Other focus is an intense focus upon and antagonism toward the legitimacy of the actions, feelings, and beliefs of others, especially the partner. The term derives from the observation that a primary aggressor when asked to focus on himself and his actions, will be seemingly unable to do it. Any attempt to talk about conditions, feelings, or actual behavior is met with a barrage of argument and blame of others. It produces a climate of contentiousness that takes over any situation. Overall the solution, where possible, is to stay out of the details completely, and point out and reject the overall process. ‘Other-focus’ manifests itself in the aspects listed below.
- Deflection: a primary aggressor immediately responds to any discussion or confrontation of his actions by changing the focus onto the survivor’s behavior and keeping it there. It is almost a reflex for most people to defend themselves. So, when a primary aggressor, brings up a counter complaint or blame, the survivor’s original complaint, at a minimum gets lost, and quite commonly, the event becomes an opening for verbal abuse from the primary aggressor. Survivors usually want to be accountable, so it can seem fair at times to answer first to others about what they don’t like.However, survivors are never able to ‘earn’ the right to discuss the primary aggressor’s behavior this way. If it is safe to do so, deflection needs to be addressed with statements like, “Right now, I only want to discuss your behavior”, or “Nevertheless, I want to discuss this matter first.”
- Pressured Manner: There is a natural instinct to respond to questions and criticism, even more so when they are delivered rapidly and urgently. By attacking and challenging non-stop, primary aggressors fluster and confuse targets, triggering ‘fight or flight or freeze’ physical states which hamper interaction. Primary aggressors then use the awkward and incomplete attempts to answer in this situation as material for further belittlement and attack.
- Unprincipled Complaints: It is very common for primary aggressors to attack both one action or aspect of a person and it’s opposite. For instance a mother might be criticized for being “too strict” and “too lenient” almost simultaneously. Who is being complained about is more important than what is being complained about. These are truly ‘ad hominem’ attacks. There is no discrimination or consistency about principles or beliefs. While this makes complaining easy for the primary aggressor, it is very crazy-making and exhausting for others who are trying to be logical and sincere. Whatever the response, more complaints are forth-coming, because the complaints are not about reaching a solution. The complaints are about weakening the sense of legitimacy or reputation of the target. In this arena, quantity counts a lot, and quality almost not at all, because it is about momentum.
- Abuse of Process: Many government or non-profit entities have processes for formal complaints. The entire civil legal system is an open-ended process for complaints. These complaints compel a response. It is of course much easier to make a groundless or distorted accusation than to respond to one thoughtfully. The burden is great for the respondent, who faces possible consequences for not responding, for missing a deadline, or for being misunderstood. The complainant risks nothing, so this becomes an easy tactic to distress a target. This strategy works very well, unfortunately, because these systems consider complaints separately and slowly on purpose, and do not address the overall quality, pattern or goal. There is no easy answer to this problem when it is done through actual statutory processes, but naming what is going on may help functionaries in the middle recognize what is going on sooner. There is a spill-over in which private parties and groups (especially in the helping professions) come to believe they owe the same solemn courtesy and suspended disbelief to frivolous complaints, but this is not the case. The right to dispute things may be essential in the legal system, but it can clearly be abused in personal and professional relationships.
- Indictment by News: Primary aggressors will often bring up news stories of bad acts performed by someone with superficial similarities to the target. This is very frequent when acts of survivor violence are reported. Because of the implied but unstated accusation, the target often slips into the awkward position of defending the person in the news. But the news usually focuses not on larger contexts but just actual transgressions, so the target takes on the guilt in some way.
Hell hath no fury or contempt as a narcissist you dare to disagree with, tell they’re wrong, or embarrass.
Rage is a destructive action. It is intended to hurt, actually break someone or something. It is also blind and the attack is often against an innocent helpless person or child. We speak of a person being ‘in a blind rage,’ or being ‘blind with rage.’ Rage is also explosive, which means that it cannot be easily steered once it blows. Rage develops when a person feels that his power is thwarted or frustrated. In rage, memory is laid down differently. For all these reasons, rage is often called dissociative rage.
Rage works by short-circuiting the experience of shame that is, the feeling of being inferior or not enough, or not good enough. Rage can be contrasted to a healing and universal experience and emotion: anger. Rage can be thought of as a kernel of anger distorted by internalized shame.
While any rage is very damaging in relationships, unless rage is truly rare, it tends to develop into a pattern or cycle. This has been called the “cycle of violence” the “cycle of abuse,” or the “rage cycle” The most visible part of the rage cycle is the outburst, which may include verbal violence, physical violence, addictive behavior, or dramatic exits. An outburst can occur several times a day, or every few months. The outburst is followed by a period when the primary aggressor’s arousal is low and they may act kindly or remorseful. This is sometimes called the honeymoon period. The desire for control remains however.
A tell-tale sign that rage is serving the purpose of power and control is that the primary aggressor is unwilling to discuss the outburst later in any meaningful or honest way. Apologies don’t count. Fairly soon, the raging person’s expectations are not met and the tension phase starts. Tension further distorts perception, and routine events or small frustrations are seen as large offenses by the raging person and an outburst results
In an episode of rage, the flight or fight system is strongly activated. This makes everyone around the raging person to be perceived and then treated as a threat or an enemy. In this distorted perception, it makes no sense to be fair or accountable to ‘enemies.’ That means that even if irresponsibility does not fit with the primary aggressor’s own self-image, a frequently raging person will by definition be irresponsible. Others will stop asking anything that ‘sets off’ the primary aggressor. This becomes an additional reinforcement, and frequently, any request to be accountable sets off an episode.
Survivors that are in relationship with a raging person feel the effects of the rage all the time because they are walking on eggshells trying to prevent an outburst. The primary aggressor, on the other hand, after an episode both tends to feel better, and to quickly develop ‘amnesia’ about what happened.
Other characteristic traits of such narcissists** (and this also applies to the female variety) include:
- Control freaks
- Short fuses
- Low frustration tolerance
- Need to have the last word
- Unable to lose
- Won’t take “No” for an answer
- Quick to anger if you don’t accommodate them
- Quick to being aggressively defensive if you call them on any deficiency, fault or responsibility
- Can’t apologize or if do, can’t do it sincerely
- Rarely say, “Thank you” or “Congratulations”
- Don’t feel or demonstrate remorse
- Feel entitled to enthusiastic and appreciative approval, adoration, agreement and obedience
- Gloat in victory, sullen in defeat
- Quick to rage if you humiliate them
What is the connection between narcissism and rage?
There is a saying that when you’re a hammer the world looks like a nail. When you’re a narcissist, the world looks like it should approve, adore, agree and obey you. Anything less than that feels like an assault and because of that a narcissist feels justified in raging back at it.
What is at the core of narcissists is not what is often referred to as low self esteem. I don’t think that is accurate, but something that the people around them say to themselves to mollify their own rage at the narcissist, i.e. “Oh, they only act that way, because they lack self-esteem.”
