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Staying In Control - At All Costs
by Cate Russell-Cole
10/19/2015 / Self Help
There are not many of us who don't know what it is to experience the distress of being in a controlling relationship, whether the controller was a parent, spouse, sibling or work colleague. We all know the helplessness of being pressured to live up to someone else's expectations, and not being able to make decisions about our lives freely, or without opposition or criticism.
Psychologically we all need an element of being in control in our lives. People who possess positive control have a higher self esteem, feel more competent, are more creative, live longer and experience less stress. Feeling you have some control over your life and circumstances helps you to deal better with problems and crisis, and makes you more successful in many areas of life. On the opposite end of the scale, feeling consistently out of control leads to feelings of helplessness, depression, substance abuse and sometimes, suicide. How much control you feel you have, depends on what areas of your life you think you can control.
If you think you have a right to make people act in accordance with your wishes, regardless of their own, then you are well on the way to becoming and emotionally abusive person. People who are abusive do not possess the positive control described above. It comes from also feeling out of control, and when they are frustrated by not succeeding at bringing life into step with their needs and desires, it causes them to seek greater control, and leads to anger, hostility and depression.
It's easier to pinpoint controlling behaviour in others than it is to identify it in ourselves. One form of needing control comes in the form of perfectionism. Perfectionists believe they must perform perfectly in every area of their life every time, or rejection and ridicule will result. They may also project their need for perfection onto others. In their hearts they are trying to find success, fulfilment, love and belonging, but their demanding behaviour pattern and obsession denies them the human connection and excellence they seek. Their self esteem is low, they fear failure and can never relax and enjoy what they have achieved, as they are driven towards doing better, or reaching the next goal. Their obsessive behaviour is so consuming, they don't see the needs or hurts of others around them. Mistakes just prove their unworthiness, rather than being chalked up as positive learning experiences, and depression sets in with the disappointment.
People seeking control can experience resulting chronic emotional and health problems. They have a problem which is similar to an addiction, and they must be able to identify that there is a problem, and be willing to seek help for it. Justifying or excusing their behaviour will not solve the problem, it only makes it deeper, and it is even more destructive for both parties. It can be counterproductive to stay in a relationship where you are being emotionally abused and are psychologically unsafe. Nobody has the right to limit or remove anther's personal freedom, or to put someone else down as being useless.
Below is a partial list of the indicators of emotional abuse. If you are experiencing more than just a few of these, please seek help to improve or get yourself out of the situation. You are valuable and deserve the right to live, act and speak as the person you were meant to be. I encourage you to take your emotional safety very seriously, and get help.
If you suspect you have a problem with being controlling or abusive, or if people claim you are and you don't understand what they are talking about, please also seek professional help. There is nothing worse than feeling out of control, worthless, and at the mercy of a cruel world. There are ways of coping with the situation which will result in greater fulfilment for both you and your loved ones.
1. Will your partner do anything to win an argument, such as put you down, threaten or intimidate you?
2. Does your partner get angry and jealous if you talk to someone else? Do you get accused of having affairs?
3. Do you feel you cannot do anything right in your partner's eyes?
4. Do you get mixed messages, such as the reason you are abused is because he loves you?
5. Are you told that no one else would want you, or that you are lucky your partner takes care of you?
6. Do you have to account for every moment of your time?
7. When you try to talk to your partner about problems, are you called names such as bitch or nag?
8. If you wish to spend money, does your partner make you account for every penny?
9. Does your partner blame you for everything that goes wrong?
10. Are you unable or afraid to make decisions for yourself?
11. Do you do anything you can to please your partner and not upset him?
12. Do you make excuses for your partner's behaviour?
13. Have you noticed changes in your eating, sleeping, alcohol or drug use?
14. Have you lost interest or energy in the things you used to?
15. Do you feel sick, anxious, tired or depressed a lot of the time?
16. Have you lost contact with your friends, family or neighbours?
17. Have you lost self confidence and feel afraid that you could not make it alone?
Source and Checklist Copyright: Education Wife Assault, Ontario, Canada
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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