Are You Living With a Steamroller?
Why do some people become controlling?
In order to be our unique and real self, we need access to 4 internal parts of us. They are:
1. Our feelings
2. Our sensations, like hearing, touch, sight and movement, and our preferences.
3. Our intuition
4. Our thinking
The first 3 of these are classed as our primary sources of information because they are from our direct experience. Thinking is our secondary source.
Many people are disconnected from their feelings, sensations and intuitions, because they were taught, often by parents or authority figures, to negate them or not to trust them. eg “Don’t cry. You’re not even hurt” or “You don’t even like that!”
As a result, they grow up not having an inner personal world that they can depend on, and they rely almost entirely on their thinking processes. This particularly happens in the male culture where many boys are taught to be tough and deny their feelings, senses and gut feelings.
When a person has had their personal reality denied, they need to think up an identity according to what they think they should be. But these identities tend not to be grounded in their inner world.
So having made themselves up from the outside in (by using their thinking processes), they imagine that they can also make up others from the outside in, as well, and this then can become quite a controlling way that they interact with others.
If there is a control connection, the controlling person will want to define the other person. They will have trouble hearing and seeing the real person, and therefore, they struggle with empathy or any real understanding for the other person. They, in actual fact, fail to grasp that the other person is actually a separate person with their own reality.
But it doesn’t look like that to start with
During the initial stage of a new relationship, where both partners are wanting to impress each other, the more controlling person can contrive their behaviour to impress and charm, being careful to make sure they mirror the desires of their new partner.
Then comes the transition
However this “impress your socks off” stage doesn’t tend to last.
Once the controlling partner feels secure in the relationship (this happens most commonly at the 3 major transitions: when you move in together, when you get married, or when you start having children) there is now far less need for approval.
Without realizing it, the partner has crossed over into the controller’s self definition boundary. With this transition can come the expectation that the partner is now an extension of him or her, and of One Mind with him or her.
This can be a dumbfounding change for the partner, as it can be made almost overnight, or at a more gradual pace; but the change does happen.
One man described that for him it felt like he and his wife were in a big bubble that he had created as his reality. His wife had freedom, and all was happy, as long as she stayed in the bubble.
“There was room to move about so the illusion of freedom seemed real to her. But when she expressed an idea of her own, or any feelings, it was like she was stepping out of his bubble and stepping into her own. But he did not want her out there. He feared being alone with himself. He feared being with his feelings. So he tried to pull her back into his bubble, or worse, injure her so she could never leave, or worse yet, disorient her so she can never find her way out.”
Whatever control measure or verbal abuse it took, getting her back inside the bubble where he could feel safe again was his primary objective.
The controlling person will usually feel a great and strong love for his or her partner, but this is not what we consider real love. It is more of a control connection.
There is usually very little regard for his or her individuality, an absence of empathy or understanding, and often an angry assault or the silent treatment, every time he or she shows any signs of separateness.
This usually leaves the partner feeling shunned, negated, unseen, unheard, trivialised, and, as a result, also very confused, sad, and often outraged that they have been so invaded or negated, every time she or he expresses her or his individuality.
All the while the controlling partner denies any wrongdoing, not being willing to recognise the devastating effects on the partner.
A real partnership and real love is virtually impossible when a control connection is forged.
A disconnection happens every time a partner defines you. He or she begins to connect with you whenever he or she defines themselves or asks about you.
The healthiest relationships are those where there is no controlling, simply acceptance of each other and negotiation between each of you for what you need and want.
However, in reality, many people tend to attempt to control their partner in some way. The degree of control is what really counts. You may be happy to allow your partner some control in areas that aren’t really important to you. You may even be able to joke about it, and it all adds to a lively relationship.
But it you are feeling that you are often being negated, not heard, discredited, blamed for things that are not true, or blamed for things that you know is actually more true of your partner, then your relationship is not functioning in a healthy way, and you will be suffering personally.
Controllers fear intimacy because intimacy requires hearing and seeing one’s mate for who he or she is.
Intimacy severs the control connection.
There are graduated degrees of controlling, and the more extreme, the more difficult it is to improve your relationship.
For those of you who are wondering how similar this sounds to Narcissism, there is a huge overlap between the two.
In our next blog (next week) I will give you a quiz that will help you determine the degree of controlling there is in your relationship, if you feel this may apply to you.