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Author Topic: 2.07 | Control and Controlling Behaviors - Why We Engage  (Read 5584 times)
Unreal
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« on: March 31, 2009, 09:10:38 AM »

This thread is a tangent from the domestic violence against men thread.  It's about our (male or female) motivations to continue in an abusive relationship (whatever form that might take).  PDquick brought up the notion of control, that he felt he might be able to make things better in a relationship, to make the "good" version of his ex-wife present more often than the "bad" version.   What is control?  I think control, as in a strong internal locus of control is one potential pathway.  Meaning, the belief that you are at fault and that you are capable of changing things to make them better.  Also, a strong external locus of control is another pathway.  Meaning, the belief that others and environment are in control.  This would be a variant of learned helplessness.  The idea is that you are stuck.  Nothing you do will change the situation, so you don't move.  The classical experiment demonstrating this is with animals.  It goes like this.


A dog is in an electrified cage.  Once exposed to shock, the dog will move.  If moving does not alleviate the shock, eventually the dog will not move.  The shock occurs, and it sits there and takes it, even if moving a later time would actually alleviate the shock.  If, however, upon exposure to the shock, the dog moves and the shock stops, the dog will continue trying to evade the shock later.

Both forms of control locus have healthy and unhealthy potentials.  A strong internal blame can be defeating and also contribute to an illusion of power.  Whereas a strong external blame can lead to paralysis and also depression, contributing to an illusion of powerlessness.   What normally happens is something we call a fundamental attribution error, that is we develop a strong internal locus of control for positive outcomes and a strong external locus of control for negative outcomes.  This is reversed for our views of other people.

What are your distortions/rationalizations that you created to reconcile your continued presence in your relationship? How did they develop?  How long did it take for you to understand them?  What prompted understanding/wisdom?  


The following quoted text was a dialogue between pdQuick and me in the aforementioned thread:  


PdQuick stated, "I know now that I cant control people, but I am very aware that my actions bring about reactions with people. I can control those, and I do. The biggest thing is that I now realize that I am worth what I command, and I will not settle for a half rotten hamburger, just because I am hungry. There are lines in my life that if you cross, I will revoke your ticket into my life. Violence is one of those lines. Even violence towards others, because if you do it to another, I am not so stupid to think that you wont turn that and focus it on me one day. My ignorance is gone, and it is my responsibility to myself to see the past, learn from it, and apply the lessons to the future."


I responded, "Control.  That's interesting.  I like your analogy, by the way.  I don't think, reflecting back on it, that I was interested in control (not sure from what you're saying that you were either).  I think the line is blurry between, 'My actions bring about reactions from people,' and a perception of fault and, ultimately, one's control of an environment/situation/person.  Somewhere in there is something healthy and somewhere in there is something foul."


Pdquick stated, "If I hadnt been falsely accused of DV and jailed, I wouldnt have this opinion or epiphany. I am actually glad for it, because I learned a valuable lesson from it. I saw her lie about others, and have them arrested, so why noy me next? Duh!"

I responded, "I feel more wise, as well, from this experience.  But, I feel like it was something of which I should have had previous awareness.  Further, I wish it didn't take so darn long."
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Up From Here
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2009, 10:01:05 AM »

 I was interested in control.  Controlling my environment meant controlling her in order to keep her from acting out which never worked because she would just act out anyway and then I would get frustrated and join in the dance.

That's an immediate default to loss... .for me.

I was interested in control so she would heal and see so that I wouldn't have to control any more. (Self centered, self illusion of compassion)  She wanted me to control, literally ASKED me to control as she couldn't (deliberate... ."wouldn't" control herself, structure things for her, (eating, etc) and then she wanted to control that control... .I would get frustrated... .join in the dance... .(laughs)  LORD!

hmmmm... .I see a pattern here.  One is that in this dynamic, I'm losing my sanity... .correction... .LOST it.  Another is that our roles are being reversed, slowly over time and eventually leaving me to question if I'm really just a sick and twisted control freak that gets sadistic pleasure by inflicting my damage on her.  I can't remember one pleasurable feeling in any of this so I'll give this a posthumous... .no.

