Controlling people. They can sure be abrasive and unpleasant to be around. Wouldn’t you agree?
Have you ever known a controlling person?
Maybe you’re in a relationship with one right now. Maybe you have a friend or family member who likes to butt into your business a little bit too often. They just love inserting their “suggestions” about what you should do with your life.
They’re busy-bodies and nosy parkers. They’re overbearing and unbearable!
Their advice usually starts with, “You should” and ends with what they think is wrong with your life.
“You should take care of yourself better. Your diet is terrible.”
“You should really think about going back to school. You’re never going to get anywhere with that useless degree.”
“You should get a new job. I don’t know how you put up with those people.”
“You should get a haircut. You look so shaggy.”
Or they like to question your decisions by asking you, “why” you are doing what you’re doing. But they are not asking a real question. Instead, they are attacking or interrogating.
“Why would you want to go there on vacation?”
“Why did you buy that gas guzzler?”
“Why are you letting your kids do that?”
You really dislike being around controlling people. They can make you feel small, stupid and incapable of making a sound decision on your own.
You would never want anyone to feel that way about you.
As a matter of fact, you do everything in your power to make sure no one has anything bad to say about you.
And that can lead to a struggle with being, well—too nice.
You’re far from being a controlling person, you may think.
In fact, maybe you’re too much of a people-pleaser sometimes.
Your friend asks you for a favor and you say “yes” without even thinking it through. This gets you in trouble sometimes, because you don’t realize until after you’ve committed that you don’t have time, don’t really want to, or forgot that you’re already doing something else the same day.
You enjoy feeling useful and needed, so you volunteer your time and talents—then regret it later when it becomes too much of an imposition on you.
Or, maybe you consider yourself a conflict-avoider.
You bite your tongue and give people “the benefit of the doubt” when they insult you or hurt your feelings. They didn’t really intend to be hurtful, you think, so you deal with your feelings internally while trying to maintain a pleasant demeanor around them.
You don’t like calling people out on their stuff. What’s the point? They’ll just lash out at you or tell you all the ways that YOU are less-than-perfect.
So you keep quiet.
Plus, you hate arguments. You can’t bear to think that someone dislikes you, or is angry with you.
So you pretend you’re okay—when you’re far from okay.
Which leads me to making this point:
You ARE a controlling person.
What!? The idea itself is probably offensive to you.
How can that be true?
You want them to like you, to think you’re a “good” person, and to find you worthy of love and friendship.
And the jaw-dropping truth is that people-pleasing and conflict-avoiding causes just as much conflict in relationships in the long run as being a busy-body, nosy-parker, abrasive control-freak.
Keep reading to learn why, and what you can do about it.
When we try to control others, we either try to control what people do, or how they feel about and react to us.
When we tell someone they “should” do something, like they “should” get a different job or cut their hair, we are being overtly controlling. We are trying to control what that person does through our words and actions. When our partner or loved one rebels and refuses to listen or take our advice, we may withdraw or become angry or judgmental.
When we people-please or act “nice” to avoid conflict, we are being covertly controlling.
We think we’re being easy-going, helpful or accommodating, but if we are abandoning our own needs and feelings in the process, we’re doing it simply to control how the other person feels about us.
This is so subtle that you probably never imagined you were being controlling when you:
Does reading this list surprise you?
Are you thinking, “Wow, I’ve done a lot of these kinds of things before. I can’t believe it means I’m controlling!”
I know how you feel. It took me a long time to recognize my own controlling behavior, because I’ve never been controlling of what people do.
I am not the kind of person who tells someone they “should” do this or that, or asks “why” they do what they do in an attempt to shame them into doing things my way.
I’ve always given my family and friends great latitude to be themselves and do whatever they want regarding what makes them happy.
Eventually, however, I came to realize that my covert forms of control were my attempt to get people to be open, caring, and compassionate with me.
This was so I didn’t have to feel lonely, or helpless over their pain and suffering.
Where does this need to control others’ feelings about us come from, you may wonder?
As is the case for most things, it all started in childhood.
When we were children, we all experienced big feelings that were almost too big for our little bodies to handle. These were feelings of shame, anger, rejection, loneliness, grief, heartbreak, or helplessness, for example.
We didn’t have to suffer obvious and extreme abuse or neglect to have these scary feelings. We experienced these feelings because there’s no possible way our parents, caregivers, peers, teachers or authority figures could meet all our needs, 100% of the time.
