Posts Tagged 'controlling people'

Are You Involved with a Dangerous Person?

wolf in sheeps clothing cartoon

You have had some painful experiences.  You suffered narcissistic abuse from a partner or you were targeted by a bully at work.   You didn’t see the warnings.   As is so often the case, this person treated you especially well at the start, and turned up the heat so slowly you barely noticed it.

Added to that, there’s a better than average chance that you grew up being taught to ignore bad behavior, tolerate boundary violations, and maybe coached to ignore your fears and worries.  There may have been conflicts explained away as,  “nothing to be afraid of.”   Perhaps obvious violations were denied, with, “your cousin would never do that!”     Your feelings could have been minimized with arguments like, “you don’t really hate your sister!”

However badly others tried to bend your reality and no matter how well meant they were, the good news is this:  your perceptions are still intact and probably very highly refined.

I’ve never met a target of abuse or bullying who didn’t have a very well tuned sensitivity to others, ranging to acute intuitive abilities.  You have exactly the skills you need to identify potentially dangerous relationships.

You just need to apply those perceptual skills and trust them!

Much of the time, it is really quite simple to identify a person who is dangerous to be around.  Good relationships feel good.  Bad relationships do not feel good.  If you frequently feel bad around a person, that is probably not a good relationship for you.

If you frequently feel bad around many people, it’s probably due to your own “stuff.”  The rule is still quite simple.  If you feel bad around someone, more than usual, or more than you do around anyone else, question why you would spend any more time with this person.

In personal interactions this is quite easy.  If you feel bad about the interactions, or confused by the behavior, shake the dust from your feet.  Move on.  It will not get better.

In professional interactions, this is not not always so easy.  You may find you are able to work quite well with someone you do not especially like, if the interaction is respectful.  On the other hand, you may, at least in the short run, have to work with someone who is very toxic.  Still, if a particular person causes you pain, start looking for ways to get out of the situation.

Those of us who have found most relationships painful, may argue that this is not realistic, but here is another bit of good news:  Good relationships are not particularly painful.

Good relationships are available, but you may not have held out for them if you don’t think they are possible.  If you wonder about this, watch for my next post which will give you reassurance that safe and rewarding relationships exist.

What is an Enlightened Interaction?

A friend recently questioned my term Enlightened Interaction.  “I don’t know what it means,” she said, “what does enlightened really mean?  Doesn’t every new ager consider herself enlightened?” she asked.I suppose there is a connotation of spirituality associated with the word “enlightened,” which could be construed as superior.  But when I use the term “enlightened,” I refer to awareness – spiritual or otherwise.

Dictionary definitions of enlightened suggest it is a state of being knowledgeable. Definitions include, “…freed from ignorance and misinformation,” and, “…based on full comprehension of the problems involved.”   Spiritual enlightenment, then, is the ability to understand from a spiritual perspective.

Coming at our interactions in an enlightened state, means we are aware.  This awareness of others requires listening and seeing the other person without projecting our beliefs and motives onto them.

Spiritual enlightenment creates an awareness of spiritual truth.  In most traditions, this means seeing another as an equal and a unique and valuable individual.  The interaction based on this enlightenment is respectful and kind.

Intellectual enlightenment, “…based on full comprehension of the problems involved,” creates an interaction grounded in awareness of reality.  This implies acceptance of others as they truly are and not getting confused by our fantasies and desires for the interaction.

An enlightened interaction, then, precludes any abuse, control or manipulation.  It is an honest interaction between people who are presumed to be equals, who strive to perceive and accept each other as they truly are.

This interaction is not the norm for most of us, but I’d like to think the next stage in our evolution would make it the norm.  Compared to dishonest or controlling interactions, enlightened interaction is satisfying and pain free.  If you cannot achieve enlightened interaction in a voluntary relationship, it is probably a relationship you should walk away from.

I hope this is…well…enlightening.

Can You Get Another Person to Change?

The short answer is “no.”

BUT, you can change that person’s behavior – quite a lot – if you know how.

Verbal abuse and emotional abuse are widespread problems in relationships. The workplace bully and the boss from hell are people who have taken emotional abuse tactics to work with them. You can’t always get away from these people, but you can make sure their control tactics affect you less.

There is plenty of information about controlling people and why they treat others as they do. Chances are, if you have to deal with such a person, you don’t care why they are intimidating or critical; you just want them to stop. You probably also know how unlikely it is that such a person could suddenly become happy and kind. You would be pleased if they simply stopped being unkind.