"Masochist" is more like it as I kept going back for more and ignored the presence of mind I had left in order to do it.

PdQuick stated, "I know now that I cant control people, but I am very aware that my actions bring about reactions with people. I can control those, and I do."

Aye... .there's the rub.


UFH
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PDQuick
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« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2009, 10:42:24 PM »

Ok, who has ever thought or said, "If I did this, or that, he/she would do this/that because of it?" In other words, when she was raging at me, I thought, "If I give her what she wants, she will be happy, and quiet, thus I will be happy and everything will be all spiffy in my life."

Passive control through others. We cant change others, so what is this behavior all about?

My goal in this situation was to be happy, right? Well, I put my happiness squarely on another person, and because she was unhappy herself, I wanted to manipulate her feelings, so I would have what I wanted. Sounds like control to me.

Now, the healthy thing would be to place my happiness on me, and accept her for who she was, and that would have entailed booting her to the curb years before I did, but no, I needed her to be happy, and to be happy, I needed her to act a certain way, and treat me a certain way. When she didnt, I tried to get her to go back to what I needed by doing any amount of things I could to get her back there. Is any of this sounding familiar?
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Unreal
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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2009, 07:23:44 AM »

Excerpt
Ok, who has ever thought or said, "If I did this, or that, he/she would do this/that because of it?" In other words, when she was raging at me, I thought, "If I give her what she wants, she will be happy, and quiet, thus I will be happy and everything will be all spiffy in my life."

Sure.  I think, to one degree or another at some level of consciousness, this is a drive in relationships.  Do unto others, and all that.  Now, the rage response, that's something else.  That's appeasement.  If you look at this from the other perspective, she's (or the raging person, whatever their gender) essentially using negative reinforcement on you.  Negative reinforcement classic example = it's raining, you don't like getting wet, you raise an umbrella.  In this case, she's raging, you don't like getting raged at, you tell her she's right and lovely and you are wrong and sorry.  That's not you controlling.  That's her controlling.   

Excerpt
My goal in this situation was to be happy, right? Well, I put my happiness squarely on another person, and because she was unhappy herself, I wanted to manipulate her feelings, so I would have what I wanted. Sounds like control to me.

See above.  How can you possibly be happy with someone screaming in your face?  Of course, you try to stop it, which necessarily means 1) removing yourself from the situation 2) changing her behavior. This is compounded in the moment by our own distortions early on.  We don't understand immediately the dynamics.  I know for me, it was often very hazy why I was getting yelled at.  I was frequently caught by surprise.  One consequence of that was that I wasn't really paying attention to what was going on immediately preceding the confrontation.  This left me open for all sorts of distortion from her.  Further compounding the situation is the fact that early on we likely respect our spouse, don't think they're crazy, and value their opinion.  This leads to self-reflection.  Thoughts like, "Well maybe I did something wrong.  Perhaps she's right.  Perhaps I need to change 'x.'  I'll try harder next time,"  which leads to statements like, "I understand that you're upset.  I see your point.  I should have cleaned 'x' earlier.  I'm sorry.  I got caught up in other things.  But, I don't understand your reaction.  It seems like overkill.  Why are you so mad?"  This, of course, is met with more rage.  But, my point is that we go through many formulations, hypotheses about why and how things are wrong in the relationship.  I don't think we immediately (or at least I did not) jump to, "there's something wrong with my wife/husband."  This is what I was talking about above with respect to our personal distortions.  You can see it on the forum, people in various stages of distortion.  You may immediately think FOG (fear, obligation, or guilt), but that's not what I'm referencing here.  FOG implies understanding but impossible binds.  This is different.  This is. . ."My wife cheated on me four times, hits me, etc. . . She moved out.  But now she wants to come back.  She says she has changed.  She also said that maybe if I worked on 'x' things would be better.  I love her.  What do you think?" 