What is really at the core of narcissists is an instability in their ability to feel and sustain feeling bigger, larger, smarter and more successful than everyone else which they need to feel stable. And just as Hamlet’s mother said, “the lady doth protest too much,” “the narcissist doth brag, scorn, talk down, primp and belittle too much” in order to continually prove to the world and themselves that they are larger than life. This is not to increase their self-esteem as much as it is to continually spackle the holes in their core that lead to a feeling of instability—and that, if not spackled, will lead to brittleness followed by fragmentation.
Narcissistic rage occurs when that core instability is threatened and furthermore threatened to destabilize them even further. Not unlike a wounded animal being the most vicious (because they think the next wound would kill them), narcissistic rage occurs when narcissists believe the next insult/assault to their grandiose based stability would shatter them.
In essence the reason narcissists are so self-centered is that their grandiosity based center needs to be constantly reinforced to remain stable.
Blame is the foundation of domestic violence. While it may be theoretically possible to dominate another person without using blame, such as in a prison, in a domestic relationship, blame is essential to both implement and disguise power and control.
Blame is placing the entire responsibility for one’s unpleasant actions, consequences, and feelings on another person or external event, and insisting that others agree. Airing a grievance is not necessarily blame if the injured party still takes responsibility for their own actions. Narcissists are recognizable by the primacy that the act of blaming plays in their relationships. Survivors may not recognize the relentlessness and the controlling function of blame. They may believe that the primary aggressor is trying to help them or the relationship by bringing flaws into focus.
In reality it is not possible to productively address any issue with blame because at least one partner is not taking responsibility. The purpose of blame is to weaken the partner, and blame often erupts most strongly when the survivor is acting independently or strongly. Blame may also be practiced somewhat indirectly (see the list below).
Less Obvious Ways to Blame
- Constantly shifting the focus onto the survivor’s behaviors. This is the core maneuver of an abusive relationship.
- Taking on the role of ‘victim.’. Results in life are mostly the consequences of one’s choices, with a little bit of other people’s actions thrown in. To be a victim is to ignore the one’s ability to make choices, and insist that other peoples’ choices are all that matter.
- Talking about all the things done for the survivor, which at a minimum blames the other for being ungrateful and exploitative. It is like an attempt to obligate the other person to respond the way the primary aggressor wants, which is controlling.
- Insisting that interpersonal conflict has a “right” and a “wrong” to it, and explaining in a pressured way how one is right. This is an attempt to make any difference or disagreement into an injury against the primary aggressor.
- Feeling and acting entitled. If done well enough, the survivor’s not giving what is wanted starts to look like an injury to the primary aggressor.
- Feigning compassion and understanding for the survivor, and then going on and on about how their outrageous behavior exceeds the primary aggresor’s otherwise huge capacity to forgive. This is still changing the focus to the survivor’s behavior and acting the victim.
- Labeling the other person’s point of view ‘crazy,’ or irrational. This can be done to any disagreeing point of view, but often is used to discount another person’s feelings or perceptions. Men are more likely to label a woman’s feelings crazy.
- Talking endlessly about reasons, but avoiding talking about actions. This is called justifying. Everyone has ‘good’ reasons for what they do, including violence. Actions, however, are how control is maintained in an abusive relationship.
Being in a relationship involves sometimes not being happy with our partners. Like most of us who are in touch with our emotions and have healthy communication skills, we share our feelings in a respectful manner, hoping that our partner will hear our feelings, understand where we’re coming from and hopefully, act in accordance with helping us resolve the negative feelings.
With a narcissist, this healthy relationship skill is ACTIVELY THWARTED.
When criticized, the narcissist experiences a narcissistic injury. Feeling that their “image” has been questioned / insulted, regardless of how respectfully you communicated your feelings, every narcissist will become defensive.
They’ll resort to their modus operandi: projection— finding trace elements of their core problem in you, and then hounding you about being ill suited to sit in judgment of them because of it.
Save sharing your hurt feelings with a narcissist. Even though that results in your “stuffing” your feelings with your ‘partner’, you’re STILL BETTER off than sharing them and having them turned back on you. Share your feelings with a trusted friend, confidante, support group or therapist. And KNOW that by managing your expectations with a self centered narcissist will save YOU heartache and disappointment.
In the long run, stuffing your feelings and not being able to share intimately and resolve issues with a person you’re in a “relationship” with…will NOT WORK. You will experience perennial cognitive dissonance by desiring intimacy with a person you call your “spouse” or significant other yet NOT ever being able to achieve it. Eventually you’ll tire of beating your head against a wall and realize that the relationship you’re holding onto is NO RELATIONSHIP AT ALL.
We all know the type of apologies that narcissists give. Hollow words meant to shift blame back to us for having the feelings in the first place.
“Im sorry YOU feel that way”
“Im sorry if YOU took it to mean….”
“Im sorry. What else can I say? It’s over and done with now”
True apologies come from a deep place within a person that is marked by a sense of responsibility, remorse, contrition and future changed behavior or action.
True apologies let us be the injured party and be respected for knowing our rights and asserting them. They really let us off the hook for fixing the problem when it wasn’t ours, and allow us to reconnect, if we desire, to the person who hurt us, if the hurt was in our own thoughts – not a deal breaker. They allow us the ability to forgive and move past the injury, knowing that our partners care to the same degree about our feelings as we do.
Anything short of a TRUE, HEART FELT APOLOGY is a lip service manipulation to get someone who can’t accept responsibility back to feeling good about themselves or “perfect” and will leave us feeling, disrespected, devalued and dismissed.
We cannot single handedly keep relationships like this going. If we do, we are simply accepting abuse doled out on us by an irresponsible, unhealthy human being.
What are some of the false, hollow and horrible apologies that you’ve received from a narcissist and how did you feel when you heard them?
A broad definition of manipulation is anyway of trying to get something other than asking directly. The term is used most however, to describe a situation in which someone ends up doing what they do not really want to do, because someone has made the alternatives difficult. There are always situations in which a person has to pick between two unwanted alternatives. With manipulation, though, it is the active efforts of another person that brings the two choices together artificially, and that is what is so unnerving and unfair for the target.
In coercion, force or threats of real harm are used to get someone to do what they do not want to do. In manipulation, usually the target’s beliefs or self-image is used against his self-interest or real desire. Manipulation can work even if the target understands what is happening, because it is still difficult to say no. In this sense, manipulation is not invincible, and alone cannot constitute abuse. Just like other forms of subtle control however, manipulation is useful to understand because no controlling person fails to use it frequently. Anything can be manipulated, especially by someone who knows the target well, but below are some examples based on common situations:
- The manipulator promises vague help or benefit in the future, then asks for something concrete and substantial in the present. [ Most people feel that they should reciprocate and may miss that there is actually no exchange here.]
- The manipulator just goes ahead and does what he knows the target won’t agree to. [This is based on the saying that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission. This puts the burden on the target to do something, and be the 'heavy'.]
