The Need for Control and It's Relationship to Abuse

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Why do abusers, abuse? What motivates a control freak to abuse their victims? Verbal abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse all come from a need to control. The more research I do on the subject and the more I deal with clients in abusive relationships the more I come to believe that abuse has a close relationship with issues of control.

It is human nature to feel a need to control our surroundings and, to some degree the people we have relationships with.

In my opinion, it is that need to control that, at times is the main factor in the destruction of our relationships.

During my marriage, I was controlling. I was not a control freak who did not feel good about herself unless everyone was marching to her orders. I was what others might call a “worry wart.” I worried about whether or not my children had proper food to eat, whether or not the house was clean enough or whether or not family vacations would run smoothly.

Due to the worry, I felt a need to control certain things. I told myself that I needed to take control because it was in my family’s best interest. You know what I mean, if I planned every moment of a vacation then that meant every moment would be enjoyed. Funny thing is, every moment was planned out but every moment was not enjoyed because I was living with people who had their own minds and own ideas of what they wanted and didn’t want to do.

They would end up enjoying their vacation and I would end up stressing out and suffering emotionally because I felt out of control when my plans didn't come to fruition. It is what a person does with the stress and emotional discomfort they feel when out of control that determines whether or not they become verbal, physical or emotional abusers.

The Difference Between a Worry Wart and a Control Freak

There are those who have feelings of fear, worthlessness, inadequacy, and shame that turn into control freaks. Feelings of their own self-worth are tied to how well they can get others to bend to their whims and to follow their orders. They have a driving need to get control of their lives, which means controlling circumstances, and people…especially the people from whom they need love and affirmation. Once you start trying to force that kind of control over people you can bet conflict will follow.

I believe that control freaks have a low tolerance for any kind of emotional pain. Especially feelings of shame, fear and rejection of what they believe to be right and wrong. When something happens in their life to bring forth these intolerable emotions they find ways to cope and normally their coping skills mean abuse for those in relationships with the control freak.

Below is a list of five coping skills a control freak might resort to, in order to get their way:

1. Yelling, screaming, using degrading and demeaning language.

2. Shutting down and not talking or responding to your need to discuss the problems.

3. Withholding affection, financial help or anything else they think you need from them.

4. Hitting, shoving, punching, kicking.

5. Drinking, doing drugs and other addictive behaviors.

Each of the above behaviors is an attempt by the abuser to tranquilize the intolerable emotional pain they feel when feeling out of control. Instead of looking internally and trying to figure out why they have such negative emotions they bury the pain, live in denial of it and distort the reality of their behaviors. How often have you heard an abuser blame the person they abuse for their actions? It is easier to blame someone else for bad behavior than to admit they need help and to face those painful emotions head-on.

I don’t believe that abuse of any sort should be excused. If you are living in an abusive relationship you should leave and leave immediately. Control what you have control over and that is your own physical and mental well-being.

When we love someone, it is easy to make excuses, to hang on and hope someone will change. This article is not meant to encourage anyone to excuse abusive behavior. It will, however, help you see what is behind the abusive behavior. Once you understand that, it is less likely that you blame yourself and buy into what you are being told by your abuser.

Bottom line, abuse is about the need to control, a need gone crazy. It is about the abuser and their inability to cope with unpleasant emotions. It is not about the abused or anything that was said or done by them so, don’t allow a control freak to determine how you live your life. Take control back and get yourself out of harm's way.​