Understanding Controlling People

Why do so many people, both men and women, try to control others? And what does it mean to try to control someone? To control means to have the power to direct, influence or to generally regulate an outcome, by means of restraint – either physically or verbally – by dominating, or by rule, with regard to ourselves, others or devices in the world around us.

Nurturing Control

For this discussion, there are two kinds of control. The first is the nurturing control which our parents provided, and the control we have over ourselves, our children, our lives, future, and those relying on us.

Most everyone exercises nurturing control by the decisions and actions they make for their own benefit and that of others in order to direct their lives – but not at their expense. Nurturing control is necessary to relationships and for the teaching and guidance of children, to direct and protect their lives without hindering their independence.

Oppressive Control

The second is Oppressive Control. This is just the opposite of nurturing control. Most people who act in an oppressive controlling way are actually trying to meet a deep need that out-weighs their good intentions. In a misdirected way and quite often without even being aware of this need, they can be very destructive without knowing what they don’t know.

With this in mind, someone who is controlling can be compared with a ship that has slowly gone off course. It may not be their intention to be controlling, just as the ship didn’t intend to veer off course. The controlling person assumes everything is fine, but nonetheless is aware something isn’t quite right. Yet the controlling person stays in control, not adjusting, often moving even more off course. Their intentions have not changed. They believe they are correct, therefore everything else must be wrong, so they try to get a firmer grip.

Capturing the Problem

At some point the off-course person reaches out to restore equilibrium. Sometimes, a nearby person is captured (thoroughly controlled), and used to correct all that isn’t right, or more likely to do what is ordered. The captured person may even be viewed as the problem.

Controlling people often don’t have a conscious intention to control others. They are generally reacting to perceived threats. Controlling people who are fighting to maintain control don’t realize they have even established control. As far as they can tell, the ship is on the correct course.

Pretend People

Controlling people make up pretend or alternate people out of the captured person or people. The nearby captured person has or will become the pretend or alternative person, and will be thoroughly confused by their duality.

The controlling person uses various tactics to maintain control by arguing, fighting, or ignoring all ideas and pleas presented by the captured person, as well as any opinions that conflict with their own. Controllers don’t emphathize with or respect the other person. Over time, the controlled person becomes completely exhausted from trying to resist and reason with the controlling person.

Fighting to Feel on Course

Control isn’t only about getting someone to do something. It can also be about the controlling person fighting to prevent feeling adrift and off course. Controlling people even target those who are not, according to them, as they should be. In other words, the real person is not like their pretend alternative.

The oppressive controller is generally most comfortable attempting to control only one person. Eventually the controlled person finds it nearly impossible to deal with the controlling situation or relationship.


A decision must be made to end the attacks. Sometimes, especially in abusive relationships, separation or escape is the only option. This can cause pain and anxiety on top of the oppression and abuse. Less severe options include being firm about your psychic boundaries. Concentrate on your own inner self. Protect your children from the controlling person. Speak up and be firm. Another tactic that often works, at least temporarily, is to ask the question “what?” “What did you say?” “Can you repeat that please?” As if you didn’t understand or hear the controlling person’s comment or command. This will cause the controller to stop to think and restate what was said, or at least make them pause and rethink. This may be just enough to make the command or comment a more reasonable one.

With a little time and skill the controlled person can put the ship back on course.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

Review our Knowledge Base or the links displayed on this page for similar and related topics.