Life can be chaotic and unpredictable, so it feels good to have a sense of control over it. Control is something that we naturally strive for because of our free will. When we are in control, we feel safe, comfortable, and sometimes even important or powerful. Unfortunately, we can let it get to our heads and attempt to control things that we shouldn’t, such as our relationships with people. This can be especially true for those who have suffered a traumatic past which they previously had no control over. Later in life as we pick ourselves up and become who we want to be, control itself can be a dangerous form of revenge. Although we may have developed behaviors that seem impossible to erase, there are ways we can work through our problems without sacrificing the health of our human relationships.

Recognizing what we can and cannot control is important to our mental health. We can control our general actions and our reactions to particular situations. We cannot control circumstances or people, although some of us may feel compelled to because of a traumatic past or a history of the ability to have control over people. For example, someone who has experienced family abuse throughout their childhood might take up an eating disorder or a self-harm habit because these things make them feel “in control” of their bodies, appearances, or actions. Someone who was raised by submissive parents that gave into every demand might use tactics later in life in an attempt to control others.

When Control Becomes Unhealthy

If you are using techniques that ultimately serve to control others or circumstances, you are not using your power in a healthy way. The problem is, many of us may not realize we are being manipulative because these are learned behaviors we have practiced for years. We may do them subconsciously when we feel as though we are “losing control” of something. We often do not realize our aggressive, pushy intentions behind these actions. For example, a girl who wants attention from an ex-boyfriend may attempt to seduce or sweet-talk him as a means of buttering him up to get what she wants. On the inside, she suffers from co-dependency and is tempted to give into what seems to be selfish and possibly unrealistic desires.

When trying to gain control over someone else, we often hide our honest motivations, knowing it will scare them off. Every person has different weaknesses, and if you can identify them, you can mess with their thoughts and feelings. A friend might lie to another about being unable to make it to their party due to car trouble, when in reality they had no desire to go. We may shame somebody we dislike for something we know they are insecure about as a means of lowering their self-esteem. We could also belittle someone’s problems by telling them they are privileged, and that other people have it much worse. This makes the person feel guilty, and as long as we know we are making someone feel a certain way, we believe we are succeeding.

How Control Affects A Marriage

Some of us may feel the need to control our spouses, as we spend so much time with them and we want everything to seem perfect. The mind games you play with your husband and wife could completely disconnect the relationship over time. You might guilt trip them into spending more time with you and less time with their own friends and family, perhaps even to the point where they lose contact completely. You might make your own problems out to be bigger than they are as a way of getting them to feel sorry for you. You may withhold information from your spouse or not tell them the entire truth about something, making up excuses or distracting them by changing the subject and never giving a straight answer. After a certain time, the trust in your relationship will diminish. They will find it more difficult to be around you and believe the things you say. They might try to seek comfort and support behind your back.

How Therapy Can Help

Therapy can help us understand what it is we are trying to gain by controlling others and why we are trying to gain it. Perhaps you insist of feeling superior to other people because you were raised to believe that is the only way you can be successful in life. Maybe you had no control over your home life as a child, so attempting to control other people or situations that are really not ours to control is the only way you can feel free. It is also possible you developed a low self-esteem from being picked on, so by turning the tables, your self-esteem goes up. Whatever the reason is, therapy can help you pinpoint it and figure out healthier ways to attain these desires. It can also help you form better relationships with those around you.

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