When our caregivers couldn’t be there when we needed them, or we perceived rejection, it scared us. We were scared that we had been abandoned, that we weren’t loved, or that something was wrong with us.
To ease our fear, some of us whined, cried, or rebelled to get attention from our parents or caregivers.
Some of us became compliant or acted “nice” in the hopes that this would buy us the love and comfort we needed.
This is what set up our tendency for exerting control in order to feel loved and avoid pain.
We learned that we could either control people with our drama and demands, or we could people-please our way to love and acceptance by abandoning our own needs and focusing solely on what the parent / caregiver / authority figure wants.
That’s why, as an adult, if you put your needs last, or always defer to others, or act “nice” when you don’t feel “nice”, what you’re doing is attempting to control how others feel about you.
In a romantic relationship, you use these tactics to make your partner see how agreeable and accommodating you are, so they’ll stay.
Still not sure if your behavior is controlling?
Here’s the test: Are you doing what you’re doing because you are expressing yourself, because you genuinely care about this person, or because you’re being loving to yourself? Or…
If it’s the latter, then you have an agenda. Anything that has an agenda attached, is a form of control.Stop Control From Destroying Your Relationship
Here’s how we may be creating the very pain we are trying to avoid when we are being overtly or covertly controlling:
When we try to overtly control others, we cause conflict and strife in our relationship because the person we are trying to control feels stifled and resentful. They may lash out, avoid us, or act passive aggressive. This leads to more conflict, and even more attempts at control.
When we covertly control, we people-please while abandoning our own needs in order to feel love or acceptance.
However, if we do this often enough, we start to feel unappreciated and burned out. Resentment builds. We seeth in anger when our partner asks for one more thing, or makes one more critical remark. Which leads to…
Stonewalling or biting our tongue in order to make our partner or loved one comfortable around us. We stuff down our own feelings of anger or hurt, and over time, we start to grow apart from that person.
We avoid intimacy. We blame. We complain about them to others.
All we wanted was to please them or avoid conflict, but the relationship is ruined anyway.
That’s why I say that the #1 unhealed issue that people are struggling with inside of a relationship, that they then carry from relationship to relationship, is the CONTROL that results from self-abandonment.
Fortunately, once you learn to recognize how self-abandonment and the resulting controlling behavior is running your life and what you can do to heal it, you can tap into an unending source of love, safety, and acceptance, no matter whom you’re with, or whether or not you’re even in a relationship to begin with.Free Yourself From The Need For Control
It was a huge awakening for me when I realized how many controlling things I did to try to get others to be loving with me. Accepting my lack of control over how others choose to treat me has been extremely FREEING.
Now, if someone is unloving to me, I’m no longer compliant in an effort to get them to be loving. I just go to my higher self and find out what it means to take care of myself in the face of their unloving behavior, accepting that I have no control over how another chooses to be or feel about me.
I call this process of learning how to take care of myself in order to stop trying to control others “Inner Bonding.”
It’s a six-step process I developed together with my friend and fellow therapist, Dr. Erika Chopich, and have taught to both clients in my private practice and to thousands of people all over the world through workshops and books.
Today, I’ve taken this process and created a 30-day online program called Wildly, Deeply, Joyously In Love. Through daily videos and detailed written instructions, you’ll learn how to stop using control as a means to get love from others, but instead learn to give yourself the love and acceptance you have always needed in your life.
And much more… You get all of this from my 30-day online program here:Start Your 30-Day Program
Like I said, there’s no shame in any of the controlling behavior you’ve used up to this point in your life in order to get love from others and to feel secure and content. We all do it.
However, controlling others, whether overtly or covertly, isn’t a healthy or sustainable way to feel good about yourself. It causes conflict in your relationships and it comes from an unhealed wound that follows you around year after year, relationship after relationship.
That means you won’t be able to be wildly, deeply, joyously in love with anyone unless you heal this aspect of yourself FIRST.
I’m pleased to be able to show you how.
P.S. Do you think that all you have to do to avoid this destructive force is to resist others when they try to control you?
Actually, resisting for the sake of resisting isn’t in your highest good. On day 7 of my 30-day program, you’ll learn how to recognize resistance in yourself and in others, and what to do instead.Get the Truth About Control