Roger Melton, M.A., L.M.F.T., CEAP (Retired) OBGYN.net Editorial Advisor
Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? -Tina Turner
The trouble with falling in love is that the fall can terminate against the cold concrete of betrayal. Pain replaces promise, cynicism flowers in place of confidence and hope flees on wings of misled desire.
If both of you gave it your honest best, and it failed to work out, then it's the kind of pain that can heal in time. The experience can even increase the chances for future relationship success. But there are times when the object of your lost affection intensifies the pain-times when someone who looks like the perfect choice turns out to be the perfect heel. And the damage may not be easily undone.
Unlike men that can honestly struggle with their own uncertainties and confusions about a relationship, and recognize the part they play in creating problems and conflicts, there are other kinds of men that see love as a game and you as their pawn. In this cruelly covert contest, cunning is their watchword, deception is their fix, and control is their high.
Just as addicts are unrelenting in pursuit of making the next score, these kind of men are unyielding in their hunt for women that they can deceive and manipulate. Unlike emotionally sound men and women, who respect others as much as they do themselves, controlling-men respect no one. To them, people are things. And things can be used.
These "Controllers" use words as deceptive tools. Applying charm's anesthetic to deaden the pain, they perform emotional-heart-surgery with crude precision. And young women can make the most vulnerable targets for a Controller's manipulative scalpel.
While the harm most of these men inflict is emotional and psychological, there are those among them with a more dangerous twist, who feed off their victims' souls the way a leech drains the blood of its prey: drop by drop. These are the captivating vampires, whose devious masks conceal every woman's worst nightmare-the terrifying face of a future batterer or stalker.
To these violent men, control is like oxygen. Every sign of submission from others is like the breath of life, falsely confirming their delusion that only brute force affirms their worth. Failing to dominate a woman triggers loose a choking fear in these men, which they cannot face. That hidden fear is the truth that threatens their common delusion of godlike invincibility and exposes them as frightened little men, terrified of everyone and everything, including their own guilt. But guilt, for them, is intolerable.
They twist responsibility for their cruel actions away from themselves and lay it onto their victims. Their domineering maneuvers are magically excused in their minds. They project their own selfish, manipulative and deceptive defects of character onto the very people they harm, while persistently and vigorously proclaiming themselves as blameless.
Almost every woman will encounter at least one of these control-obsessed men in her lifetime, whether his method of control is limited to emotional manipulation or extends into physical intimidation. But there are ways to identify each type of Controller before it's too late. There are methods for dealing with them, avoiding them or escaping them. There are ways to protect and keep an honest heart. And this series of articles is designed to help you protect yourself from harm, by providing you with a basic Controller detection system, which begins in grasping the fundamental nature of control.
Control, itself, is not inherently negative. Everyone wants some form of it. It would be sheer folly to want none in a relationship, especially if you have experienced previous betrayal. But there is a critical difference between healthy and unhealthy control.
A healthy desire for control originates in a need to protect-either someone else or your self. Until a toddler learns the limits of safety and danger in the home, its only source of protection is its parents' limit-setting controls. Movement control is harm control. Love is the motive. Protection is the goal.
Unhealthy control originates in a desire to dominate another, either through words or actions designed to both charm and harm--to captivate while simultaneously damaging the emotionally captured. It is this pairing of charm with harm that is the hallmark of Controller manipulations. Preaching sugar while practicing poison, they are experts at concealing their true natures. Hiding bad intentions beneath polished appearances, they have perfected the art of "looking good." It is this uncanny ability of Controllers to alternate looking good with manipulative behavior that perpetuates tormenting emotional snares for those they target as victims.
Regret is not in their psychological vocabulary. They harm others because they feel entitled to hurt people. It is not a matter of moral right or wrong to them when they inflict harm. It's only a matter of believing that they "have the right." And if they always believe that right is on their side, which they always do, then any harmful act is always justified.
In over twenty year's work as a therapist, one of the eeriest experiences has been in listening to clients describing control-obsessed parents or partners. It is as if many of the people I have counseled had the same mother, father or relationship partner, stamped out of a small collection of similar molds. Or that all control-obsessed individuals took the same set of courses at Controller College-some with a specialty in narcissistic personality, others in being sociopathic and still others in sadistic or borderline psychopathology. The behaviors and attitudes of each type are so astonishingly similar, it seems as if they must all belong to the same bowling team.
These similarities in so many clients' descriptions of their control-obsessed parents or partners gradually brought me to suspect a common link between Controllers and their mental states. In 1993 that link was clarified by a team of researchers, headed by Donald G. Dutton, at the University of British Columbia, who were studying the personality characteristics of battering men.
Dutton's team discovered that 90-100% of men who physically assault their spouses exhibited symptoms of what are clinically known as "personality disorders." Many studies done to test their research project have confirmed their conclusions, which provides stunning evidence that men who batter women have sets of distinct, unique, identifiable personality characteristics. And a potential victim can recognize these characteristics before falling for someone who is skilled at appearing to be "Mr. Right."
The Canadian's exclusively focused upon men who are physically assaultive, but there is an entire range of control-obsessed men who do not batter with their fists. Their weapons are words, charm and your vulnerability. And their personality profiles are as distinct as those of their more brutal counterparts.
This is the beginning of a series of articles, condensed and modified toward a Young Woman's perspective, from Control >< Counter-Control: How to Identify and Overcome Controlling Men and Women-At Home to Corporate Battlefield, © Roger Melton 1998, which has yet to find a publisher. Each article is based upon my own extensive experience and research in dealing with various types of trauma survivors and those who victimize them, and upon extensive experience counseling a wide variety of individuals and couples as a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Next in the series > Romeo's Bleeding: Part 2-The Malice Artists. It will describe the basic features of "personality-disordered" men who are obsessed with control.
Copyright © Roger Melton 1999
acessed August 14/2009