Excerpt
Now, the healthy thing would be to place my happiness on me, and accept her for who she was, and that would have entailed booting her to the curb years before I did, but no, I needed her to be happy, and to be happy, I needed her to act a certain way, and treat me a certain way. When she didnt, I tried to get her to go back to what I needed by doing any amount of things I could to get her back there. Is any of this sounding familiar?

Sounds very familiar.  I think what we've got here is a no-win scenario, or, at least one that requires thinking outside of the box (the box = relationship).  As you state, booting her to the curb was the solution.  It's the process of getting to that point mentally that is the point of this thread, I think.  We are controlled by our conceptualization of relationships.  This is driven by our childhoods, family or origin, friends, career success, history of romantic relationships, and individual differences in temperment/mental health (depression).  So, again, it comes down to understanding the questions, what is your distortion, what drives your locus of control?  Also, I think the concept of self-efficacy may be valuable.  Self-efficacy is situation specific confidence.  It's derived from a model of social interaction posited by Albert Bandura called social learning theory.  I think the fact that self-efficacies are somewhat independent may lead to blind spots in our self-image.  Meaning, for example, if I were asked long ago, are you a confident person, my response would have been, "Absolutely."  People at work would have agreed with observations such as, "He's almost cocky."  My personal rationale for that would have been confidence that I was intelligent based on academic and career success, that I had good friends, that I loved my family, etc . . . However, my blindspot was romantic relationships.  I was not confident in that domain when I met my ex-wife.  She played on this, pinholing me in to the rubric of "no common sense, lots of book smarts."  I kind of went along with that.  This was the basis of my distortion, my self-reflection that held for many years that I was in a big part of the problem in the relationship the way that she said I was the problem.  And, I was, but not for those reasons.  It was what pdquick said, I needed to get out of the relationship. 
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PDQuick
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« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2009, 07:37:37 AM »

Excerpt
Ok, who has ever thought or said, "If I did this, or that, he/she would do this/that because of it?" In other words, when she was raging at me, I thought, "If I give her what she wants, she will be happy, and quiet, thus I will be happy and everything will be all spiffy in my life."

Sure.  I think, to one degree or another at some level of consciousness, this is a drive in relationships.  Do unto others, and all that.  Now, the rage response, that's something else.  That's appeasement.  If you look at this from the other perspective, she's (or the raging person, whatever their gender) essentially using negative reinforcement on you.  Negative reinforcement classic example = it's raining, you don't like getting wet, you raise an umbrella.  In this case, she's raging, you don't like getting raged at, you tell her she's right and lovely and you are wrong and sorry.  That's not you controlling.  That's her controlling.   

When a person tells you to do something, and you blindly do it, that is appeasement. But, when you consciencely think of things to do to change her behavior to your desired benefit, to soothe your wants and needs, thats all together different.

Its like trying to sand off the square edges of a peg, just to get it to fit in a round hole.

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« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2009, 07:40:25 AM »

This may be a useful dialog to see how distortions may occur.  I was cleaning out an old email account and I found this exchange.  It's from after my ex-wife moved out and we were contemplating divorce.  Here is her email to me.

