The “Need” to Control Others – Part 4 (of 5)

How and Why Vacillators 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

Vacillators desire to deeply engage with others in such a way that they share their intense emotions and needs with others.  Because of abandonment issues in their past, if they feel that another person is distant they begin to feel panicky inside and so they then “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 ignoring them.  Remember from last week that Pleasers are proximity seekers as well, but while the pleaser pursues in fearful pleasing manner, the Vacillator pursues angrily.

Here is what the “formula” looks like:

Lack of engagement with intense emotions and needs > feelings of abandonment > fear > angry pursuit > if person engages > relief and comfort.  (If person does not engage, the pattern repeats with greater rage and intensity which further drives the person away.)

Ultimately this pattern is very self- sabotaging and defeating.

While this rarely ever brings long range relational resolution and intimacy, Vacillators are seemingly compelled to repeat these unsuccessful behaviors even though they do not work.

After they have protested and the protests go unheard, they often go into a state of depression, despair and despondency.  In this state they are perceived by others as
pouting or sulking which sometimes causes the one pursued to move back toward the Vacillator.

If somehow they make amends, it’s “all good” again and in these “make up” periods, even sex is great.

Yet, if the spouse of the Vacillator then relaxes and “drifts off” again into another interest of any kind, the pattern starts all over again.  Spouses of Vacillator’s refer to this as “walking on eggshells”.  Once this happens, anxiety in both partners escalates and the pattern worsens.   Similar to the jingle of the In & Out Burger chain, “In and out, In and out that’s what a Vacillator is all about.”

So what does a Vacillator have to learn to do in order to grow up and become a real adult like Jesus? Two things:

  1. Tolerate separation from others.  As a child they were powerless and helpless when abandoned.  As adults, they now have the capacity to negotiate proximity as opposed to demanding it.   Additionally, they must learn that unlike their childhood, when people move away toward other interests, this is a part of the realities of adulthood. If not punished, people will usually return.
  2. Ask for connection politely.  If the Vacillator is scared, they need to learn to say something like “We haven’t connected for a while and I am getting anxious inside.  Could we plan some connection time as soon as we can?  I need some comfort.” Here, the real need (fear of abandonment and resulting anxiety) is expressed and the spouse is “invited” to connect which is not as threatening as the anger mode.  The Bible says it this way, “…you have not because you ask not (James 4:2).”

Next week, we will continue to look at the last two 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 Controllers/Victims Control Others.”

are of others.”

So how does this apply to Vacillators?