Most advice about dealing with bullies and abusers will advise you to get out of the relationship. This is the optimal solution, but it is not always feasible. In times of double digit unemployment, it may be difficult to leave a job before the boss from hell affects your reputation. It may also be difficult to leave a spouse without financial hardship or the (statistically very real) risk of losing child custody.

But you can change a person’s behavior, if not their nature. There are actions you can take which make you less susceptible to abuse or intimidation. A woman I know changed her behavior at work and had the office bully suddenly asking her out to lunch and wanting to be her friend. Another woman very quickly conditioned her angry boss to express himself far more respectfully. (Note: If you are in a violent relationship, don’t attempt such changes as they could provoke more violence. Consult a shelter; make a safety plan, and a strategy for leaving.)

The most potent defense against bullying is the personal power you project physically. When you project physical strength and power, you send subliminal messages that say, “Don’t mess with me,” regardless of your size, age or gender. Participation in sports helps build physical confidence, but the most effective way to cultivate and project this power is martial arts – even a meditative martial art like t’ai chi.

Make sure you also maintain powerful, centered posture and keep your consciousness in the present moment and centered in your body.

Emotional detachment also prevents you being sucked into control tactics, buying into criticism or accepting inaccurate versions of reality.

Whenever possible, put time and space between you and an emotionally abusive person who is on the attack. Use that time and space to double check their “facts.” Emotional abuse is geared to define you as powerless and incompetent and this may be accomplished with small exaggerations or out and out lies. Check the accuracy of others’ evaluations of you.

Another way to detach, when you find you must be in the presence of abusive anger, blame or criticism, is to cover your solar plexus (above the navel and below the ribcage.) You can fold your hands over this nerve center and it will help you emotionally detach from criticism, blame or anger.

When you are upset and off center, a bully or abuser gets a shot of energy from having power over you. If you detach and stay centered, you deny them that power and you will find that you get a shot of energy from the interaction. Finding it difficult to manipulate you, that person may just take his or her toxic self off to greener pastures.

Whose bad mood are you mirroring?

People who hang around together tend to vibe together. Moods and emotions are contagious. Your brain registers the emotional changes of people who are nearby, whether you are conscious of it or not.

Gary W. Lewandowski, Jr., in an article in Scientific American describes how the non-conscious mind mimics facial expressions of others. Mirror neurons record other people’s facial expressions and body movements and cause one to mirror the expression and posture. This triggers a similar emotional response.

When two people get together, who mirrors whom? In relationships of equality, it seems that moods would average out in most cases. My experience supports this notion.
Experience also tells me that relatively empathic people tend to mirror those with less empathy. And, it stands to reason that those with limited empathy are either not picking up emotional signals from others or ignoring those signals.

This can be bad news if you are regularly close to a controlling, manipulative, or even moody person with limited empathy. People with personality disorders that have little or no empathy tend to pair up with people who feel more empathy than the average.  So guess whose mood you end up reflecting?

Are you partnered with or related to a controlling or cranky person? Do you work for one? Take time away from them on a regular basis. Vamoose whenever they are in a horrid mood.   Most people can be cheered up, but if someone always drags you down, get out of Dodge!

If your boss is on the warpath, develop a sudden illness or a crisis to attend to.  If your angry husband needs therapy, have him call a professional.  Meanwhile, have some family crisis or work project that takes you out of his orbit for a while.  If your parent makes you feel blue, visit another time or at least get out of the room they’re in for a bit.

You might want to act as if they have a contagious disease, because…they do.

How to Manipulate and Control Others

If you are an abusive boss or controlling spouse or a manipulative parent, you can greatly enhance any of your control tactics by isolating the one you wish to control, so that the only input they get is from you.
Irene had a boss who was weirdly abusive. Irene found it hard to believe that her supervisor really was manipulative because her machinations just didn’t make a lot of sense. But Irene continually felt a sense of confusion and being off balance which are sure indications that you are dealing with abusive control tactics.

About the time Irene developed an intractable eye twitch, her supervisor gave her two weeks to shape up. Apparently, Irene’s work was far below standard. Irene worked hard to understand what she was doing wrong. Her supervisor couldn’t seem to give her any solid suggestions for improvement.

Irene also asked to buddy up with some of the better performers to see what they did differently. Her supervisor resisted this. In fact, in Irene’s work, it was typical to work with a partner, but she almost always found herself working alone or with someone from a different area who didn’t know her work.