- The manipulator brings up something alarming, as in the news, then asks for something unrelated. [ Alarm causes people to want to take action. If there is no obvious action--say because there is no real threat--a mildly alarmed person will be more amenable to suggestions.]
- The manipulator compliments someone, then asks for something. [This is common enough that most people pick up on it, but it works nonetheless, because most people feel they owe something for a compliment, even, strangely, a compliment they know to be insincere.]
- The manipulator brings up something the other person feels guilty about, then asks for something. [Even if the guilt is unrelated to the manipulator, a target will tend to feel indebted and embarrassed, and give what is asked, because he or she feels they 'owe.']
- The manipulator implies that something is needed, but never asks for it. [Most manipulators understand that this is more powerful than actually asking. If they just asked, a discussion or negotiation could ensue in which the target asks for something in return and considers the merits of the request. Not asking short-circuits this possible conversation, while still leaving the target, as is natural with people, wanting to help.]
- The manipulator calls the target selfish. [ Most targets have as a self-image of selflessness, which is an unobtainable idea, so they are very vulnerable to this word, even if there already exists a huge imbalance in the relationship in the manipulator's favor.]
- The manipulator starts an elaborately planned activity or trip with the target, then asks at the last minute for something that has to be completed to continue. [ The target will not want to endanger what has taken effort to arrange or has been eagerly awaited so they will go along.]
- The manipulator asks for something clearly unreasonable and receives an abrupt no, then asks for something smaller. [Saying no, even justly, creates guilt and a sense of indebtedness in most targets, and so they will often give after a no what they would no give in the first place.]
- The manipulator ‘confides’ an irresponsible behavior to the target. [The target from that point forward, is hampered in addressing any irresponsible behavior within a family or group because that might betray the confidence. Although the information probably would have been discerned anyway, giving it first as 'a secret' works as self-conveyed immunity. Some helping professions keep strict confidentiality of course, but that works because they aren't impacted by the behavior.]
- If the manipulator is in a position to be the one to give to the target what they should get anyway, he or she may still ask the target for something. [ If there is a likelihood or possibility that the manipulator actually will withhold, that is coercion, but commonly the manipulator is just abusing the feeling of reciprocity.]
- The manipulator knows it is easier to get ‘forgiveness’ than permission [The large inconvenience of making the manipulator undo something does not seem justified by the small inconvenience of letting it pass.]
- The manipulator asks for something that they know the target does not want to give in front of other people. [ There is a social norm to not allow conflict to be public, so a "no" is harder in this situation.]
- The manipulator insists that the target promised, and is now morally bound. [First, changing one's mind is a fundamental human prerogative, with or without new information or more time to reflect. Second, a promise only has a moral aspect to it at all if one obtained something specific for the promise in the first place, which is actually the opposite of this manipulation.]
- The manipulator wears the target down in steps. [First an agreement is negotiated which is suitable to both parties. In this process it has become clear there is something the target won't agree to. A short time later, the manipulating party contacts the target with a 'problem' and asks for a change in the agreement to accommodate the difficulty. Because the target wants to be reasonable, and because good people always have a desire to keep agreements and plans working, and the change seems small, the target agrees. A short time later there is another difficulty reported to the target, and another step is allowed. Eventually, the target ends up agreeing to what they would not have agreed to all at once. Perhaps the manipulator never intended to fulfill the original agreement but wanted to make the target feel committed and let down their guard.]
The antidote to manipulation includes:
- Responding in the context of the entire relationship, not just the moment
- Honoring feelings
- Understanding the difference between on the one hand, words and promises and on the other hand, something substantial and actual
- Understanding that consistency is not a moral imperative
- Having a healthy relationship to one’s self-interest– neither dominating or a doormat. This benefits everyone the most because it prevents dehumanizing distortions in relationships on all sides.
- Knowing that a sincere “no” usually strengthens any relationship worth keeping.
- Sometimes insisting people undo something they had no right to do in the first place.
- Understanding that maintaining a sense of integrity in the long run is far more important than any missed opportunity, inconvenience, or awkwardness in the moment.
It is possible to predict the likelihood of the person you are currently with or are about to become involved with being a domestic abuser. It is simply a matter of having the knowledge of the warning signs to look out for and being sufficiently aware to notice them (which includes not being to blinded by love, lust or desperation!).
At the beginning of a relationship, an abuser will always say the jealousy is a sign of love. He/she may question you about whom you have spoken to or seen during the day, may accuse you of flirting, or be jealous of time you spend with family, friends, children or hobbies which do not include him/her. As the jealousy progresses, he/she may call you frequently during the day or drop by unexpectedly. He may be unhappy about or refuse to let you work for fear you’ll meet someone else, check the car mileage or ask friends to keep an eye on you. Jealousy is not proof of love, it is a sign of insecurity and possessiveness.
Controlling behaviour is often disguised or excused as concern. Concern for your safety, your emotional or mental health, the need to use your time well, or to make sensible decisions. Your abuser may be angry or upset if you are ‘late’ coming back from work, shopping, visiting friends, etc., even if you told him/her you would be later back than usual. Your abuser may question you closely about where you were, whom you spoke to, the content of every conversation you held, or why you did something he/she was not involved in. As this behaviour gets worse, you may not be allowed to make personal decisions about the house, clothing, going to church or how you spend your time or money or even make you ask for permission to leave the house or room. Alternately, he/she may theoretically allow you your own decisions, but penalise you for making the wrong ones. Concern for our loved ones to a certain extent is normal – trying to control their every move is not.
Many victims of abuse dated or knew their abuser for less than six months before they were engaged or living together. The abuser will often claim ‘love at first sight’, that you are ‘made for each other’, or that you are the only person whom he could ever talk to so openly, feel so at home with, could understand him so well. He/she may tell you that they have never loved anyone so much or felt so loved by anyone so much before, when you have really only known each other for a short amount of time. He/she needs someone desperately, and will pressure you to commit to him/her or make love before you feel the relationship has reached ‘that stage’. He/she may also make you feel guilty for not committing yourself to him/her.
The abuser may expects you to be the perfect husband, wife, mother, father, lover, and friend. He/she is very dependent on you for all his/her needs, and may tell you he/she can fulfil all your needs as lover, friend, and companion. Statements such as: ‘lf you love me, I’m all you need’, ‘You are all I need.’ are common. Your abuser may expect you to provide everything for him/her emotionally, practically, financially or spiritually, and then blame you for not being perfect or living up to expectation.
The abuser may try to curtail your social interaction. He/she may prevent you from spending time with your friends or family and demand that you only go places ‘together’. He/she may accuse you of being ‘tied to your mother’s apron strings’, not be committed to the relationship, or view people who are your personal friends as ‘causing trouble’ or ‘trying to put a wedge’ between you. He/she may want to live in the country without a phone, not let you use the car, stop you from working or gaining further education or qualifications.
