Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.
Last update: 15 November 2021
People who have little or no ability to control their fears, gaps and frustrations often feel the need to control others in order to build a strong and positive self-image. This need gradually turns into an exaggerated tendency to command and into a rigid and suffocating bond that undermines the emotional wholeness of the other person.
If we think about it, it is truly amazing how the human mind is able to activate the most sophisticated mechanisms where it needs them. Obviously not everyone does it in the same way, but the necessity to control everything and everyone around us is nothing more than a defense mechanism towards something that at a precise moment is perceived as a "threat".
Are you trying to control everything around you? We must avoid falling into such suffering, because those who focus all their attention on others do so to avoid the most important thing: to control themselves.
Low self-esteem, strong insecurity, a negative self-image, the inability to manage emotions such as anger, sadness or frustration are all elements that often form this explosive cocktail in which psychological uncertainty desperately tries to patch up as best as possible by means wrong. Faced with the inability to control and deal with all these aspects, the person directs all his energies to those around him: "I will control you and all the others so that you adapt to my world of chiaroscuro, my geographical accidents, my black holes".
These are behaviors that we undoubtedly frequently encounter in some couple relationships and also in many work contexts. For example, the incapable manager will try to control all his employees to adapt to his entrepreneurial policy by resorting to his authority and abusing it, creating dysfunctional and unproductive dynamics within his organization.
Controlling others and the lack of emotional autonomy
The need for control manifests itself in many contexts, moments and situations. We can see it in the insecure mother or father who control their child so that he does not come out of the familiar "glass bell" and stay with them for as long as possible. It is also common in those relationships of friendship in which one of the people involved adopts behavior of control, manipulation and even blackmail. These are people who demand everything from others: time, emotional support and of course obedience.
If we have people with these characteristics around us, then we will know that it is enough to “scratch” a little to discover that under the surface of impositions, threats and obsessions, there is a lack of emotional autonomy. Because of this lack, they feel the need not only to control, but also to "take". In other words, sometimes insecure people with low self-esteem and unable to manage their emotional world try to be "fed", to "take" from other people.
As if all this were not enough, there is also another interesting and illustrative nuance. Thanks to a 2009 research conducted by psychiatrists Friese and Hofman, it was found that people with poor self-regulation skills are carried away by emotional reactions of the "all or nothing" type. This means that their impulsiveness, their anxiety to be "fed", admits no shortcomings or excuses, much less is able to see the needs of others and to be empathetic.
When a person with a tendency to control wants something, he doesn't ask for it, he demands it. Furthermore, he seeks immediate satisfaction, unconditional attention, people from whom he can "take" and who are always willing and predisposed to orbit within his self-centered universe.
What if we happen to want to control others?
Often it is necessary to do an exercise of reflection on ourselves, to evaluate if in reality it is we who have this need to control those around us. Maybe we are doing it consciously or not, and it may even be that this behavior occurs overnight without us really noticing it.
Sometimes the triggering cause can be a situation of economic difficulty, the breakup with our partner, the loss of a loved one. These are moments of vital importance, in which the void becomes concrete and suffocating, in which fear grips us and we cannot bear the uncertainty. The mind begins to envisage tragic events, everything seems to get out of hand, and almost without realizing it we end up demanding from others things that sometimes go beyond their responsibilities. We fall into emotional abuse without realizing it.
What can we do in these cases? Let's try to reflect on the following:
- We have to understand that controlling others will not improve the situation. Dominating the people we love limits their freedom and is unproductive. On the contrary, it is useful to learn to control ourselves, because the real problem is not always found on the outside, it must be sought within us.
- We have to understand that we cannot even control the future and the events that are about to happen. Instead, what is within our reach is the present, what is happening now, and it depends on us.
- Living implies admitting that there are more uncertainties than certainties, understand that not everything can be kept under control and that it is also necessary to accept the unpredictable. To do this, there is nothing better than working on ourselves, investing in our strength, in understanding and managing our emotions ...
It is clear, therefore, that few things are as necessary for our personal growth as the development of good self-control. Ultimately, a person with adequate emotional autonomy and good control over her emotions allows herself to progress with greater harmony and integrity, while respecting herself and others.