Who’s Controlling You & Who Are You Controlling?

Still planning to finish Karla McLaren’s Language of Emotions. I just wanted to give you a preview of another book I’m reading:

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:

o Controlling behaviors can be subtle and manipulative.
o Controlling behaviors are so prevalent that they are often viewed as normal.
o Recipients of control often blame themselves for relationship problems.
o 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.
o 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.
o During courtship we may not have experienced being controlled. Controlling behaviors often escalate as the relationship progresses.
o 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.
o 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.

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 by 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 won 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 will 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
o Minimal listening, negotiating, and communicating with family members
o Difficulty understanding why people are reactive to their behaviors which they often view as helpful rather than controlling.
o 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:
o Communicate in a neutral, middle power position rather than a superior, one-up, aggressive position; or an inferior, one-down, passive position.
o Set a time and place to speak to the controller.
o 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.
o Start sentences with “I,” rather than “You,” to avoid blaming statements.
o Speak with truthfulness, firmness, respectfulness, kindness, and in normal tones.
o Listen as well as speak.
o Be specific about the behavior that is offensive to you by speaking directly, rather than expecting the person to “get the drift.”
o Use short sentences when confronting.
o Resist the temptation to end the conversation because of emotional discomfort.
o Stick to the specifics of the current situation rather than bringing up past hurts.
o Repeat the original statement if the other person becomes defensive, starts discounting what is being said, or changes the topic.
o Go slowly and pay attention to what is happening in the communication process.
o Take a time-out if there is the possibility of an eruption of anger.
o Practice calming inner self-talk.
o 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.
o 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.

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