Blame-shifting for Problems
Very rarely will an abusive personality accept responsibility for any negative situation or problem. If they are unemployed, can’t hold down a job, were thrown out of college or University or fall out with their family, it is always someone else’s fault, be it the boss, the government, or their mother. They may feel that someone is always doing them wrong, or out to get them. He/she may make a mistakes and then blame you for upsetting him/her or preventing him/her from doing as they wished to.
Blame-shifting for Feelings
The abuser will deny feelings stem from within him/her but see them as reactions to your behaviour or attitude toward him/her. He/she may tell you that ‘you make me mad’, ‘you’re hurting me by not doing what I ask’, or that he/she cannot help feeling mad, upset, etc. Feelings may be used to manipulate you, i.e. ‘I would not be angry if you didn’t …’ Positive emotions will often also be seen as originating outside the abuser, but are more difficult to detect. Statements such as ‘You make me happy’ or ‘You make me feel good about myself’ are also signs that the abuser feels you are responsible for his sense of well-being. Either way, you become in his/her mind the cause of good and bad feelings and are therefore responsible for his/her emotional well-being and happiness. Consequently, you are also to blame for any negative feelings such as anger, upset or depression.
Most abusers have very low self-esteem and are therefore easily insulted or upset. They may claim their feelings are ‘hurt’ when they are really angry, or take unrelated comments as personal attacks. They may perceive normal set-backs (having to work additional hours, being asked to help out, receiving a parking fine, etc.) as grave personal injustices. They may view your preference for something which differs from their own as a criticism of their taste and therefore themselves (e.g. blue wallpaper rather than pink, etc.).
Cruelty to Animals
The abuser may punishes animals brutally, be insensitive to their pain or suffering, or neglect to care for the animals to the point of cruelty, e.g. not feeding them all day, leaving them in areas he/she knows will cause them suffering or distress. There is a strong correlation between cruelty to animals and domestic violence which is still being researched. (For more information and personal experiences, see Domestic Violence and Cruelty to Animals.)
Cruelty to Children
The abusers unrealistic expectations of their partner are often mirrored in their attitude toward children. He/she will think of children as ‘small adults’ and blame the children for not being responsible, having common sense or understanding. He/she may expect children to be capable far beyond their ability (e.g. is angry with a two-year old for wetting their pants or being sick on the carpet, waking at night or being upset by nightmares) and will often meet out punishments for ‘naughtiness’ the child could not be aware of. Abusers may tease children until they cry, or punish children way beyond what could be deemed appropriate. He/she may not want children to eat at the table, expect them to stay quiet, or keep to their room all evening while he/she is at home. Since abusers want all your attention themselves, they resent your spending time with the children or any normal demands and needs the children may have. As above (cruelty to animals), there is a very strong link between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse.
‘Playful’ use of Force in Sex
He/she may pressurise you to agree to forceful or violent acts during sex, or want to act out fantasies where you are helpless. A male abuser may let you know that the idea of “rape” excites him. He/she may show little concern about whether you want to have intercourse and uses sulking or anger to manipulate you into compliance. Starting sex while you are sleeping, demanding sex when you are ill or tired, or refusing any form of intimacy unless you are willing to go ‘all the way’ can all be signs that he/she could be sexually abusive or sexually violent.
Rigid Gender Roles
Abusers usually believe in stereotypical gender roles. A man may expect a woman to serve him; stay at home, obey him in all things – even things that are criminal in nature. A male abuser will often see women as inferior to men, more stupid, unable to be a whole person without a relationship. Female abusers may expect the man to provide for them entirely, shift the responsibility for her well-being onto him or heckle him as being ‘not a real man’ if he shows any weakness or emotion.
This is a fairly important warning sign and really quite easy to spot once you can tell all the little ways in which you are being verbally abused. In addition to saying things that are meant to be cruel and hurtful, either in public or in private, this can include degrading remarks or running down any accomplishments. Often the abuser will tell you that you are ‘stupid’, could not manage without him/her. He/she may keep you up all night to ‘sort this out once and for all’ or even wake you at night to continue to verbally abuse you. The abuser may even say kindly things to your face, but speak badly about you to friends and family. (Check out Verbal Abuse for more information)
Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
Very rarely do abusers conform to the stereotypical image of a constantly harsh, nasty or violent person, either in public or in private. More frequently the abuser portrays a perfectly normal and pleasant picture to the outside world (often they have responsible jobs or are respected and important members of the local community or Church) and reserves the abuse for you in the privacy of your own home. Nor are abusers always overtly abusive or cruel, but can display apparent kindness and consideration. This Jeckyll and Hyde tendency of the abuser serves to further confuse the victim, while protecting themselves from any form of suspicion from outsiders. Many victims describe “sudden” changes in mood – one minute nice and the next explosive or hysterical, or one minute happy and the next minute sad. This does not indicate some special “mental problem” but are typical of abusive personalities, and related to other characteristics such as hypersensitivity.
Drink or Substance Abuse
While neither drinking or the use of drugs are signs of an abusive personality, heavy drinking or drug abuse may be a warning sign and do increase the risks of abuse, especially violence, taking place. Often an abusive person will blame the drink for his/her abuse. However, a person who, knowing there is a risk he/she could be violent when drinking or on drugs, chooses to get drunk or high, is in effect choosing to abuse. The link between substance abuse and domestic abuse is still being researched, and it is apparent that while neither alcohol nor drugs necessarily cause violence, they do increase the risk of violence. (See What about alcohol and domestic violence?)
History of Battering or Sexual Violence
Very rarely is abuse or violence a one-off event: a batterer will beat any woman he is with; a sexually abusive person will be abusive toward all his intimate partners. Situational circumstances do not make a person an abusive personality. Sometimes friends or family may try to warn you about the abuser. Sometimes the abuser may tell you himself/herself that he/she has hit or sexually assaulted someone in the past. However, they may further go on to explain that “she made me do it by …” or in some other way not take responsibility and shift the blame on to the victim. They may tell you that it won’t happen with you because “you love them enough to prevent it” or “you won’t be stupid enough to wind me up that much”. Once again, this is denying their own responsibility for the abuse, and shifting the responsibility for the relationship to remain abuse-free on to you. Past violence is one of the strongest pointers that abuse will occur. If at all possible, try to speak to their previous partners.
Negative Attitude toward Women
Some men may tell you that you are different to all the women they have known before, who display a lack of respect of women generally or who talk negatively and disrespectfully of their previous wives or girlfriends. They may tell you that you are special, not like the others and that they consider themselves to be the luckiest man alive to have found the last decent woman. It is not likely to be long before they remember that you are a woman and don’t deserve their respect.
This would obviously include any threat of physical force such as “If you speak to him/her again, I’ll kill you”, or “If any wife of mine acted like John’s did, I’d give her a right seeing to”. Threats are designed to manipulate and control you, to keep you in your place and prevent you making your own decisions. Most people do not threaten their mates, but an abuser will excuse this behaviour by saying “everybody talks like that.”, maintaining he/she is only saying this because the relationship or you are so important to him/her, tell you you’re “over-sensitive” for being upset by such threats, or obviously want to hurt him/her. Threats can also be less overt, such as “If you leave me, I will kill myself”, or “You are so wonderful, I will never let you go/couldn’t live without you”.