Irene also noticed that she did not receive the same communications as others in her group. If she learned about changes, it was usually by accident. The others in her work group seemed to be doing fine. She felt left out of her work group and became more and more certain that they shared her supervisor’s low opinion of her work.

Eventually, she approached her supervisor’s boss for a reference and discovered that her measurable performance was not substandard. It was above average, though she had a couple of isolated problems. She left that meeting feeling relieved but also confused.

When Irene’s supervisor went on vacation and left another person in charge, it made a huge difference. Communications went out to the entire work group. The group met to handle some urgent tasks. Irene participated. Her work group seemed delighted to see her. They expressed appreciation for her contribution.

This was heartwarming, but also confusing. The group began to open up and talk about things. Most complained bitterly about the supervisor’s poor communication and odd behavior. While she was reluctant to share that she had been counseled for poor performance, Irene told the others a little of her experience. They were surprised.

Several others had similar stories. Irene learned the lesson here. Do not accept one person’s view of reality; especially if it makes you feel confused or out of balance.

Whenever you feel confused, reach out to others and find out what they experience. If Irene’s work group had given her feedback that she was a poor performer, that would have been disappointing, but she would not have been any worse off. As so often happens, their feedback did not support her supervisor’s claims, but validated Irene.

Also, once the team knew that they were being isolated, they banded together to communicate to each other to make up for the supervisor’s lack of communication. Once Irene began communicating with others, she got a realistic sense of her performance that restored her confidence and sense of balance.

It is typical for emotionally abusive people to make efforts to isolate their spouses from family and friends. Hostages are kept isolated so they can be brainwashed. It does not occur to most of us that a supervisor would isolate employees to control them.

A sense of confusion or being out of balance is a clue that you are being manipulated by a controlling person.  You may think you have no reason to doubt the person, but your interactions leave you confused or feeling slightly woosey.  M. Scott Peck in The People of the Lie; his book about human evil, says that the presence of evil always leaves one with a sense of confusion. Pay attention to this. If you feel confusion in response to another person’s claims or assertions, get more information!

If you feel isolated, reach out to more than one other person.

More Sins of Omission – Hiding your Light Under a Bushel


Good people often feel that they are promoting good when they simply avoid doing wrong. The new age movement promotes this by preaching non It takes courage to shine brightly.judgment without understanding the concept, and suggesting that inner peace means passivity.

When the enlightened practice non judgment and inner peace, they act, or refrain from acting, from a state of being centered.  Ghandi practiced passive resistance and love, certainly, but his was acourageous stance which he discerned would avoid violence.  He was not passive to avoid action.  When I am passive or non-judgmental to avoid taking a stance, it is a cop out.

More than most people, I understand the power of the unseen and what can be done with energy.  I practice a number of energetic or mental techniques which are invisible and yet quite profound in their results.  But if I see someone drowning, I think it is more appropriate to go physically to their rescue than to send them good energy.  If someone is trespassing, and doesn’t listen to reason, then litigation may be more appropriate than love.  (If you are capable of litigating lovingly, then that’s even better.)

Bullies, abusers, those who lack empathy, sociopaths without conscience…none of these people respond well to good energy.  People who cannot relate to or connect with their fellow humans are often quite oblivious to the energy of others.

In dealing with these selfish forces, those of us who are good should be positive forces for good, rather than passive lumps who are satisfied with simply not being bad.

What does it mean to be a positive force for good? It involves using power appropriately.  We all have god-given power to wield.  It was not bestowed upon us to be hidden or to atrophy from disuse.

Positive goodness may involve speaking up, enforcing boundaries and not allowing trespasses, protecting our dependants, and taking action to promote positive outcomes.  Positive goodness almost always involves courage and risk taking.  It certainly takes discernment to stand up for what is right without continually focusing on what is wrong.

Positive goodness almost always creates a kind of magic in the life of the person who practices it.  Whether you win or lose your particular challenge, the courage you practice and the boundaries you fortify put you in a wiser, more centered place.  From this state of being, your energetic influence on the world is huge and beneficent.

The prize is that you shine more brightly as your true self and experience deep joy rather than fleeting happiness.

Being Positive

I believe it is important to cultivate optimism and a cheerful, upbeat attitude.  In the last 20 years, the new thought movement has practiced this belief with a vengeance.

Positive thinking is… positively annoying when it is carried to extremes.

I realize this is heresy to many of the lovely, optimistic people I know.  But please, read on.  There is a danger to unbridled positive thinking.  It can have negative results!

Things happen that arouse negative feelings in us.  Everyone experiences frustrations, disappointments, losses, sadness, and hurt feelings.  Optimism can help us through these trials, but positive thinking does not make them go away.

