When Fear Rules !

Degrees of Controlling and Manipulative People !

by on May.07, 2021, under Controlling-Manipulative People, Stopping Abuse

I want to make clear, I believe there are degrees to which a person may attempt to control or manipulate another person’s life and well-being. Many may actually have the thought that, yes, I can see that a certain person that touches my life is controlling and/or manipulating, but “ I can handle it and it does not give that person any power over my thoughts and actions.” I would respond, “Are you sure or are you just avoiding the issue.”

But before I go there, let me define some terms.

Controlling Persons:

I know some clients and friends who have the personality trait of being very adept at taking control as in being able to create and build a successful business or venture. Everything they touch seems to turn to gold. Many of these individuals, although able to exert control in business were able at the same time be very sensitive and caring with persons in their personal life. 

Yet I have met others who were ALL business, and so into control that they were totally ineffective at recognizing or dealing with feelings in relationships, and did not have a clue as to what it meant to be intimate, in a loving way. I can say from my professional experience that it is a real challenge to teach intimacy to this type of personality. If they are in a relationship, it may serve other purposes for either party, but it is far from a loving intimate relationship.

Then, there were those whose intent was to restrain, dominate and control others both in their business and personal lives. They were obsessed with being in control and did not realize or care about other peoples’ needs or boundaries, seeing those feelings and needs as weaknesses that made them potential victims.

Manipulating Persons:

Manipulation tends to have a negative connotation, for sure. A manipulative person may tend to dominate and skillfully influence or use others, and most often in an unfair manner. They are able to adapt or change to suite their advantage or purpose, but they are not going to relinquish their needs or wants in any significant manner.

Degree of Control or Manipulation:

Not unlike first, second and third degree murder charges, there are degrees to which a person may be controlling or manipulative. 

I would see cases where I would consider an offender’s goal  as first degree control or manipulation,  in that there is Premeditation ( to meditate, consider, or plan beforehand ) and Intent [or purpose} in order to control and manipulate another. 

Second degree control and manipulation may not be premeditated, but is intentional at the time. 

Third degree is not premeditated or intentional, but may still cause harm to the potential victim’s self-esteem and well- being. This offender may realize, after the fact, and if it is brought to their attention, that their behavior was inappropriate and hurtful.

Now to bring a more psychological or medical picture into your mind, let me briefly talk about Personality Disorders I have known,  unfortunately !

Now there are a few personality disorders who may frequently cross the line when it comes to control and manipulation.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder may present as a personality characterized by extreme self-centeredness and self-absorption, fantasies involving unrealistic goals, an excessive need for attention and admiration, and disturbed interpersonal relationships, with a noticeable lack of empathy. Narcissists, in my opinion, usually display second or third degree control and manipulation and limited  consciences.

Sociopathic Personality Disorder  may have all the characteristics of a Narcissist, but there is a greater chance for control and manipulation of the first degree. They are anti-social schemers and need to win against all odds, but they can be charmers. Their behaviors often reach the level of criminal. The sociopath lacks a sense of moral responsibility and has a very limited degree of conscience, if at all. They do not form loving relationships, but ones that serve their more basic needs. However, they can drown themselves in their lust for power, and make mistakes that are costly. 

The Psychopathic Personality Disorder  may have many of  the characteristics of the Sociopath, but there is no moral compass or conscience, and no remorse. However they are so cunning, such plotters, planners and schemers, that they are seldom caught as they make few mistakes.

Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths do exist all around us, not just in the movies. Now that is something I hope you can accept and learn to protect yourself  from, and which I pray, Meagan’s story will teach you how to do.

Now, let’s talk about trauma. As a Psychologist, I have seen many clients struggling with what they expressed as an overwhelming amount of stress, anxiety, depression, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behavior as a result of conflicts or traumas that were draining the energy out of their lives.

Trauma may be defined as a  deeply distressing or disturbing experience or an emotional shock following a stressful event or injury. We all might expect a person experiencing physical, in-your-face traumas to have symptoms. Coming home to a house burnt to the ground, finding out one of your children has been kidnapped, being robbed at gunpoint, experiencing a home invasion or a tragic auto accident, would all be traumas to most of us, and symptoms would be expected as the person’s sense of safety, security and feelings of control of their lives would have been threatened.

However, many of my clients had no idea why they were experiencing their anxiety symptoms. They had not experienced any of the in-your-face traumas, but had the symptoms nonetheless, which made it all the more anxiety producing and frightening for them, but fascinating to me. Most were experiencing full-blown panic attacks, obsessive worry or just a constant anxiety and a reasonable amount of depression.

Can you imagine having these symptoms and not consciously having any idea where they are coming from, why they are happening, not being able to pinpoint the reason ? These clients would often express not feeling in control, but again, could not explain it. I would consult with their primary care physician or one of our staff psychiatrists, but if that turned up no medical reasons for the symptoms, we would turn to uncovering emotional issues or conflicts in their lives. Often I would find that the clients had numbed themselves to the real people or issues that might be causing their symptoms because they did not want to deal with the true antagonist[s] in their lives. In reality, their lives had become impacted by some emotional trauma, but since there were no physical traumas with physical evidence, they did not allow themselves to explore them further.

I might suggest here that they were avoiding the source of their symptoms due to fear of rejection, failure, abandonment or somehow being blamed, shamed or guilted, or not believed.

I would express to them as I do here to you, that there are often times that significant emotional conflicts are playing out in one’s life but you subconsciously might not want to face them and then have to deal with the source , the need to take some action, or make some uncomfortable changes. So, we would work together to uncover the covert issues you might be avoiding that could be creating emotional stress and develop a step by step plan for the you to take control of that issue in your life. That means you would have to choose whether you wanted to deal with the source, continue to avoid or just rely on medications. If you choose to deal with the conflict, I would then be a part of your Support Team where there is no shame, blame or guilt to be had, only frank and honest discussion of all feelings and options. I would ask if there is anyone else in your life that you have talked to about the issue or conflict and whom you trusted just to know how strong your support team is, because a support system is important when we are about to make potential changes.

I would want to help you find what emotional needs { approval, respect, acceptance, sense of control, sense of belonging , etc.} or fears { failure, rejection, not being in control, etc.} you have that, while mostly shared by many others, may make you a target or potential victim of controlling and manipulative people. 

I did not enjoy seeing my clients in pain, but I was able to establish a professional and yet personal relationship with them that truly enhanced our therapy together. A therapist must be trusted by the client, and I needed to trust that my clients were being honest and open with me. That mutual respect allowed for some truly fulfilling, gratifying and successful therapeutic relationships. The end game was to discover the sources of whatever emotional turmoil they were experiencing as we uncovered the conscious, subconscious or unconscious issues causing their emotional pain, and then develop a game plan to take control and to build and support a healthier, more rewarding and less conflicted life.


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