Breaking or Striking Objects
The abusive personality may break your treasured object, beat his/her fists on the table or chair or throw something at or past you. Breaking your things is often used as a punishment for some imagined misdeed on your part. Sometimes it will be justified by saying that now that you are with him/her, you don’t need these items any more. Breaking your possessions also has the effect of de-personalising you, denying you your individuality or literally trying to break links to your past. Beating items of furniture or throwing objects will often be justified by saying you wound him/her up so much they lost control, once again shifting the blame for this behaviour on to you, but is actually used to terrorise you into submission. Only very immature or abusive people beat on objects in the presence of other people in order to threaten or intimidate them.
Any Force during an Argument
BIG warning sign! What starts off in early courtship as a bit of a push or a a shove, can turn into fullblown beatings not long down the road. An abuser may physically restrain you from leaving the room, lash out at you with his/her hand or another object, pin you against a wall or shout ‘right in your face’. Basically any form of force used during an argument can be a sign that serious physical violence is a strong possibility.
The following behaviors are present in both abusive relationships, and also ‘merely’ unsatisfying relationships. Alone, they are probably insufficient to constitute an abusive relationship. However, combined with stronger actual or threatened behaviors, they may complete the web of control. To recognize abuse, it is helpful to understand all aspects of control. Misusing people includes both controlling and exploitative strategies. While it has been tempting to include ‘merely’ exploitative strategies, they have been left out to keep the focus on the way control works.
Ingratiating Behavior: Most people have a habit of being nice for casual interaction. When it is conspicuously overdone, however, it is meant to create a sense of obligation or guilt, and block confrontation, since that would make the confronter conspicuously “not-nice.”
Never Being Understood: Good listening and good communication, especially during a conflict, relies heavily on the act of paraphrasing or repeating what the other person has said. Counselors are taught this on day one, and all good listeners come to it intuitively. One controlling habit, however, is to refuse to acknowledge that someone has “gotten it’, no matter how carefully the listener has refined his or her statements. In fact, complaints sometimes seem to reverse themselves to keep one step ahead of the listener’s understanding. This can be a defense against anxiety, but when employed by an aggressively critical person is probably best understood as controlling.
Silent Treatment: Everyone wants to feel on good terms and in harmony with those around them. Any small factual or everyday communication can also serve to confirm relations are okay, or if there is a problem, define the extent of the problem. Silent treatment functions to keep the recipient in suspense of what will happen, and unsure of ‘what they did wrong’, and ‘how bad it is.’ This keeps others unable to attend to their own business but also unable to fix the problem. Usually they end up trying to cater to the silent person anyway possible, just so things can ‘get back to normal.’.
Expecting Mind Reading: This involves acting unhappy until others guess what they want. It has the dual advantage of getting what they want, and being able to plausibly deny that they wanted it. This makes it almost impossible to address the appropriateness of what is wanted, yet the pressure is still felt.
Defining Problems: There is an instinctive urge to address and not disregard a communication from others that there is a problem. If this is constant , however, we are kept busy defending or answering the issue, and our own concerns never get a hearing. It is always possible and always easy to pick a part competent or even excellent work. (While it is many many times more difficult to do such work).
Asking Questions: There is an instinctive urge to answer questions, so asking questions, even seeming innocuous ones, is a powerful situational tool for controlling a situation. The person asking the questions controls the situation. Police and corrections officers are all taught this. Asking questions when one already knows the answer works the same. Sometimes, questions are deliberately chosen that will embarrass or put the person asked in a bad light.
Excessive Talking. It is natural and instinctive to pay attention to someone that is talking. Whatever a person is saying, it will be hard to ignore them, especially face to face. There is even a social norm that not listening is ‘rude.’ A person that talks excessively, however, keeps attention on themselves, keeps bystanders away from other tasks and their own needs, and most importantly, keeps bystanders away from a quiet awareness of their own state.
Never Agreeing: This is similar to never being understood. A tell-tale sign is that the difficult person will, if necessary, contradict his or her previous opinion in order to avoid agreement.
Pretending Not to Understand Others. Often, instead of plainly disagreeing, a person will say they don’t understand the speaker. This is more common where the person does not want to hear what is being said. This may be an attempt to be polite but often it is a way to undermine the speaker. It is an ad hominem attack that implies the speaker is incoherent, or a dis-organized thinker.
Abusing Truisms Truisms are general statements about life that are hard to dispute. Most people use them to summarize or consolidate experience. The most general way to abuse truisms is to spread a demand out over a truism filled monologue. The demand is harder to resist because of the ‘true’ atmosphere. To resist the demand seems like disputing the trueness of the truism. Also the truisms make the demand seem more reasonable.
There is also a group of truisms that is frequently employed just when accountability is asked for. Examples of those are “Everyone is human”, “Everyone deserves a second chance”, “Don’t kick somebody when they’re down”, “Everyone makes mistakes”. All these truisms apply to a setting of overall accountability. In the setting of power and control, they are just attempts to live irresponsibly.
Trolling: This is asking for a general opinion, and then responding to the answer as if it is a personal attack. The target meant no ill will, but will be drawn into a situation in which slowly, in defending the original impersonal statements, they seem to start actually attacking the troll, who then has ‘moral high-ground’ and the target feels guilty and eager to do something for the troll. This term comes from the internet where the pattern is more plainly seen, but it has always been used in other contexts as well.
Double Standard on Social Norms. Social norms are deeply ingrained in most people. Social norms develop when responses that work well overall are trained into children. If someone is always reminding others of their obligations under social norms (“don’t be selfish,” etc..), it is often missed that that someone his- or herself does not follow the same norms. Even when this discrepancy is noticed, it can still be hard not to follow the norm.
Toxic Delegation Here the controlling person asks the target to do something for them, saying they can’t do it for themselves. But whatever the target does the controlling person is criticized, not just as inadequate but evidence of negligence or poor judgment. The target then, feeling committed and at fault, becomes desperate to please the controlling person. This is a combination of ‘defining problems’ and ‘trolling.’ Playground wisdom is helpful her: “beggars can’t be choosers.” If a person really needs help, it is not legitimate for them to criticize any good faith effort.
Walkless Talk The controlling person talks indignantly and frequently to the target about what ‘should’ be done: cleaning, cooking, work duties. The target believes the controlling person must be doing a lot of it, tries to ‘help’ by doing as much as they can. In actuality, the controlling person is doing very little of the activity, it just seems like they are because they talk about it so much.
Changing the Subject for Other People. This occurs when at least three people are talking. If a subject comes up that is uncomfortable for one person, that person may insist on changing or glossing over the topic even though the other two (or more) seem eager to continue. Truisms may be misused for this purpose, or the subject may be labeled improper, or ad hominem attacks may be made. Even if the two (or more) people that want to continue recognize the interference, if one points it out and protests, the subject has already been changed! While it could be stated that the the people who want to continue the subject can do so later, certain frequent groupings (family dinners, work, etc) are a natural stimulus to conversation, and to thwart natural behavior in others is controlling.