On the contrary, ignoring our negative feelings keeps them with us longer.  I’m not suggesting that you dwell on your problems and make them more powerful than they are.  But, if you ignore them, you simply push the negative thoughts underground.  They get repressed in the unconscious.  This is not a good place to store your negative feelings.  The unconscious negativity will affect you in ways you do not expect.  The feelings will pop out at embarrassing moments and affect your behavior in strange ways.

Negative thoughts are only negative because we say they are.  In truth all feelings have important messages for us. If we ignore these “negative” messages, they will pop in surprising ways and scotch all our attempts to be positive.

When your gas gauge points to empty, you can ignore the negative thought it evokes and put a smiley face sticker over it.  Ignoring this important but negative message will ultimately make your experience more negative.  Instead of stopping for gas, you will run dry on the highway.

I am positive that I will be accused of being negative, but I am positively tired of being beaten over the head with other people’s positive thinking.  Optimism is very effective, interpreting all experience in constructive, encouraging ways.  But positive thinking that ignores negative feelings causes those negative feelings to be repressed.

For some reason, positive thinking proponents often take on the role of thought police.  Without much compassion, they will tell someone who is suffering, “Just don’t give power to it!”

I challenge you thought police out there (who are thinking right now about how negative I am,):  If you are truly a positive thinker, then why does my negative experience bother you?

I can tell you why.  When someone’s emotion seems negative to you, it resonates with your own negativity.  It makes you feel bad because of the feelings that are repressed.  My unhappiness wakes up your unhappy feelings.

If you want to be truly positive, you will feel your feelings – yep, all of them.  You will hear their messages, and let them go.  If you try this for a while, you will no longer tell a positive/negative story about your emotions – or mine.

Does my opinion bother you?  Just don’t give any power to it!

P.S.  Check out The Sedona Method, or Raphael Cushnir or even the recent work of Martha Beck for effective ways of dealing with stories and emotions.

Coping with Holiday Age Regression.

I remember a disjointed discussion with my father in the nursing home.  He said something that made me feel like a child and I asked him, “How old do you think I am, anyway Dad?”  He looked confused and said, “What are you, 15?  No, that can’t be!  You must be at least 20 now.”

My father had developed dementia at the end of his life and yet, long before this incident I felt as if he had me frozen at some earlier age.  For instance, he always seemed to be shocked that I could drive a car.

As the holidays approach, we may spend more time with family, and as we get into the family force field, we can be immediately regressed to some age between 4 and 18.  In most cases, the family’s view of us just never grew up with us.  The family force field is very powerful, and we may contribute to it ourselves, seeing our parents as all powerful or our siblings as brats.

It’s difficult to be a powerful 50 year old when the whole clan treats you like a pre teen.  Even if your mother coddles you, the price for this coddling is to go home feeling quite depleted.  Avoiding the gathering can make the problem worse, you naughty brat!

This phenomenon is the family’s collusion to stay in the past and avoid of the present moment.  And sometimes, they will vigorously reject your attempts to change the dynamic.  After all, it’s comforting to believe that Father knows best or that your sister doesn’t have emotional problems.   But assuming you want to live in the present, how do you keep your power and sanity without giving up your relatives?

It might help to move the festivities out of the parental home, but the siblings can still be expert at keeping you regressed to that teen who snuck out the bathroom window to see her boyfriend.

The solution, of course, is to spend the holidays somewhere far, far away, from which airfare is prohibitive.  However, if you cannot swing relocation or you live in an airline hub, you might try getting completely centered and staying in the present moment.  This can be done with martial arts, mediation, or yoga.  You may not convince your family that you’re really 45 now, but then again, you might.  The point is to convince yourself of who you are right now.

You can also borrow a tactic from NLP (neurolinguistic programming) called a pattern interrupt.  In normal parlance, this is a distraction.  When your brother begins his recitative about your disastrous choice of mates, you say something like, “Is that a bear in the yard?” or “Who’s peeking in the window?”  which jolts everyone’s attention away from your brother and into the yard.

Of course you must use this sparingly or you’ll end up like the boy who cried wolf.  And, for safety reasons you should avoid distractions like yelling “fire!” in a movie theater or out on the rifle range.

Happy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy your special turkeys!

