Social Question

Jude's avatar

Would love to get your thoughts on this. Why are some people controlling (be it relationships/friendship)

Asked by Jude (32126points) August 19th, 2009

Would love to know the psychology behind controlling individuals.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

41 Answers

marinelife's avatar

People who are controlling have experienced the feeling of being out of control earlier in their lives (often childhood).

They also are very anxious. They think by controlling everything around them, they can keep themselves safe, which of course is an illusion.

This is a condition that can be treated with therapy.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i wonder the same thing, but i think it may just be as random as someone being passive in relationships, or any other personality trait. i wouldn’t bet on it, but that’s my best guess.
i think @Marina‘s answer sounds pretty reliable, but i wonder if that’s the way it is for all cases? or just extremely controlling people?

marinelife's avatar

”“People who are controlling have a basic insecurity and lack of trust for life and other people,” says Hale Dwoskin, CEO and director of Sedona Training Associates. “They feel that either they are the only ones who can do the job or that they need to micromanage others to force them to do what is right.” Source

shortysith's avatar

I am a controlling person. It is something I have struggled with for years, and I think it stems for a few things. First and foremost, I am a person who likes to know what is going on around me. When things happen unexpectadly, it really rattles me. I like to be able to know what is going on around me is good for me, as well as the other people in my life. I often feel like I am responsible for making sure that things get done correctly, whatever that may be. I can say I was controlling in my last relationship. It wasn’t a good thing, but I also think it also was because of the man I was with, and the fact that I was young. He had drinking problems, and had screwed his life up not only once, but twice. We had other problems too, and cumulatively it had is affect on me (we were together for six years), and therefore, I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure nothing bad happened again. It stems from a lack of trust in people and the world around you. I lacked trust that the person I was with wouldn’t do something wrong, and that is unfair pressure to put on anyone. Of course people aren’t perfect, and that is hard to accept when you are controlling. I ended that relationship, and I am in one in which actually has helped me learn that I can’t control everything. I feel the need to sometimes, and I can tell how my s/o responds to it, and i think because I am older now I can see how it can be destructive. Maturity helps with this problem as well. No, I don’t need therapy. It is something I realize for myself, and I am growing. I am learning that I can be confident, I can trust people around me, and despite what I wish, I can’t control the things around me. Life must happen the way it unfolds!

PerryDolia's avatar

I can think of two reasons, both childishly misguided.

The person is generally afraid in their life. The feel the need to control everything they can control because that makes them feel they can hold major dangers at bay.

The person is childishly self-centered and honestly believes the world revolves around them and they can demand whatever they want.

brianda31's avatar

From my point of view, the people who are controlling may be cause by the lack of loved, caring from the mother or father,sibling, ect. which makes them want to have that someone or something to themselves. Well thats my best opinion on this matter.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Many times it’s overcompensation for feelings of having no control over their own lives.

loser's avatar

What Marina said…

Jude's avatar

@The_Compassionate_Heretic I agree with you %100.

dannyc's avatar

Controlling people are fearful of intimacy and it enables them to distance themselves from the results. Their control makes people be intimidated and thus avoid them. This is what the controlling person really prefers. Yet they would espouse they do not wish to drive this wedge to others. They are so driven that they have an inability to see themselves as others do. When faced with such a person, I try to understand their mechanism of control and comfort their fear with real warmth. This takes them off guard. But I believe that is what they really want but cannot confront it. When this barrier is broken, they now have what they need, a feeling of being appreciated, and lessen their control.

jandre6231's avatar

You are so close dannyc…I’m a reformed perfectionist who is still dealing with my control issues. I would love to receive honest warmth from others. I feel that is intelligent. I also had a deeply traumatic life changer when I was young. That is where the control stems from. I was 12 and my only parent was taken from me brutally. Hence the need to fend for myself (Control) I am absolutely not afraid of intimacy. I am driven…..nuts by people with their proverbial slips showing. tee hee

trailsillustrated's avatar

because deep inside they feel small.

SeventhSense's avatar

Why would you ask this question? I thought we discussed that you were never to ask this question. Why don’t you listen? ~

Jude's avatar

Lol, okay, okay. I hear ya.

azhaiaziam's avatar

I believe controlling people are controlling because they want things to go their way. When they feel they are in control of a person or a relationship they feel more dominate and less vulnerable. Controlling people are very insecure, and paranoid, so being in control of you gives them a since of peace. Has any one been in a controlling relationship? Doesn’t it feel like your partner was more like a parent… Always asking where you were, when your coming home, who your with, and so on and so on.. If you were in the wrong place are doing something they don’t like, he/she gives you hell.

SeventhSense's avatar

The one who is in control is actually in the weakest position for he/she always has to be on guard. There always needs to be a watcher on the wall. And the most devastating thing to them is when they feel like they lost their control or made a mistake, or were fallible. It’s a very precarious position. It’s like those husbands who lose their marriage and would rather kill their wife then admit to having lost love. It can be at worst a serious mental illness or at least an over attachment to self.

Pandora's avatar

Usually one of two reasons. Either they feel people around them are not to be trusted or they are on a power trip and this is the only way they feel important.

HighShaman's avatar

I believe that people who are controllling are actually very nsecure in some ways .

Thus; by trying to control those around them; it makes them feel important that they have someone / others to boss around…...

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I am very impressed with the contributions of those who have already answered. What a stimulatimg group of people we have here. Very insightful! I’m so glad I joined fluther!

CaptainHarley's avatar

It’s based primarily on fear: fear of not being able to control outcomes, fear of not being able to control others, fear of change, etc. In order to make the world conform to their need for safety and security, controlling individuals will go to incredible lengths to make sure as many aspects of their lives are under their command as is humanly possible.

