How to deal with a controller is never easy, but constantly agreeing in order to keep the peace, only enforces the controlling behaviour and establishes it as the norm. This is not acceptable behaviour on the part of the controller or the enabler.
What Causes a Person to Need Control?
The first key to knowing how to deal with a controller is to understand why the person has a need to control. There is a natural human desire to experience order, stability, and safety. Some people can live in clutter, while others can’t tolerate that way of life. A controller may justify his or her behaviour as being necessary to keep order, but that’s not the full truth.
Occasionally I do house sitting. I am paranoid in making sure I do not leave a ‘footprint’. Does that mean I am obsessive? Anything pushed to the extreme becomes abnormal and unacceptable behaviour.
High Levels of Anxiety
The need to control others is a pattern based on fear. It can be the fear of rejection, incredible insecurity, or a fear of abandonment. This may come from the memories of previous experiences. The controller is not a ‘bad’ person, it’s just their way of dealing with life.
When a person has high levels of anxiety which results in excessive control, it may be caused by a personality disorder. Just as there are some people who clean excessively. Both conditions fall into an obsessive-compulsive disorder, (OCD). They are conditions that need professional help. The major problem being to get the afflicted person to agree they have a problem, as the control may be subconscious, and the person unaware how controlling their behaviour is. This can involve unacceptable demeaning and aggressive behaviour.
How to deal with a controller is to understand that a controlling person makes others believe it is their fault. A controller is usually critical of those around them and anyone they deal with. They are very good at creating drama and intimidating those around them. Once the pattern is established it becomes an automatic reaction.
Controlling behaviour can include telling others what they can or cannot do. Then there are the more discreet methods like guilt-tripping, and possessiveness. The wants and needs of those being controlled are completely dismissed and totally disrespected.
The controller is frequently given to moodiness, ignores the accepted boundaries and are jealous of anything others do, that does not have their permission. They may even demand a certain type of dress code.
More Signs of Controlling Behaviour
Financial control is a very important aspect of a controller, as it makes others dependent on them. They can also be very critical about other people’s purchases.
Another sure sign of a controller is when they isolate those close to them from their friends and family. Even doing nice things for another person can exert a sense of indebtedness, as another way of creating dependence. Once the good deed is done, the controller will constantly bring it up, as a way of ‘owing them’ .
Gaslighting can be a major tool in a controller’s arsenal. It is a form of psychological manipulation in which the abuser attempts to sow self-doubt and confusion in the victim’s mind. It is emotional abuse that makes the victim doubt their own reality and own sanity.
Numerous films have been made about gaslighting, beginning with the first one in 1944. Gaslighting results in a toxic relationship that needs to be brought to an abrupt end.
Dealing with a Controller Requires Dealing with Narcissim
Dealing with a controller, more often than not, involves dealing with a narcistic person. Narcissism in the extreme heads the list of personality disorders.
Narcissists are continually disappointed with the imperfect way life unfolds, so they try to control it as much as possible. Their sense of entitlement makes it seem logical to them they should be in control, as they are superior to everyone else and don’t take kindly to any sort of insult or disapproval. They focus on the flaws in other people, so they can hide their own shortcomings and preserve their self-image. They are the centre of their world and others must immediately meet their demands.
In trying to understand and help a narcissist you need to understand their weaknesses and strengths and handle them as patiently as possible. If you are the victim of a narcissistic relationship, you need to speak up for yourself, but be clear and concise. There also needs to be firm boundaries established.
Remember, you most likely ‘slid’ into the relationship, like placing a frog in a cold pot of water and turning on the heat. The frog will just sit there, even though it could leap out of the water. Eventually it dies. If things are out of control, and you can’t gain any cooperation from the controller, you need to get professional advice.
How to Deal with A Controller
If the controller is a romantic partner or a controlling friend, you need to open up a conversation and make your feelings clear. It is the lack of honest and open conversation that is at the bottom of turning many relationships sour. When you are attempting to instigate a conversation you need to keep calm, as an argument will solve nothing. Be the ‘adult’ in the room.
If the controller is a parent, it is necessary to attempt to establish strong, firm, and consistent boundaries. The important thing is not to keep on enabling the controller. Relationships have long-term effects that involve your health.
If you can’t make headway, you need to decide whether you stay or leave. You need to examine your own reason for staying. People usually stay because they haven’t recognised they are under the influence of a controller, or their decision will affect other people.
Breaking out of an established relationship is nothing short of a life-changing tragedy and takes enormous courage. The truth is, you can survive tragedy and come out the other side stronger than before.
Finally, controlling can come in a variety of levels, and often be very subtle. If the relationship is abusive, you need to reach out for help. There are numerous support organizations ready to give a helping hand. Just remember you are not on your own. Reach out to others, particularly a trusted friend.
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