It’s inevitable that at some point in your life, you’ll come across a person who wants to control your behavior in some way. This may be a lover, spouse, close friend, or even an employer or colleague who tries to control your words or actions in order to get what they want.
Their actions may seem innocuous at first, but over time you’ll notice a pattern of behavior that can range from subtle to severe, but the various types of control are all damaging in their own way.
1. The Isolator
If you’re in a relationship or friendship with this type of person, you have to make them your one and only, or there will be hell to pay. They need to be your entire world, so they’ll work on alienating you from other people in your social circles in order to get what they want.
They’ll play up negative aspects of your other friends, talk about how poorly your family treats you and how only they know you, understand you, and can make you happy. Before you know it, you don’t have any friends left, your family barely talks to you, and your significant other is the only person you have to interact with.
Just like they wanted.
2. The Mind-Reading Assumer
This is a person who believes that they know what you’re thinking or feeling at any given time, and it’s up to you to prove them otherwise. They’ll begin sentences with “You think ____” or “You believe ____,” accusing you of having certain thoughts without asking you.
Being jealous, possessive types, they might trawl through your social media accounts and create narratives in their minds about what they think they glean from your interactions. Then they’ll turn around and transform their imaginings into accusations… and the only way you can prove them wrong is with action, like cutting ties with certain friends, or no longer frequenting a place you like to go.
You might think that their behavior shows just how much they love you, but it’s really just that they’re terrified of being abandoned, and will do whatever it takes to protect and keep what they see as “theirs.”
That would be you.
3. The Flatterer
This type of person preys on those who have low self-esteem, as they know they can wrap that person around their finger with a fair amount of ease. They’ll charm the other person, boost their ego, make them feel absolutely adored… and will then withdraw attention and affection as needed to manipulate the other as they see fit.
Their partner (or friend) will have come to crave that attention, will feel diminished by the lack of it, and will do whatever it takes in order to get it back – even to their own detriment.
They may end up in situations that make them miserable simply because they’ve become addicted to the positive reinforcement they’ve received from their partner/friend/other, deriving their sense of self-worth from that attention, and are afraid of how awful they’ll feel if they walk away.
4. The Interrogator
You may have encountered this person before, either in a relationship or in a work environment. This type maintains their position of control (or authority) by interrogating you with countless questions any time you try to assert yourself.
They might draw upon their experience to counteract any argument you make, asking you to defend your stance, then attacking anything you say and belittling your platform until they’ve exhausted you and forced you to back down.
In essence, they behave like Gestapo interrogators, barking questions at you, mocking your responses, undermining you, and putting you on the defensive… until you finally concede that yes, they’re right, and apologize for daring to say anything at all.
He or she will wallow in their own pain and misery so that others feel sorry for them and do all they can to make the hurt go away. They may have had a traumatic childhood or some life-changing event that hurt them, but they learned that helplessness and suffering = coddling and fussing, and they liked it.
They liked it so much that they refuse to learn and grow from their experience, and instead choose to mire themselves in their pain. By doing so, they can evade accountability for any negative or hurtful actions on their part: they’re just so damaged that they can’t help it, right?
If the person they hurt ends up angry or resentful, then they’re perceived as lacking in empathy and compassion: how can you be angry with someone who hurts so much, all the time? What kind of horrible person are you?
This is one of the most despicable types of controlling people, as their form of manipulation can be damaging to a person’s entire life. An example of this type might be someone who keeps intimate photos that their lover has sent them, and threatens to make them public unless the partner conforms to what they want.
“If you try to break up with me, I’ll post your naked photos on social media,” or “if you don’t do X thing I want, I’ll send your boss screenshots of all the horrible texts you sent me about her.”
It is appalling, reprehensible behavior that happens far more often than you might think. It’s meant to scare and shame someone into submission, with the manipulator having all the power, since their victim is terrified that they’ll actually deliver on their promises.
7. The Silent Guilt Tripper
Opposite to the Interrogator, this type of person will freeze you out and give you the silent treatment whenever you don’t do what they want. They’ll walk away from you when you try to speak to them, won’t answer your questions, or if they don’t live with you, will ignore your calls, texts, and emails. They’ll keep you in limbo, wondering what the hell is going on so as to put you in a position of insecurity.
This is a horrible form of emotional and psychological abuse, and reduces a person to feeling worthless and invisible. It’s dehumanizing, and reduces others to objects instead of people who are deserving of respect and basic courtesy.
The victim of this behavior will often end up doing anything and everything in their power just to be acknowledged by the one who’s ignoring them, and will go above and beyond to avoid experiencing that kind of hurt ever again.
8. The Physical Aggressor
In this situation, the controlling person will use physical violence (or the perceived threat thereof) to get what they want from others. If they’re very tall or strong, they may loom over their partners or employees in a threatening manner, proving that they are “alpha” and are to be obeyed. If it’s a romantic partnership, they might actually turn to physical abuse like grabbing arms or wrists during conversation, or even slapping or punching.
This isn’t a relationship that can improve without significant therapy, and more often than not, it’s just better/easier to try to extricate yourself from such an ugly situation.
It’s important to note that all of these methods of control spring from a source: that people who are hurting usually end up hurting others. That’s not an excuse for this kind of behavior, but an explanation. It is helpful to be able to recognize that people act from places of pain and damage, but they also need to be held accountable for their actions. Ultimately, we are all responsible for our own lives, and that includes putting our own wellbeing first, and walking away from relationships that damage us.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.