Excerpt
"Unreal, I have never said that I shouldn't change things about how I interact with you.  But I think it is an interaction and that we both need to change things.  I feel that when I am uncomfortable you dismiss it.  It is frustrating and feels bad.  I have apologized for my part in the interaction this weekend but you don't seem to hear me.  It feels like quicksand.  You step in by accident and the more you struggle the more you sink.  I am not a timebomb that you had to walk around.  I realize that I am anxious at times and that sometimes I share my anxiety inappropriately.  I often ask for things to reduce my anxiety and I sometimes feel that you refuse to do those things.  I am not sure why you refuse, but it feels that you think it is beneath you.  This weekend sucked.  I thought maybe you wanted something different and was hurt by your level of rejection.  You offered to do nice things but then were not emotionally available which has happened often in our relationship.  I really appreciated you doing those things and I laughed with you about - the dog -.  But I felt scared when I got in the car.  I have driven with many other people and when you look uncomfortable usually people modify their driving.  I feel you accelerate it to get me to react.  You seemed jumpy.  As far as me being upset when I saw you, it is very emotional for me to see you and be at the old house.  You were kicking me out of the apt. it was awful.  It hurts so much about how you treat me that sometimes it is overwhelming.  I become very tired and down being around you now.  You have been trying to blame me for everything and there is no way I can change it all.  It feels hopeless and I am trying hard not to do get into those same patterns but there are triggers all around.  The way you dismiss my feelings and thoughts is so debilitating.  You rate them as valid or not in your mind and arbitrate, instead of accepting them and working with me to come up with a viable solution.  Your feelings and thoughts are valid, why aren't mine?  Even to say "ridiculous" to me is uncalled for.  Can't you see that to stamp things as invalid controls everything?  You deem it unnessary and shut me down.  You may believe that addressing every point in a systematic way is beneficial, but Unreal, your way is not the only way.  Are you really telling me that you can't compromise and that what you say is the way it has to go or that is it?  :)on't you see the value in listening to another's perspective and attempting to work together?"

"

Now, earlier in the relationship, I would have eventually caved to this line of reasoning.  Here's what I said instead (next post).  Remember, this was as I was figuring things out and making the decision to end the relationship.  I see this as my path out of the distortion.
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« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2009, 07:45:46 AM »

My response to her. . .

"But I think it is an interaction and that we both need to change things. "

I agree we both need to change things, regardless of whether or not things work out.  What part is an interaction to you?  In my opinion, under the circumstances responses like "I'm going to throw your stereo out the window" cannot be argued to be appropriate.  Also, I don't see how one could reasonably attribute that to an interaction as it deflects responsibility and there was nothing in the interaction that was on par with that action.  It is an unreasonable escalation.

"I feel that when I am uncomfortable you dismiss it.  It is frustrating and feels bad.  "

I dismissed you saying my driving was mean and purposely so; I dismissed your contention that my driving was reckless.  I didn't intend for it to feel bad.  That sucks.  I don't see how I could proceed differently there other than to reflect what you say, namely "I understand you see my driving as willfully mean, but that was not my intention."  I don't see that would help, do you?

"I have apologized for my part in the interaction this weekend but you don't seem to hear me."

You haven't apologized for the four threats.  The apologies have been along these lines, "I'm sorry you felt that I left you twice."  Nice thought, but in that instance you are apologizing for my feelings.  My feelings are not what you did wrong.


"I am not a timebomb that you had to walk around. "

No?

"I realize that I am anxious at times and that sometimes I share my anxiety inappropriately."

I think a lot of this driven by anxiety.  I see the anxiety component, I just don't know how to address it from my end.

"I often ask for things to reduce my anxiety and I sometimes feel that you refuse to do those things.  "

What you ask for and how you ask are often untenable.  That is why I refuse.  I cannot continually debase myself (e.g., apologize for whatever flavor of the moment insult I've allegedly unleashed, acknowledge intent where there was none, walk the dog every time she barks, etc. . .).  In other words, I can't do whatever you tell me when you tell me to alleviate your anxiety.  That's no way to live.  There comes a point where you need to control your feelings.  It is not my responsibility to the extent that you seem to be putting it on me.  I can try to avoid certain things to alleviate your anxiety and often do (e.g., I have become very deft at stopping my car, provided traffic cooperates which in XXXX it often does not, with nary a jolt felt in the vehicle).

"I thought maybe you wanted something different and was hurt by your level of rejection.  You offered to do nice things but then were not emotionally available which has happened often in our relationship. "

Who's to say how things would have gone?  You started in on me fairly much immediately both times I saw you.

"I really appreciated you doing those things"

Yeah and the appreciation shown when I was present was. . . yelling at me, calling me names, threatening me, and complaining about the dog's paws being messy ("You're going to return her to me like this?".

