Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: People who try to control you - Feb 05

From Thursday, February 03, 2005

Finished the book

I've now finished Controlling People: How to Recognise, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You, by Patricia Evans, and here's what I think I've learned from it:

The need to control other people arises from the deep human need to feel 'connected'.
In their natural, unabused state people remain intrinsically connected, through their inner selves, to the Earth (grounded) the Universe, other people and everything that is. These people don't need to hook into another person in order to feel connected: they are their own connection. They're free, united with everything and yet separate in their own unique identity. We're all born this way and it's what happens to us afterwards that makes the difference.
Damaged people often try to control others by using little tricks to undermine their sense of self, confidence, peace of mind and decision-making power. They do this because they're frightened the other person might leave them and they are prepared to do anything to prevent it. This can range from very subtle, verbal attacks to all-out physical violence, terror and even murder.
The author didn't use this analogy but I had in my mind a picture of the controlled person being like a tree and the person attempting to control as being like a creeper - ivy or honeysuckle, that kind of plant. So the controlling person seems to be grounded by the 'tree', because s/he has none of their own roots. (I don't know if this makes sense, I feel I could be explaining better.)
The controller is so disconnected from their inner selves and therefore the outer world that they don't actually relate to the object of their control connection as if the other was a real and separate person in their own right. Instead, they've created a mental 'ideal person' template, which they superimpose over the real person and then devote their energy to trying to coerce the person into complying with the template.
(This made a lot of things very clear to me regarding my mother. She seemed to have a pre-defined 'perfect child' template for us and became very frustrated, upset and even vengeful when we failed to comply with the template. I can honestly say I don't think she ever knew me as a person in my own right. She didn't see or hear the real me and only gave me positive attention when I fit the template. Even this was grudging and measured against previous failings to live up to the ideal. Serious template-breaches were taken as personal attacks inflicted on her by me, and she responded accordingly. This fits perfectly with the book's theory.)
The controller subconsciously attempts to annihilate the other's authentic being in order to make room for their 'ideal person' template. This is why controlled people feel brutally attacked/ cruelly treated by a person who purports to love them, and can't work out why.
The most effective control connections are those based on close 'loving' relationships (married & co-habiting couples, parents and children) when the controller professes to love the other and the other believes them and therefore tries to please or appease them. The controlled person in these cases finds it almost impossible to believe that the controller doesn't actually love, care about or even know them, but only an imaginary, ideal, pretend person.
No amount of reasoning on the part of the controlled person will ever break the control connection. Instead, is will usually make it worse because the controller hears the reasoning as an attack on their dependant position, or a threat to break the connection and will seek to tighten rather than loosen the bond. This means taking special action to 'kill' (quieten, nullify, deactivate) the authentic other person. All signs of independent thinking or action on the part of the controlled person will elicit this result, because the controller doesn't want the other to have any power in case they use it to escape from the control connection bond.
Often the only way to break the bond is total separation. The controlled person can do nothing except remove themselves, make themselves unavailable and make no further contact. The controller is likely to react with rage, and then immediately seek another person with which to forge another control connection.
What controllers are most afraid of is being left alone to face their own feelings. They see the connection as being their 'life', so breaking the connection feels like 'death' to them, which is why they react so violently to perceived threats to the connection.
Paradoxically, the 'death' of the connection and the enforced facing of their own, true inner self and feelings is the time when the controller has the best chance of working through their problem and becoming independently self-connected instead, but this is only likely if they don't manage to 'plug into' another person straight away.
(The last 3 points affirmed for me that I've probably done the best thing for us both by totally severing the connection.)
The control connection principle transfers to the group level and is active in many families, political parties, social systems and community groups. The author defines a control connection group as being one that joins together against people, not for people.

The book made me think about energy work principles, to do with chakras. It called to mind Caroline Myss's work in ‘Anatomy of the Spirit’ and her other books in which she explains that not only do humans evolve in chakra-based stages, but humanity does also. Breaking the bonds of control, learning how to live without trying to control each other, seems to be the current zeitgeist. The struggle for freedom from oppression has been in evidence around the globe on the individual level as well as the social and political levels.

If I have one complaint about the Controlling People book, it’s that, despite the fact I found the stark clarity affirming and helpful, I think it does paint an unrealistic black-and-white picture. I’ve seen relationships in which both parties seemed to be indulging in control-of-other strategies and techniques to further their own agenda. I don’t think the perpetrator/victim divide is necessarily 100% useful terminology. It might engender another excuse for ‘us & them’ separatism. It makes more sense to me to think of perpetrators as ex-victims and victims as possible future-perpetrators. In unhappy situations, everyone suffers and no-one wins.

posted by Gill at 8:12 AM 6 comments


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