Constantly Correcting: Disputing or correcting someone on points irrelevant to the main point being made is a status transaction. An argument constantly derailed by such corrections is just a raw power struggle, (at least to the difficult person) and will never settle anything.
Raising the Bar. It is natural to want to succeed in any task undertaken, and being given a challenge can be exciting. These human traits can be exploited though. First a reasonable task is given. If it is completed, another somewhat more difficult task is given immediately instead of acknowledgement, as if this new task is necessary for the first one to be real. This can go on and on with the target never able to succeed because the bar of success is always kept just out of reach. The targeted person can become so eager to please that they lose their bearings on what is reasonable, or what they want.
Ransoming Back. This is where something is taken from the target, and when the target asks for it back, an exchange is proposed. The target will often comply under the premise to get something one has to give something. But what the target is getting back is just what they should have in the first place. Cooperation is commonly kidnapped, because it is so easily withheld, and then something is given to trade for cooperation that should exist in any work or close relationship. The same is often true for disruptiveness, the peace someone should have is ransomed back.
The Chain of Yes: In this ploy, an easy, possibly flattering request is made to which the answer is almost surely “yes”. More and more requests are made, each just slightly more demanding or less agreeable. A string of “yesses” is produced. It is natural at this point to have difficulty saying no, and so targets will tend to go farther in agreeing to an unfavorable request than they would have if asked in the beginning. This effect can take hold after even one or two “yesses”
Lying This self-explanatory
Use the Cover of Other People. This happen say when someone asks in public for something seemingly innocent that the other person has a good reason not to give. Because it is a strong social norm not to expose conflict, it will be hard to say no (for some reason the person saying no is deemed to be the one ‘starting’ a conflict.)
Projective Identification: This is a term from psychology, but it is a very useful idea in explaining some types of subtle control. In projective identification, another person is manipulated to act in a way that justifies the manipulating person’s attitude or position. It usually works this way 1) an interpersonal accusation is made which touches on the sensitivities of another person. 2) the accused person protests, loses composure, perhaps counterattacks, and 3) the behavior or attitude of the accused person after the accusation is used as justification for the accusation. Projective identification usually works by stimulating fear, anxiety, guilt, or shame in the target person, and ‘benefits’ the projecting person by lessening those four things temporarily.
Bullying. This is a special case of projective identification as described above. The bully gets someone to feel and act out his or her fear so the bully doesn’t have to. The target may or may not be weaker, but is chosen because by inclination or disempowerment they are likely to to organize their response around fear. This is recognized by folk wisdom, which recommends fighting a bully, even if losing the fight is likely. That is because the fighting response, although fear may be present, is not a living out of fear. This deprives the bully of the projection, so interest is lost in bullying that person.
Just Enough: This a way to avoid consequences. The perpetrator is someone who has not done what they agreed to do and probably never intended to do it. When the target is at the end of their patience and about to enforce a consequence (evict a tenant, fire an employee, end a relationship, revoke probation, etc..) the perpetrator does some small relatively easy part of what they should already have done (like make a small payment, schedule an appointment, do a small chore etc..) Even if the target understands that the token is not at all commensurate with the backlog of irresponsibility, it is hard for most people to follow through on the consequence. The perpetrator usually gets a reprieve (“to prove he means it”) and the backsliding begins immediately. That is, the perpetrator has done ‘just enough’ to avoid getting in trouble. This may last for many repetitions and often expectations are just eventually dropped as the target gets desensitized to non-performance by the perpetrator.
Forced Teaming: This term was developed by Gavin de Becker in his book The Gift of Fear. A false loyalty is imposed on the target by the perpetrator suggesting to the target that they have a urgent common problem (and implying they need to start working together right away). This leads the target to forget about normal risk assessment. Even if the two people have a common problem, it is unlikely that 1) it is really urgent, 2) they have a best solution in common, and 3) joint action is necessary. This technique is meant to bypass healthy distrust and in real life is almost never benign. Unfortunately many movies employ forced teaming as a plot device for characters to get to know each other, which may desensitize people.
Urgency: Urgency limits the target person’s options of getting more information, consulting others, investigating facts, or checking gut instinct, which takes a little longer to settle. Urgency also activates the ‘fight or flight’ system which 1) itself increases a subjective sense of hurry, and 2) limits creative options that might otherwise come to mind. When hurried, there is a tendency ‘to go along.’ As an antidote, there is a folk saying, “If the answer has to be now, it has to be no.”
Very few relationships start on terms other than sweetness and politeness. In the beginning, “the honeymoon” of the relationship, it’s difficult to determine what type of individual you are dating. Both you and the date are guarded, trying to obtain information about the other as much as possible without seeming like a police detective.
Romantic relationships can be wonderful with the right person. A relationship with the wrong individual, however, can lead to years of heartache, emotional/social damage, and even physical damage. A damaging adult partner can damage us, damage our loved ones, and even damage the way we feel about love and romance in the future. They can turn what is supposed to be a loving, supporting, and understanding relationship into the “fatal attraction” often described in movies. There are a variety of “bad choices” that may be encountered each week – most of which are easily to identify and avoid. We all know to avoid people that appear insane or abusive and not select them as a dating partner. However, some individuals are better at hiding their personality and behavior abnormalities. In an effort to provide some warning about these very damaging individuals, this information sheet will outline a type of individual commonly found in the dating scene, a male or female labeled a “Controller.”
A Controller is a type of partner that creates much social, emotional and psychological damage in a relationship. Some Controllers have permanent personality characteristics that create this damage. These are characteristics that they accept simply as the way they are and not a problem or psychological difficulty. In one sense, they have always lived with this personality and behavior, often something they probably learned from their relatives/family. Psychologists usually treat the victims of Controllers, women or men who arrive at the office severely depressed with their self-confidence and self-esteem totally destroyed.
The following list is an attempt to outline the characteristics of some Controllers and provide a manner in which women and men can identify potentially damaging relationships, before they are themselves severely damaged emotionally or even physically. If your partner possesses even one of these features, there is risk in the relationship. More than three of these indicators and you are involved with a Controller in a very high risk relationship that will eventually create damage to you. When a high number of these features are present, it’s not a probability or possibility, you will be hurt and damaged by a Controller if you stay in the relationship.
1. Rough Treatment: Some Controllers will hurt you on purpose. If he or she hits you, twists your arm, pulls your hair, kicks you, shoves you, or breaks your personal property EVEN ONCE, drop them. Male Controllers often begin with behaviors that move you physically or hit the wall. Female Controllers often slap, kick, and even punch their male partners when upset.