"You were kicking me out of the apt. "

It was awful.  You were four hours late.  You wouldn't talk about what we needed to talk about.  I didn't feel comfortable talking about relationship stuff because of the threats and the fact that it was your birthday and I didn't want to have a stressful conversation.  I was already agitated, I knew that kind of discussion wouldn't be good.  You keep threatening me (e.g."All I have to do is not pay the credit cards, your name is on there."  "I think you should get out of the apartment now, you can't afford to pay rent and additional credit cards" even though the debt is, from what I know, essentially all yours).   

"You have been trying to blame me for everything and there is no way I can change it all. "

You keep doing this.  I think it is a way to avoid what I have pointed out as problems.  Rather than address the specific issues I've raised, you expand to include "everything," thus acknowledging nothing.  I have never said you were responsible for everything bad that happened in our relationship.  I have only asked you to take responsibility for your actions (not mine).  I have asked you to address the specific areas of concern that I have raised, which you have thus far deftly sidestepped.

"You rate them as valid or not in your mind and arbitrate, instead of accepting them and working with me to come up with a viable solution.   "

What is the viable solution to "I'm going to throw your stereo out the window if you don't turn it off."  How do I respond?  I know how I did.  I turned off the radio.  You won in the short term.  You controlled the situation.  You exercised your power.  Did it alleviate your anxiety?

"Your feelings and thoughts are valid why aren't mine?"

Because they often don't fit the facts.  I feel I take the facts and my feelings and construct a cogent argument/theory around them.  I feel you take a feeling and mold the facts around it. 


"Even to say "ridiculous" to me is uncalled for."

Well, from my perspective calling my driving "reckless" was uncalled for.

reckless = marked by unthinking boldness; with defiant disregard for danger or consequence

Was that really what I was doing?  I think not.  I wasn't speeding.  I wasn't weaving in and out of lanes.  The car was not out of control.  I was aware of my surroundings.  What was reckless about my driving?  You may have felt anxious about it, for whatever reason, but again reality doesn't match feelings.  I could have driven that way on a drivers test and passed easily.  Cops could have been surrounding me on all four sides and they wouldn't have pulled me over.  That's why I characterized the description of my driving as "ridiculous."   Incidentally, a synonym for "ridiculous" would be "incongruous," which is exactly the thought I was trying to communicate.  Is that uncalled for?

"Can't you see that to stamp things as invalid controls everything?   "

It contributes to control in a situation in a way.  There are many ways that people control situations, some purposeful, some not, some adaptive, some malapative, some positive, and some negative.  Saying the emperor has no clothes is not necessarily a bad thing.  It is not aggressive control as is threatening to break stuff to get a desired response.  It is attempting to use reason to affect perception of a situation.  How else does one communicate?  Opinions generally do come down to a series of valuations, of valid or invalid.  Everything cannot be true.  It is a false argument.  Absolute relativism is not a viable or valid perspective in that it doesn't mesh with reality.  If we cannot agree on certain truths, objective or subjective, we will not be able to resolve a situation.  This is often the point at which we diverge and run into difficulties.  It is often the situation in which I end up apologizing to stop an impossible argument.

"Are you really telling me that you can't compromise and that what you say is the way it has to go or that is it? "

Umm, no.  Where did you get that idea?  I don't follow the logic.  Of course, I can compromise, but I will not accept a falsehood, or something blatantly inconsistent with how I view the world, as part of that compromise.   For example, I cannot accept the viewpoint that a 50/50 split of your debt is ethically justifiable or honest in any way.  It does not make sense.  I cannot accept that threats to break stuff is a reasonable response to not getting your way.

":)on't you see the value in listening to another's perspective and attempting to work together?"

