Controlling relationships are much more frequent than we would like to. Everyone sometimes in their lives has been controlled mentally or emotionally, among other types of control (economic, social, at work etc…).
The main responsible of these kind of relationships is often found in our own circles: oppressive parents, authoritarian siblings, controlling friends, dysfunctional partners, bosses or teachers, or coercive workmates.
The psychological mechanisms they use are mostly subtle and almost undetectable. Sometimes we simply don’t want to see what’s going on, we just close our eyes in front of a reality that doesn’t allow us to improve or be ourselves.
When it happens to us, we are led to think they are acting for our good, because they love us and they care… Nothing could be further from the truth. Living our lives according to their rules, their limits and their “emotional racketeering”, allowing them to manipulate us psychologically, emotionally, socially and/or economically means losing our power and control over our own existence. They not only undermine our self esteem, they also ruin us at a mental, emotional and somatic level. They make us feel unable, inferior, sad, angry, vulnerable, and tired at a psychological level.
The pattern these “controllers” use just steals our identity and doesn’t let us grow or evolve in a functional and healthy way. The most frequent sentences I hear in my sessions are “If you don’t do that, I’ll go mad, scream or punish you”; “if you don’t do it my way, I’ll make you feel guilty”; “If you don’t settle your life as I say, you’ll be unhappy; “If you don’t split up with your partner, I will not help you economically and I won’t support you”; “If you don’t study what I say, I won’t pay for it, because it’s completely useless”; and some more subtle statements like “I don’t love you as much as before”; “You’re not the same anymore”; “You can’t do it, you’re not as smart as the others”; “You are just one more worker in here”; “Because I say so” and so on…
Controlling individuals usually come from relatives with narcissistic personalities, obsessive and perfectionist personalities, psychopathic psychological patterns and dysfunctional individuals in professional, familiar or personal spaces. The worst-case scenario is when those people were subject to a strong mental, emotional and/or economic pressure since childhood, hence they resist accepting reality, until time and professional help make them understand… therapeutic help is essential in those cases, because of the guilt burden and the huge background of negative emotions.
Unfortunately, those patterns pass on from parents to children, like a chain, and are projected onto partners, friends and co-workers.
The only way of eradicating a controlling relationship is to become conscious of who the “controllers” are, establishing healthy boundaries or, in more severe cases, moving away from them. It’s time to start being responsible for ourselves: take off importance from them, focus on our own lives, make our own decisions, experience the consequences of our choices. We are not them. By taking control of our lives, their control will simply disappear. Start being the main character of your story, you deserve a happy life.
Last, but not least, not everyone is manipulating or controlling. Some people are really there to help us through our life journey. We need to understand the difference between good advice and psychological manipulation, it’s as simple and essential as this: advice “gives” something to us. It could add knowledge, perception, understanding of a situation, good ideas etc… It helps us becoming more in tune with ourselves, makes us more conscious of who we are and what are our talents and strengths. On the other hand, manipulation -or the controlling relationship- “steals” something from us. It takes away our mental, emotional, social or economic balance. The difference lies in how it makes us feel. A good suggestion inspires and boosts, while control just weakens. Accepting advice is good. Letting other people control you is terribly wrong.