This article on signs of a controlling person is the second part of a two-part article. You can read the first part here.
As a reminder, it's important to remember that a person in an abusive relationship may actually have difficulty seeing the signs. It often helps to go through this list with a trusted friend, a third party that you can depend on. Going through this list with your partner that you suspect may be abusive is not recommended! All that would do is give them more information about how you are thinking which allows them to continue with the control and domination.
A controlling person will often give you a hard time about your emotions. They tell you you are too emotional, too sensitive, your emotions control you and so on. They generally make you feel bad about having emotions. They often won't allow you to talk about your emotions. They may insist that you go away until you have sorted yourself out.
There are often major contradictions around emotions in an abusive relationship. You are not allowed to get angry at them. They, however, can get angry at you for anything and everything. They have led you to believe that they are absolutely in love with you. But they rarely show emotions themselves. In fact, they can be cold, callous and cruel. You may wonder how somebody who supposedly loves you can treat you so badly. This is actually one of the major characteristics of psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists These people do not experience emotions and it's one of their defining characteristics.
At the same time they can be masters at manipulating yours. In fact, they will keep you on an emotional rollercoaster because somebody in a very emotional state has difficulty thinking and rationalizing. This makes you much easier to control. And here is one of their tricks. They do something to provoke you, then you react as any normal person would, then they criticize you for having that response. It's basically a setup. They upset you and then criticize you for being upset. Then they label you as argumentative, weak, anxious, someone with anger issues et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Insults, name-calling, belittling and threats are all part of the repertoire of the controlling person. But there are some specific things that they do that increase the effects of what they say.
First of all, as mentioned above, they will provoke you and then criticize you for responding. So, for example, they start an argument and during this they call you argumentative. In that moment you are actually arguing, so it seems that they are right.
Secondly, they repeat these things over and over. Studies have shown that if you hear a piece of information from three different sources you are very likely to believe it. And if one person tells you the same thing three times it has 90% of the effect of three different people telling you. Now think about how often the abusive person in your life has repeated things to you and about you. This repetition is very important because after months or years of hearing the same thing you eventually believe it. Or at least it creates a mental conflict where every time you hear this thing you have to stop and remind yourself that it's not actually true.
The third aspect to this is that even if the manipulator is talking about your behaviour or something you said or a belief they attack you at the level of identity. So it's not that you did something bad or wrong, it's that you are bad or wrong for having done it. Your idea is not pathetic, you are pathetic for having such an idea.
In this way they are all the time eroding your sense of yourself, making you feel bad about who you are and destroying your self esteem. Typically this pushes an abused person to try harder to please the manipulator. The victim becomes willing to try and adapt themselves so that they can earn praise and approval from the abuser. This sounds strange to somebody who has never experienced these things, but this is what happens in mind control situations.
Attacking your identity is only one aspect of psychological abuse. While the abuser is doing this they are also using a reward and punishment system to force you into doing, acting, and thinking in different ways. Ways that are beneficial to them, of course. So you do something they don't like, you get punished. In this way they extinguish certain of your behaviours and force you into doing things differently. You can read more about this idea here.
The end result is that you end up basically a different person. This is why the family and friends of abuse victims say that they hardly recognise the person any longer. The victim has had their perceptions, thinking, decision-making, emotions and behaviours changed by the abuser. All these changes are for the benefit of the manipulator. Think slave. The manipulator makes themselves the centre of the victim's universe. Every aspect of the victim's life is organised around making the life of the manipulator more comfortable. So how does this show up in day-to-day life?
You are not allowed to talk about specific topics.
The manipulator controls the finances.
You have to make sure the manipulator is comfortable first. Then you can think of yourself. Even then you may still not get what you want.
Anything bad that happens is always your fault. The manipulator will have excuses and justifications why they are not to blame. You are not allowed to use these justifications yourself.
Anything good comes from the abuser. Whatever you have, the good things in your life, your social standing and so on the manipulator will take credit for. The abuser will tell you it's only because you're with them that you're having such a good life.
The abuser constantly focuses your attention on your alleged sins, wrongdoings, mistakes, slippages. You are not allowed to take credit for your talents or successes. In fact, if you have a success the abuser will claim to have a bigger success and minimise yours. The abuser will find something about your success to criticise and thereby ruin the moment for you.
You are kept very busy. You no longer have time for your own hobbies, sports or interests. All your time is taken up looking after the manipulator. If there are children these become your responsibility. The abuser has no difficulty telling you what to do but may participate very little in the childcare.
The abuser may control the television, what books you read and what information you have access to. They may not tell you directly what books you can and cannot read, but they make you feel stupid or guilty for reading something and in order to keep the peace you just stop reading.
While they may insist on knowing everything about your life, they keep you in the dark about theirs. You may not know where they are or who they spend time with. Some abusers even disappear for days at a time without an explanation or without even telling their victims when they will return. They understand the power of information and how to use it.
They make the rules. They change the rules when it suits them. They don't feel the need to tell you when the rules have changed.
This list of signs of a controlling person is by no means complete. Nor is it necessary to be able to spot every single one of these conditions to realise that you are in an abusive relationship. As I said above, it's often difficult to realise when one is in an abusive relationship.
Would you like to talk to someone about your situation?
If you think you are or have been in a cult or a destructive relationship, or a friend or family member might be in a cult and you want to talk to someone, send me a message on the Contact page and we can arrange to talk. All communication will be treated in the strictest confidence.
You have the theory but how do you actually apply it? This book spells it out...
Do you think that you might be in an abusive relationship? Are you realizing that the group you are in may be a cult?
Do you think you are being taken advantage of emotionally, physically, sexually or financially in your relationship? Do you want to leave but you can't seem to get away?