Emotions used to control others

May 18, 2011 by
Filed under: Spinewave Bulletin 

The emotions and devices we use to manipulate and control others.

By Neil Rosenthal, Family Therapist, Christchurch.

“I am living with a woman who is very controlling,” writes Craig G. “When I don’t agree with her or do things the way she wants me to, she gets furious at me, threatens to have an affair, screams, pouts, and withdraws sex. Why does she do this?”

How do you attempt to control people in your relationships? Do you yell, deny them something, get annoyed or irritated, accusatory, pout, act sneaky or deceptive, criticise, lie or withhold the truth? Do you offer therapy, act “nice”, give gifts, take responsibility for others, sulk, moralise, nag, analyse, get short of curt?

Do you give advice, get angry, argue, lecture, explain, become self righteous, blame, complain, convince, justify? Do you judge, interrogate, flatter talk others out of their feelings, bribe, scowl, spank, change the subject? Do you use sarcasm, whine, make comparisons, throw things, interpret? Do you talk about your feelings, desires and needs, teach?

Do you use the silent treatment, underfunctioning, disapproving looks, overfunctioning, sighs, half-truths, a superior attitude, illness, or emotional withdrawal? What about sexual withdrawal, violence, blaming tears, “poor me” tears, temper tantrums, put-downs, threats of suicide, or threats of financial withdrawal?

Are there other ways that you exert control in your relationships? Some of the more common ways people try to control others, consciously or not, are through…

  • Crying: “Poor me. Look at what you are doing to me. I’m going to get even with you by making you feel guilty.” You feel like a victim and you feel genuinely upset, but some people use those emotions to manipulate and control others.
  • Anger: “You’re wrong, and I’m going to be upset with you until you give me my way.” Anger is also a genuine emotion, but it can be used to frighten and intimidate others into doing what you want.
  • Cold, silent treatment: “This is what you are going to get from me until you give me what I want.” Withdrawing communication, affection, endearments, and sex. This is a variation of the cold, silent treatment.
  • Threats: “ If  you go to sleep without us first resolving this issue, I may not be hear when you wake up,” You threaten another person with something you know they feel particularly vulnerable about.
  • Interrogation: “Where were you?” “Who were you with?” You interrogate others when you are afraid. You are looking are looking for the other person to say something you can pounce on.
  • Criticism or sarcasm: Do it my way or I’ll make your life really miserable.
  • Denial: “That never happened.” “I didn’t say that.” You are hoping that you can dupe the other person by challenging their version of what happened. This is particularly destructive when used with children, who learn to use denial as a way to protect themselves from reality.
  • Lecturing: “Give me what I want or I’ll use my self-righteousness and never give you a moments peace.”
  • Playing dumb: “I don’t remember any agreement about that.”
  • Killing with kindness: “What else can I do for you to prove what a schmuck you are?” This is closely related to martyrdom.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  • Symptoms (72)
  • Most Recent Symptoms

  • Archives

  • Search

  • Case of the Month

    Reviews of complex cases are frequently researched and updated in this category. Alternatively use the search bar above.

    Video Audio Ebooks
  • SpineWave Bulletin

    Sign up to receive our newsletter: a cutting edge knowledge update including case studies, research, videos, blog, and Dr Neil's periodic existential outrospection.
  • Contact

    09 522 0025
    Suite 1, 102 Remuera Road, Auckland
    Click here for practice hours
  • Social Media