Absolutely.  I hear your perspective.  The way I frame your general perspective/approach is . . . I feel upset.  *magic manipulation of facts to fit with general feeling of upset*.  My hurt feelings are justified by aforementioned made up facts.  Exaggerate, over-react, and control.
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« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2009, 07:48:37 AM »

Excerpt
When a person tells you to do something, and you blindly do it, that is appeasement. But, when you consciencely think of things to do to change her behavior to your desired benefit, to soothe your wants and needs, thats all together different.

Its like trying to sand off the square edges of a peg, just to get it to fit in a round hole.

Yes, your motivation is important, but I think a rage episode is an extreme example.  I did all sorts of thinks in the nth hour of a rage to get her to stop.  My goal was to change her behavior, to make her stop fighting with me.  I was literally trying any behavior I could think of, within reason, that would result in her being quiet.  That was my desired benefit.  My wants and needs were that she stop raging at me.  That's control.  Sure, but it's not quite the same thing as I think you intend. 
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2009, 07:58:22 AM »

More.  Everything someone does in a relationship can be conceptualized as controlling.  Afterall, what we do has an effect.  So, what is positive control and what is negative control?  I think some of this would have to be related to goals.  This could lead to a discussion of the rescuer mentality.  Are you trying to be the therapist?  Are you trying to make this person fundamentally different?  I think, at some point, regardless of a rescuer mentality or not, in a failing relationship, where we've overstayed the expiration date, we are trying to mold either ourselves or the person to fit in to a mis-sized peg. 
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2009, 08:19:32 AM »

Hi, Up From Here. 


Excerpt
I was interested in control so she would heal and see so that I wouldn't have to control any more

I think this is a good example of a rescuer statement.  Do you agree?
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« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2009, 10:07:22 AM »

Yes I do agree, Unreal.  It was a way of life and how I fooled myself into believing I was valuable to her every day and it was not only exhausting but the foundation for continuing depression in every day of my life with her.

That's the difference between caretaking and caregiving. 

Caretaking = Heal so I can be happy.

Caregiving = Heal so you can be happy.

PDQ, as usual, it sounds "familiar" to perfection.

Ok, who has ever thought or said, "If I did this, or that, he/she would do this/that because of it?" In other words, when she was raging at me, I thought, "If I give her what she wants, she will be happy, and quiet, thus I will be happy and everything will be all spiffy in my life."

Passive control through others. We can’t change others, so what is this behavior all about?

My goal in this situation was to be happy, right? Well, I put my happiness squarely on another person, and because she was unhappy herself, I wanted to manipulate her feelings, so I would have what I wanted. Sounds like control to me.

Now, the healthy thing would be to place my happiness on me, and accept her for who she was, and that would have entailed booting her to the curb years before I did, but no, I needed her to be happy, and to be happy, I needed her to act a certain way, and treat me a certain way. When she didnt, I tried to get her to go back to what I needed by doing any amount of things I could to get her back there. Is any of this sounding familiar?

I can't say exactly how many times we argued about accepting each other for who we were in the whole of the relationship but it was allot.

We'd both agree to try but there was no way.  The truth is that neither one of us could accept the other as we were both doing the same thing.  No matter that it was from different ends of the "disorder" spectrum it's rather obvious to me that I wasn't a strong example for mental/emotional health either as I kept dancing for 7 years... .looking for happiness outside of me.

Exactly... .the healthy thing meant, "Adios" after the first year.  Sure, the "discussions" and the pleas, and the "love" were convincing but I still chose to believe them... .yep.

So... .believing them meant that I had to be sure the "things" wouldn't happen again so that I could be happy.

I also chose to "be there" for every new self-awareness she would bring to me.

Wow... .hello... .not qualified.

A rescuer in defense of attack from the one I'm trying to rescue.  I don't think there's a more fertile ground for my control issues (and other issues) to come up front and center... .and mindfully present or not, at whatever level of consciousness I had... .I chose it.  Me and my dysfunctional ego.

That's okay now though as I come out the other side better than how I went in... .inside me, and more to grow on.

These are good discussions and they are very valuable to me.

Thank you.

UFH

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