How do control freaks work

How to deal with a control freak

As a psychiatrist, I have observed that relationships are a major cause of fatigue for many of my patients. In my new book, I discuss how to deal with different types of people so as not to get tired, sick, or burned out.

In "Emotional Freedom" I discuss many ways to drain people. One of them is the "controller". These people are obsessed with trying to dictate how to be and how to feel. You have an opinion on everything; do not agree at your risk. They control you by invalidating your emotions when they don't fit into their set of rules. Controllers often start sentences with “You know what you need?” ... and then tell you about it. You will get recordings like "This guy's out of your league" or "I'll have dinner with you if you promise to be happy." People with low self-esteem who see themselves as "victims" attract controllers. Whether you're providing unsolicited advice on how to lose weight or using anger to put you in your place, their comments can range from irritating to abusive. The most angry thing about these people is that they usually don't see themselves as controlling - just right.

Controllers are often perfectionists. You might feel, "If you want something to be done right, you have to do it yourself." Personally, I can relate to it, although I can delegate better. Controllers also control themselves. They can be a fanatical carbohydrate counting fanatic, become clean freaks or workaholics. Conventional psychiatry classifies extreme cases as obsessive-compulsive disorder- people are strictly preoccupied with details, rules, lists, and dominate others at the expense of flexibility and openness.




QUIZ: Am I in a relationship with a controller? (out of emotional freedom)

  • Does this person keep claiming that they know what is best for you?
  • Do you usually have to do things his way?
  • Is he or she so dominant that you feel suffocated?
  • Do you feel like you are trapped in this person's rigid sense of order?
  • Isn't this relationship fun because it lacks spontaneity?


If you answered yes to 1-2 questions, then it is most likely a controller. If you answer “yes” to three or more questions, it indicates that a controller is violating our emotional freedom.

Use the following methods from Emotional Freedom to deal with controllers

Emotional Action Step - Choose your battles and enforce your needs

1. The secret of success is never to control a controller
Talk, but don't tell them what to do. Be healthy and assertive instead of being controlled. Stay confident and refuse to play the victim. Most importantly, you always act consistently and purposefully. Controllers are always looking for a power struggle. So try not to make the little things work up a sweat. Instead of arguing about putting the cap on the toothpaste, focus on high priority topics that really matter to you.

2. Try the caring, direct approach
Use this for good friends or others who will respond to feedback. For example, if someone dominates conversations, say sensitively: "I appreciate your comments, but I also want to express my opinion." The person may not be aware that they are monopolizing the discussion and will be happy to change.

3. Set limits
If someone keeps telling you how to deal with something, politely say, "I appreciate your advice, but I really want to work this through myself." You may need to remind the controller of this several times, always in a friendly, neutral tone. Repetition is the key. Don't expect instant miracles. Be patient as controllers rarely give up easily. If you respectfully repeat your posture for days or weeks, negative communication patterns will slowly be restored and the terms of the relationship redefined. If you hit a dead end, agree, disagree. Then make the topic taboo.

4. Assess the situation
If your boss is a controlling perfectionist - and you choose to stay - don't think further about what kind of lazy person he or she is or expect that person to change and then work within them Reality check. For example, if your boss is instructing you how to complete a project but you add some good ideas yourself, you realize that it may or may not work. If you don't take your arguments about the supplements defensively, you will be more easily heard. However, if your boss replies, "I didn't say I should do this. Please remove it," you will have to procrastinate because of the built-in status difference in the relationship. If you put your foot down and try to control the controller, will only make work more stressful or get you fired.



People who feel out of control tend to become controllers. Deep down, they are afraid of falling apart, so they micromanage them to bind fear. They may have had chaotic childhoods, alcoholic parents, or premature abandonment, making it difficult to trust or give control to others or a higher power. Some controllers have a machismo drive to be front runners in both business and personal matters - a mask for their sense of inadequacy and lack of inner strength. To assert territorial skills, they can look you straight in the face as you speak. Even if you are a few steps away, they will invade your room again.

If you handle controllers carefully, you can free yourself from their manipulation. Once you know how they work, you can choose how you want to interact with them.

Judith Orloff MD is the best-selling author of the new book, Emotional Freedom: Free Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life "(Three Rivers Press, 2011), which is NOW in paperback, and on which this article is based. Your insights into emotional freedom create a new convergence of healing paths for our stressed world. Dr. Orloff's work as Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, Oprah Magazine, and USA Today.

To find out about her books and the Emotional Freedom tour schedule, visit www.drjudithorloff.com