How are vacillators and controllers alike? They both have strong opinions about how things should be done and both styles get angry. We have met a few introverted vacillators that withdraw rather than venting however most most vacillators show their anger. Both styles have difficulty showing more vulnerable feelings that underlie anger. Mad is a powerful, intimidating emotion and often covers more tender feelings like fear, insecurity, humiliation, shame, loneliness or confusion. So for both types an important growth goal is to get the soul words list and become aware of what emotions are underneath the anger and to learn to express these softer feelings. Vulnerability is difficult for both the controller and vacillator.
How are these two styles different? They are mad for different reasons. Vacillators are mad because their idealized expectations are not met. Vacillators want intense connection they can feel and express anger when they feel misunderstood, not valued or not seen. If things are ideal there is no pain. Vacillators have themes of abandonment in their childhood (sometimes blatant and sometimes subtle) and these fears of abandonment are kept away from awareness if they have intense connection and feel wanted. In reality vacillators are angry because life isn’t ideal and pain happens in every relationship. Vacillators focus their anger at someone in their present life who has made them feel an old wound from their past. They often don’t see the connection and believe it’s all about the present.
Controllers are NOT angry because they don’t get connection. Often did not experience enough genuine, tender connection growing up to even value it or know what they are missing. They need control because having no control as a child was far too painful. Being in charge means they don’t ever have to feel vulnerable again. Many times in chaotic homes controllers experienced feelings of shame, humiliation and traumatic fear when they were young. Being tough, intimidating and in control keeps these awful feelings far from awareness. The problem is controllers carry around a lot of unresolved trauma deep inside; wounds that have never been comforted. Their defensive, angry demeanor is necessary to keep from feeling vulnerable. When these wounds are tended to, validated and comforted, the armor of anger is no longer needed.
So in summary, both styles are use anger as a defense against feeling childhood pain. But, vacillators are mad because they don’t get ideal connection and controllers are mad if someone threatens their control.