Have you ever had to interact with a controlling person? I know I have, and unfortunately, sometimes it’s me.
Worse yet, have you ever been dominated by one? A boss at work? A spouse, sibling, or even your own child? If you have, you know how miserable life can be when under their influence.
Why might a person become a controller?
The need for safety. The world can be pretty unpredictable at times. For some people it feels tenuous all the time. Trust is not in their vocabulary. Shades of gray in life make them cringe with discomfort. The only way to feel secure is to manage everything and everyone.
The need for significance. For these people being in charge equates with personal value. Being a follower feels like a negative. Humility is a weakness, not strength. They only feel good about themselves when they are in the spotlight. Often these people have low self-worth.
The need for power. The concept of sharing is distasteful to these people. They are masters of their kingdom and everybody needs to obey. They are “special” and know more than you. You may be right, but they are “more right”. You must submit to their authority and wisdom.
What will these people control?
Money is a big one. They are able to empower or severely limit you when they are in charge of the checkbook.
Time. They make the schedules and expect you to comply. And they get angry when you deviate, even though you never agreed to their schedule.
Activities and agenda. They make lists for everyone to follow. Chores, recreation, family interests, and work schedules are under their control. They will determine where to vacation and how active or leisurely it is.
Topics of conversation. With these people conversations always seems to end up about things that interest them – or about them. You may have no interest in gardening, but somehow when you are with them you find yourself talking about fertilizers and soil conditions.
There are so many more areas that we could name. But you get the point.
So what can we do if we are under the pressure of a controller?
We must speak the truth in love and set appropriate boundaries with them. They will not like it and they will resist. We must be kind, but firm, and continue to keep voicing what our boundaries are, and maintain them. We must manage our resentment towards them and remember that their desire for control comes from a broken place within them.
What if we are the controller?
If safety is our issue, we must develop a strong inner voice that is self-soothing. We must learn to calm our anxiety with truth. We must remind ourselves that God is in control and He is more powerful than we are.
If power or significance is what we struggle with, we must develop a deep empathy for others. We must mentally trade places with them and try to understand how they feel when confronted with our behavior. We must understand that our control issue will create distance and isolation and resentment from the people we care about.
Whether you are a controller or the controlled you may need to seek additional help in the form of recovery classes or personal counseling.