2. Quick Attachment and Expression: Some Controllers have very shallow emotions and connections with others. One of the things that might attract you to a Controller is how quickly he or she says, “I Love You,” or wants to marry or commit to you. Typically, in less than a few weeks of dating you’ll hear that you’re the love of their life, they want to be with you forever, and they want to marry you. You’ll receive gifts, a variety of promises, and be showered with their attention and nice gestures. This is the “honeymoon phase” – where they catch you and convince you that they are the best thing that ever happened to you. Remember the business saying, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is (too good to be true)!” You may be so overwhelmed by this display of instant attraction, instant commitment, and instant planning for the future that you’ll miss the major point – it doesn’t make sense!! Normal, healthy individuals require a long process to develop a relationship, because there is so much at stake. Healthy individuals will wait for a lot of information before offering a commitment – not three weeks. It’s true that we can become infatuated with others quickly – but not make such unrealistic promises and have the future planned after three dates. The rapid warm-up is always a sign of shallow emotions which later cause some Controllers to detach from you as quickly as they committed. Some Controllers want to move in with you or marry you in less than four weeks or very early in the relationship.
3. Frightening Temper: Some Controllers have a scary temper. If your boyfriend or girlfriend blows up and does dangerous things, like driving too fast because they’re mad, breaking/throwing things, getting into fights, or threatening others – that temper will soon be turned in your direction. In the beginning of the relationship, you will be exposed to “witnessed violence” – fights with others, threats toward others, angry outbursts at others, etc. You will also hear of violence in their life. You will see and witness this temper – throwing things, yelling, cursing, driving fast, hitting the walls, and kicking things. That quickly serves to intimidate you and fear their potential for violence, although some Controllers quickly assure you that they are angry at others or situations, not at you. At first, you will be assured that they will never direct the hostility and violence at you, but they are clearly letting you know that they have that ability and capability – and that it might come your way. Later, you fear challenging or confronting them – fearing that same temper and violence will be turned in your direction.
4. Killing Your Self-Confidence: Some Controllers repeatedly put you down. They constantly correct your slight mistakes, making you feel “on guard,” unintelligent, and leaving you with the feeling that you are always doing something wrong. They tell you that you’re too fat, too unattractive, or don’t talk correctly or look well. This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem allows them to later treat you badly, as though you deserved it. In public, you will be “walking on eggshells” always fearing you are doing or saying something that will later create a temper outburst or verbal argument.
5. Cutting Off Your Support: In order to control someone completely, you must cut off their supportive friends – sometimes even their family. Some Controllers feel your friends and family might influence you or offer negative opinions about their behavior. Some Controllers begin by telling you these friends treat you badly, take advantage of you, and don’t understand the special nature of the love you share with them. In some cases, if they can’t get rid of your best same-sex friend, some Controllers will claim he or she made a pass at them. If you talk to your friends or family, some Controllers will punish you by asking multiple questions or making nasty accusations. Eventually, rather than face the verbal punishment, interrogation, and abuse, you’ll develop the feeling that it’s better not to talk to family and friends. You will withdraw from friends and family, prompting them to become upset with you. Some Controllers then tell you they are treating you badly again, and you’d be better to keep your distance from them. Once you are isolated and alone, without support, their control over you can increase.
6. The Mean and Sweet Cycle: Some Controllers cycle from mean to sweet and back again. The cycle starts when they are intentionally hurtful and mean. You may be verbally abused, cursed, and threatened over something minor. Suddenly, the next day they become sweet, doing all those little things they did when you started dating. You hang on, hoping each mean-then-sweet cycle is the last one. The other purpose of the mean cycle is to allow some Controllers to say very nasty things about you or those you care about, again chipping away at your self-esteem and self-confidence. some Controller often apologize but the damage to your self-esteem is already done – exactly as planned.
7. It’s Always Your Fault: Some Controllers blame you for their anger as well as any other behavior that is incorrect. When they cheat on you, yell at you, treat you badly, damage your property, or embarrass you publicly, it’s somehow your fault. If you are ten minutes late for a date, it’s your fault that the male Controller drives 80 miles per hour, runs people off the road, and pouts the rest of the evening. Some Controllers tell you their anger and misbehavior would not have happened if you had not made some simple mistake, had loved them more, or had not questioned their behavior. Some Controllers never, repeat “never,” takes personal responsibility for their behavior – it’s always the fault of someone else. If they drive like a maniac and try to pull an innocent driver off the highway to assault them, it’s actually the fault of the other driver (not him) as they didn’t use a turn signal when they changed lanes. They give you the impression that you had it (anger, yelling, assault) coming and deserved the anger, violence, pouting, or physical display of aggression.
8. Breakup Panic: Some Controllers panic at the idea of breaking up, unless it’s totally their idea, then you’re dropped like a hot rock. Abusive boyfriends often break down and cry, they plead, they promise to change, and they offer marriage/trips/gifts when you threaten ending the relationship. Both male and female Controllers may threaten suicide, threaten to return to old sweethearts (who feel lucky they’re gone!), or threaten to quit their job and leave the area, as though you will be responsible for those decisions. Some Controllers offer a multitude of “deals” and halfway measures, like “Let’s just date one more month!”
They shower you with phone calls, often every five minutes, hoping that you will make an agreement or see them just to stop the telephone harassment. Some call your relatives, your friends, their friends, and anyone else they can think of – telling those people to call you and tell you how much they love you. Creative Controllers often create so much social pressure that the victim agrees to go back to the bad relationship rather than continue under the social pressure. Imagine trying to end a relationship and receiving tearful calls from all his or her relatives (they secretly hope you’ll keep them so they don’t have to), seeing a plea for your return in the newspaper or even on a local billboard, receiving flowers at work each day, or having them arrive at your place of work and offer you a wedding ring (male Controller technique) or inform you that they might be pregnant (female Controller technique) in front of your coworkers! Their reaction is emotionally intense, a behavior they use to keep you an emotional prisoner. If you go back to them, you actually fear a worse reaction if you threaten to leave again (making you a prisoner), and they later frequently recall the incident to you as further evidence of what a bad person you are. Remember, if your prize dog jumps the fence and escapes, if you get him back, you build a higher fence. Once back in the grasp of Controller – escape will be three times as difficult the next time.
9. No Outside Interests: Some Controllers will encourage you to drop your hobbies, interests, and involvement with others. If you have an individual activity, they demand that they accompany you, making you feel miserable during the entire activity. The idea behind this is to prevent you from having fun or interests other than those which they totally control.
10. Paranoid Control: Some Controlles will check up on you and keep track of where you are and who you are with. If you speak to a member of the opposite sex, you receive twenty questions about how you know them. If you don’t answer their phone call, you are asked where you were, what were you doing, who you were talking to, etc. They will notice the type of mud on your car, question why you shop certain places, and question why you called a friend, why the friend called you, and so forth. Some Controllers follow you to the grocery, then later ask if you’ve been there in an attempt to catch you in a lie. In severe cases, they go through your mail, look through your purse/wallet, hit your redial on the phone when they arrive, or search through your garbage for evidence. High-tech Controllers may encourage you to make “private” calls to friends from their residence, calls that are being secretly taped for later reference. They may begin to tell you what to wear, what to listen to in music, and how to behave in public. Eventually, they tell you that you can not talk to certain friends or acquaintances, go certain places, or talk about certain issues in public. If no date is present on Friday night, some Controllers will inform you that they will call you that night – sometime. That effectively keeps you home, awaiting the call, fearing the verbal abuse and questions you might receive if you weren’t home for the call. This technique allows Controller to do what they want socially, at the same time controlling your behavior from a distance or a local bar.