Vampire Protection that Doesn’t Stink

Psychic Vampire Repellant that Doesn't Stink

You might not use the word “vampire,” but you have surely met one or two people whose company drains you of your life force. Far from joining the ranks of the immortal, you will come out of these encounters depleted and depressed. If you don’t have really great boundaries (and many of us don’t,) then you have probably met quite a few people who drain your energy.
People who drain your energy appear to do so in a variety of ways. They may complain a lot, or perhaps they subtly put you down, or report the unflattering things other people said about you (but don’t believe them.) They may goad you; reminding you of something unpleasant, or perhaps they flaunt what they have but you lack. The long and short of it is, they upset you and this upset is how they drain your energy. Why do they do this? Because they can – and it works! It energizes them.
Those who perceive energy know how this drain is accomplished. Those who measure energy are learning that intuitive people are perceiving this accurately. When you get a shock or a trauma, or a sudden let down, the energy circulating in or around your body will pause or stop or even reverse its flow.
A pause in the energy flow is useful for playing dead to fool a looming predator but it can make you vulnerable to the psychic predator. All of our interactions with others involve exchanges of energy, and when the vampire has upset your energy flow, he or she is able to tip the balance of the exchange and tap your energy. This can leave you feeling drained and an energy vampire feeling uplifted.
Often you don’t notice this until after it happens. The upsets can be subtle and unconscious and leave you wondering why you suddenly feel low or thinking you are coming down with some virus.
The bright side of this kind of robbery is that it is relatively safe for you to simply refuse to give up the goods. By being present and aware, you can deny the vampire access to your energy. You may even be the one to benefit from their upset energy which will discourage them from future predations.
Simply being present around difficult people is simple. It isn’t always easy because most of us are in the habit of being dissociated so our consciousness is off somewhere in the next county. The trick is to be mindful of difficult people and when your mood suddenly changes, become aware of your body.
It takes only seconds to become aware of your body. Feel your hands and feet. Be aware of looking out of your eyes. Put a hand over your center and be here, now. Imagine the life force that flows through your core around your spine. Feel rooted on the earth and sense a light or warmth that flows in the top of your spine and fills you up.
Practice this feeling so you can summon it at will. If you live with an energy vampire, I recommend some martial arts training to learn to operate in a present and centered way.
If you are present, the vampire’s put downs will be recognized for what they are. You will not internalize them. You will not be so upset by them. You maintain your state. When this happens, the energy vampire may become upset. In this case, the energy exchange will work in your favor and you will leave the encounter feeling better.
You will have also encouraged an emotionally draining person to interact with you in more open and honest ways.

Petty Tyrants: Is their tyranny really petty?

Ms. Petit-Tyrant

I’ve run into a few petty tyrants recently. I know they are tyrants, but why do we call them petty? It seems petty tyrants tyrannize over petty issues, but their tyranny has results that are anything but petty.

Yesterday I called the…um… Franklin Avenue Baptist Church (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) and spoke to their secretary. I told her I was calling from the Lithuanian American Society (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) and that our club wanted to donate to the St.Josephat (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) celebration next month, and how my club could do that.

Now keep in mind that Franklin Avenue’s congregation is elderly and the church is not finding it easy to keep its doors open, when I tell you that the secretary told me, “Your club cannot contribute.” The St. Josephat celebration is run by the Serbo-Croatian Club (name made up to protect the petty tyrant) and others are not really welcome to participate. I assured her that our Lithuanian club is non profit, peace loving, has never donated to terrorist organizations, etc., and discovered that Ms. Tyrant was aware of all that.

After I forced my mouth shut and resumed ability to speak, I verified that I was indeed speaking with the representative of a church, that the St. Josephat celebration is public, that the church does not have unlimited funds, and that she was, in fact, a secretary and not the senior minster of Franklin Baptist (name made up to protect the petty tyrant- you know that by now.) Ms Petit-Tyrant closed the conversation by saying, I’ll speak to Reverend Jones (name also made up) but it really just isn’t going to happen.

Ms. Tyrant usurped her boss’s authority and turned down an annual income of several hundred dollars for the institution that employs her. Why? Best I can figure is Ms. T is a member of the Serbo-Croatian Club and doesn’t want to run the risk of it being upstaged. Or perhaps the Serbo-Croats have a wealthy donor who would object to the Lithuanian involvement, in which case she made a financially sound decision but a questionable application of Christian values.

Was it petty? Yes. And yet, petty tyranny is more hurtful because it seems to be power for power’s sake and is usually exercised by someone who really has very little legitimate power. Ms. Tyrant showed me who was boss, but the result will be that many Lithuanians who used to put money in the collection plate, will celebrate St. Josephat at a different church this year.

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