SABOTEUR's avatar

Can’t speak for others, but with me is was low self esteem, insecurity and fear of loss.

bitter_sweet_rose's avatar

In my opinion I would say they are controlling in relationships/friends because they can’t control there own life. (not everyone is like this though)

Kokoro's avatar

My last boyfriend had extreme control problems, and that’s only one part of how he was emotionally abusive towards me. I do believe it has to stem from experiences from early life. I think controlling tendencies is fueled by insecurity and other emotional issues. I think many people realize that they are controlling, but are in no real motivation to change themselves — because that would be something that would potentially be out of their control or have room for their idea of what is failure. I honestly don’t think someone can change on their own. My ex had always said he would change his ways, but it never ended up happening.

plethora's avatar

They are sociopaths. Read “The Sociopath Next Door” by Martha Stoudt PhD. She has it nailed in a short easy to read book. Amazon has it in paperback.

Just_Justine's avatar

scared people

Carol's avatar

The need to control is a very primitave emotion born of either insecurity or over- adequacy. The second is rare but I’ve seen it and it used to be in the DSM.

Coloma's avatar


I just bought and read that book a few months ago. What an eye opener, sure explains a few I have known….aaaaah…run! lol

CherrySempai's avatar

I think there are different reasons. One could be selfishness, they want everything their way. Another could be that they just want everything to be perfect and “cliche” almost. They have ideas of what a relationship should be like, so they try to control it so it will be that way.

(I’m against controlling, but these are my thoughts. =])

Coloma's avatar

Fear is usually the core issue.
Fear of not being in control, a need, as mentioned to attempt to control everything in their world so as to keep the scary, out of control stuff away.

In relationships these type actually create what they most fear, loss.

By being controlling, they push the other away and the more distant the other becomes the more they try to regain control, sometimes even through violence.

A serious problem.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I think controlling people just want their way all the time. Spoiled brats, in other words. Never learned to share or to compromise. I hate controlling people. I have a very contolling ex, and that is why he is an ex. I don’t understand the behaviour at all. Maybe because my whole side of the family are free spirits and have always let each individual do their own thing. @Coloma Your insight is so interesting. My ex used wild-eyed religion and screaming temper fits to get his way. Of course, neither worked on me. Just made me hate him with a passion.

Coloma's avatar


Yep, well…most of us learn through the school of hard knocks.

I too have a controlling ex…and I spent a lot of time learning about narccisisim and other personality issues after I divorced him 8 years ago.

Eye opening to say the least!

A lot of control freaks have OCD issues too.

The ’ my way or the highway’ attiude.

I’ll take the highway, thanks. lol

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I do think my ex might be a narccisist. He says he loves our children, but when they were growing up, he would go years without contacting them. He never got them Christmas or birthday presents. When they became adults, he suddenly became interested again, as now they were old enough to be of some use to him. He only calls them when he wants them to do something for him. If they ever need something from him, forget it!

Coloma's avatar


Yep, classic! lol

My ex was the same way with our daughter who is now 23.

Zero interest in her as a younger child, no desire to ‘teach’ her anything, guidance, morals, values ( COULD a narcissist teach ‘values’ and ‘morals’ when theirs are subject to the whims of conditions at hand? ) haha

When she became a teenager all of a sudden she was ‘useful’ as a source of ‘supply’, teaching her guitar and bonding with her over her adoration of him as the ‘cool’ dad.

He is so out of touch, even now he sends her gifts appropriate for an 8 year old, such as a butterfly catching kit at age 23. She complains he doesn’t know her at all, well, of course not, hard to know anyone if the focus is always about you! lol

Impossible beings they are.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Coloma Exactly! My one son is an auto mechanic, the other is a welder. How convenient for him. My daughter was an actress for Disney for three years – played Snow White. So she was useful for bragging rights. One night he called her in the middle of the friggin’ night to do her Snow White voice over the phone for the children of some friends that he had over. Last Christmas he got her a baby doll. She is 29! My ex is also a get-rich-quick freak, and every time he gets into a new pyramid scheme, he literally drives the kids insane trying to sign them up for it. Again, it’s all about him and what they can do for him.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

But when they needed coats and shoes as children, or bailed out of jail as teens, he was nowhere to be found!

DarlingRhadamanthus's avatar

Tremendous insecurity. Simple.

suzanna28's avatar

It is usually because they are selfish and think they must always get their own way , even if it is at the expense of other people’s feelings and happiness.

Also controlling people are also insecure people. They always feel insecure about themselves and their life so they try to have as much control as possible in relation to everything and everyone around them even if the control is not necessary to their lives.

The best thing to do with these people is to ignore them completely.

Also don’t be afraid to talk back to them. If they can be bold enough to make you feel like crap you should be bold enough to tell them to get a life and back off..

Speaking from experience.

AnonymousWoman's avatar

A controlling person may be controlling because that’s all he or she knows how to be. Perhaps he or she was controlled by his or her parents and he or she does not know any better. It’s totally possible. There is a reason parents are often advised to lead by example.

JenniferP's avatar

My soon to be ex-husband was very controlling. It drove me nuts.

SmartAZ's avatar

Maybe it’s the only thing they do well.

MooCows's avatar

SO what are some ways you can handle a controlling husband who always is correcting you if you happen to say something wrong or not do something “his way” which is always the correct way to do it. You just cannot keep them happy no matter how much you try and when you stop trying I think they look at you like you are brainless. I wish we could trade places and he really see how he treats me…as I don’t think he has a real clue.

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