11. Public Embarrassment: In an effort to keep you under control while in public, Controller will lash out at you, call you names, or say cruel or embarrassing things about you in private or in front of people. When in public, you quickly learn that any opinion you express may cause them to verbally attack you, either at the time or later. If you stay with Controller too long, you’ll soon find yourself politely smiling, saying nothing, and holding on to their arm when in public. You’ll also find yourself walking with your head down, fearful of seeing a friend who might speak to you and create an angry reaction in Controller.
12. It’s Never Enough: Some Controllers convince you that you are never quite good enough. You don’t say “I love you” enough, you don’t stand close enough, you don’t do enough for them after all their sacrifices, and your behavior always falls short of what is expected. This is another method of destroying your self-esteem and confidence. After months of this technique, they begin telling you how lucky you are to have them – somebody who tolerates someone so inadequate and worthless as you.
13. Entitlement: Some Controller have a tremendous sense of entitlement, the attitude that they have a perfectly logical right to do whatever they desire. If cut off in traffic, Controller feels they have the right to run the other driver off the road, assault them, and endanger the lives of other drivers with their temper tantrum. Keep in mind, this same sense of entitlement will be used against you. If you disobey their desires or demands, or violate one of their rules, they feel they are entitled to punish you in any manner they see fit.
14. Your Friends and Family Dislike Him: As the relationship continues, your friends and family will see what some Controllers are doing to you. They will notice a change in your personality or your withdrawal. They will protest. Some Controllers will tell you they are jealous of the “special love” you have, and then use their protest and opinion as further evidence that they are against you – not him. The mention of your family members or friends will spark an angry response from them, eventually placing you in the situation where you stop talking about those you care about, even your own family members. Some Controllers will be jealous and threatened by anyone you are close to, even your children. In some cases, your parents or brothers/sisters will not be allowed to visit your home.
15. Bad Stories: People often let you know about their personality by the stories they tell about themselves. It’s the old story about giving a person enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. The stories a person tells informs us of how they see themselves, what they think is interesting, and what they think will impress you. A humorous individual will tell funny stories on himself. Some Controllers tell stories of violence, aggression, being insensitive to others, rejecting others, etc. They may tell you about past relationships and, in every case, they assure you that they were treated horribly despite how wonderful they were to that person. They brag about their temper and outbursts, because they don’t see anything wrong with violence and actually take pride in the “I don’t take nothing from nobody” attitude. People define themselves with their stories, much like a culture is described by it’s folklore and legends. Listen to these stories – they tell you how you will eventually be treated and what’s coming your way.
16. The Waitress Test: It’s been said that when dating, the way an individual treats a waitress or other neutral person of the opposite sex is the way they will treat you in six months. During the “honeymoon phase” of a relationship, you will be treated like a king or queen. However, during that time some Controllers have not forgotten how he or she basically feels about the opposite sex. Waitresses, clerks, or other neutral individuals will be treated badly. If they are cheap, you’ll never receive anything once the honeymoon is over. If they whine, complain, criticize, and torment, that’s how they’ll treat you in six months. A mentally healthy person is consistent, they treat almost all people the same way all the time. If you find yourself dating a man who treats you like a queen and other females like dirt, hit the road.
17. The Reputation: As mentioned, mentally healthy individuals are consistent in their personality and their behavior. Some Controllers may have two distinct reputations – a group of individuals who will give you glowing reports and a group that will warn you that they are serious trouble. If you ask ten people about a new restaurant – five say it’s wonderful and five say it’s a hog pit – you clearly understand that there’s some risk involved in eating there. Some Controllers may actually brag about their reputation as a “butt kicker,” “womanizer,” “hot temper,” or “being crazy.” They may tell you stories where other’s have called them crazy or suggested that they receive professional help. Pay attention to the reputation. Reputation is the public perception of an individual’s behavior. If the reputation has two sides, good and bad, your risk is high. You will be dealing with the bad side once the honeymoon is over in the relationship. With severe behavior problems, some Controllers will be found to have almost no friends, just acquaintances. Emotionally healthy and moral individuals will not tolerate friendships with Controllers that treat others so badly. If you find yourself disliking the friends of a Controller, it’s because they operate the same way he or she does and you can see it in them.
18. Walking on Eggshells: As a relationship with a Controller continues, you will gradually be exposed to verbal intimidation, temper tantrums, lengthy interrogations about trivial matters, violence/threats directed at others but witnessed by you, paranoid preoccupation with your activities, and a variety of put-downs on your character. You will quickly find yourself “walking on eggshells” in their presence – fearful to bring up topics, fearful to mention that you spoke to or saw a friend, and fearful to question or criticize the behavior of a Controller. Instead of experiencing the warmth and comfort of love, you will be constantly on edge, tense when talking to others (they might say something that you’ll have to explain later), and fearful that you’ll see someone you’ll have to greet in public. Dates and times together will be more comfortable and less threatening when totally alone, exactly what a Controller wants, no interference with their control or dominance.
19. Discounted Feelings/Opinions: Some Controllers are so self-involved and self-worshiping that the feelings and opinions of others are considered worthless. As the relationship continues and you begin to question what you are feeling or seeing in their behavior, you will be told that your feelings and opinions don’t make sense, they’re silly, and that you are emotionally disturbed to even think of such things. Some Controllers have no interest in your opinion or your feelings, but they will be disturbed and upset that you dare question their behavior. Some Controllers are extremely hostile toward criticism and often reacts with anger or rage when their behavior is questioned.
20. They Make You “Crazy”: Some Controllers operate in such a damaging way that you find yourself doing “crazy” things in self-defense. If a Controller is scheduled to arrive at 8:00 pm, you call Time & Temperature to cover the redial, check your garbage for anything that might get you in trouble, and call your family and friends to tell them not to call you that night. You warn family/friends not to bring up certain topics, avoid locations in the community where you might see co-workers or friends, and not speak to others for fear of the 20 questions. You become paranoid as well – being careful what you wear and say. Nonviolent males find themselves in physical fights with female Controllers. Nonviolent females find themselves yelling and screaming when they can no longer take the verbal abuse or intimidation. In emotional and physical self-defense, we behave differently and oddly. While we think we are “going crazy,” it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as “normal behavior” in a combat situation. Rest assured that your behavior will return to normal if you detach from a Controller before permanent psychological damage is done.
Adapted from Warning Signs You’re Dating a Loser, by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Psychologist