being strong.

Pg 275:  the competitive paradigm has certain requirements:

1)      We must be the best, the person who has the most knowledge, the right answers, and is skilled in problem-solving.

2)      We must listen for the most important points to assess the problem and fix it.  Paychecks depend on this skill.

3)      Expressing feelings is a sign of weakness and unwelcome in the work setting.  Self-control is important.

4)      Admitting mistakes and ignorance shows weakness.

Opposite skills are required in personal relationships where affiliation and cooperation are necessary.

1)      Listening to conversations respectfully, providing solutions only when invited to do so.

2)      Functioning as a team with a partner who is viewed and treated as having equal power.

3)      Sharing personal thoughts and feelings.  Realizing that one does not have to be always right.

4)      Solving problems together.

5)      Admitting mistakes and making amends.

6)      Affirming others.

Pg 276: The problem and solution are not external to the self.  Whereas we would like to believe that we are not part of a relationship problem, the reality is that our controlling behaviors cause harm to others and add stress and tension in relationships.  Contrary to what we may believe, it is not the other person’s total fault, nor is it the other persons’ responsibility to fix what is not working.

Pg 277:  Controlling behaviors are usually not effective in getting us what we really want….What will get us what we really want is surrendering our control, viewing our partner as an equal, and becoming the person that our spouse would be interested in being with as a friend and partner….Our egos direct us to be superior and protect ourselves from any type of emotional danger, such as feeling insecure, weak, fearful, vulnerable, wrong, or anything that would cause embarrassment.

Pg 278:  People have a right to:

  • Have their feelings and experiences acknowledged as real and valid
  • Receive clear and informative answers to questions
  • Live free from unjust criticism, judgments, accusations, and blame
  • Feel emotionally safe
  • Change their mind
  • Choose what they do with their body (and time)

Pg 279:  At first I thought she needed to help me change my disrespectful behaviors.  When I told her that I am making all of these changes and she should be grateful, she says that in her classroom she doesn’t give stickers for appropriate behaviors.  Kids get stickers for going above and beyond expectations. So I guess I know exactly where I stand and what I have to do.  I’m determined to save our relationship.

Pg 286:  What most partners appreciate is processing thoughts and feelings.  They do not want to be discounted, given unsolicited advice, or have their decisions made for them.  They would like their ideas, likes, dislikes, opinions, and feelings to be acceptable communication topics within the relationship.

Pg 287:  The basics of being assertive:

  • Communicate in a neutral, middle power position rather than a superior, one-up, aggressive position, or an inferior, one down, passive position.
  • Start sentences with “I” rather than “You,” to avoid blaming statements.
  • Be honest, respectful and kind.
  • Speak in normal voice tones.
  • Listen as well as speak.
  • Being assertive also means affirming others.  Thank your partner for listening and for her/his time.
When emotions (acting out) have been used to manipulate, people who have been controlled by drama and guilt can remain unaffected by that drama and guilt without being “selfish” or unreasonable.

Pg 294:  If a relationship is going to be restored to health, both people need to be honest, take responsibility for their part of the problem, and be willing to respond to the challenge of changing dysfunctional behaviors….When entering a reconciliation and healing process, there needs to be a commitment to go to any lengths to restore equality, friendship and improve their communication.

Pg 297:  controllers feel a risk when giving up control and enablers feel a risk when confronting the control.  Eliminating a dominant and subordinate structure is necessary for effective communication to happen.

Pg 298:  Relationship Inventory:  Is someone blaming the other or accepting blame that isn’t theirs?  Is someone crying or withdrawing?

Pg 304:  Though people frequently drag childhood issues and emotional baggage from past relationships into their current relationships, this behavior is likely to become abusive to partners.

Pg 305:  Unhealthy relationship beliefs: We need to keep problems within the family.  I need to accept my partner’s abusive behavior.

Pg 308:  Making amends and forgiving needs to be followed by letting go of the past hurts that have accumulated in the relationship.  We probably will not be able to do this until we trust that our partner will not emotionally harm us again.

Pg 310:  We also need to be able to protect our personal boundaries.  In relationships people are separate human beings and not the property of another to own and control.

Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship:

  • The power structure is reasonably equal.  We can feel when our relationship is out of balance.  A good relationship is often 60-60, because partners enjoy going the extra mile for the other.
  • There are minimal controlling or enabling behaviors.
  • There is emotional intimacy, which is not smothering, caretaking, or merging with another.
  • There is mutual sharing and concern for the other.
  • Each person’s true identity is respected and treasured.
  • Communication involves speaking clearly as well as listening intently.
  • There are equal benefits for both partners.
  • Trust, support, and affirmations are provided to the other partner.
  • Partners are available to each other when experiencing individual difficulties.
  • Partners work together as a team, take time for each other, and have fun together.
  • Personal boundaries are respected.
  • Participants share on an emotional, mental, and spiritual level.
  • There is an understanding that we cannot expect more than we are willing to give in relationships.
  • There is mutual appreciation.

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