The “Need” to Control Others – Part 3 (of 5)

How and Why Pleasers Control Others

We all have a “need” to control others.

Everybody does it.
Some more than others.

Sometimes it’s healthy.
Sometimes it’s not.

We can do it consciously.
Other times, we are unaware that we are controlling others.

Recall the first week we began by asking the question “Why do we control others?
We answered by saying “Because the behavior of others (or the lack thereof) causes us to become agitated, insecure or fearful inside and we seek to modify their behavior to make ourselves feel more comfortable.”

We then said, “Generally (not always) the need to control is directly proportional to our internal security.  The more insecure and fearful we are inside, the more controlling of others we become.  In contrast, the more we’re internally secure, the less controlling we are of others.”

Remember, Pleasers like avoiders desire to avoid the intense emotions and neediness of themselves and others.  So, they “control” others by “proximity seeking” (consciously and unconsciously) to create closeness so as to make them feel safe.  They need to feel close because they suffer from separation anxiety when they feel that others are angry at them.  So unlike the avoider who evades and moves away when relationally distressed, pleasers fearfully move closer when they feel overwhelmed.

Here is what the “formula” looks like:

Approaching intense emotions such as conflict, confrontation or conflict in others > internal insecurity and fear (sometimes panic) > fearfully moving closer with attempts to please the angry person > if the anger subsides and they calm down or smile > relief and comfort.

While this rarely ever brings long range relational resolution and intimacy, they do these appeasing / minimizing behaviors expressly for the purpose of making themselves more comfortable.  This in turn leaves others feeling frustrated and angry because the pleaser refuses to engage, exchange ideas and threatening emotions which leaves the other person feeling frustrated that real solutions are never achieved.

Pleasers avoid deep truth, fail to ask difficult questions, propose unpleasant solutions or bring up old unresolved relational problems.  They simply do not want to hear or see anything that is difficult or that makes them relationally uncomfortable.

So what does a pleaser have to learn to do in order to grow up and become a real adult like Jesus? They need to learn to “stop lying and speak truth” (Ephesians 4:15,25).  Our
core value in our Relationship 180 counseling ministry is “Uncover what is real…at all costs.”  “At the core of every relational breakdown- there is reality…we believe that revealing ‘core honesty and truth’ in every conflict is essential for genuine catharsis, healing and character transformation. Without it, there is façade, manipulation and continued despair. With it, there is that amazing space where God begins His great work of restoration. R/180 is committed to the courage, discomfort and spiritual sensitivities that are necessary to steward wisely over truth from all involved in any relational conflict large or small.”

A client told me about a moving scene that describes non-confrontational pleasers.  In the animation movieMadagascar, the Penguins who are the master minds and airship builders have a dialogue between themselves as the other animals are taking off in the airship.  One of the penguins says to the boss, “Should we tell them there is no gas in the plane?”  The boss answers, “Just smile boys and keep waving.”

An unflattering depiction? Yes …very much so.  That’s what I did for many years… I just smiled and kept waving.  As a recovering pleaser, I really am describing the “Old Milan” of yesteryear, so I can be as unflattering as I want.

Over the next two weeks we will continue to look at the rest of the attachment styles and discover how each of them is controlling in their own unique way and how to grow and become healthier.

Thanks and blessings,


Milan & Kay

Next week:“How and Why Vacillators Control Others.”

how does this apply to Pleasers?