Both Controllers and Victims come from difficult homes where parents are a source of danger or neglectful. In these are chaotic homes there is no way to predict a parent’s mood or behavior. There is often substance abuse, mental illness, multiple marriages, sibling abuse, and or emotional, sexual or physical mistreatment. Kids in these homes experience no comfort but rather terror, humiliation, shame, anxiety, confusion, manipulation and a host other negative feelings. Feisty kids can become controllers. More compliant kids can become victims.

Controllers need control to keep vulnerable, difficult emotions experienced in childhood from surfacing in their adult lives. Having control means having protection from the feelings of fear, humiliation and helplessness and uncertainty. The childhood home of the Controller was chaotic and volatile so as adults these folks want control because it creates predictability. Anger is the one emotion that is not vulnerable so intimidation and anger are often used to keep or regain control. Control may be highly rigid or more sporadic and unpredictable but controllers rarely realize their childhood trauma is the real reason they need to be in charge.

The Controller

The Controller (Chaotic)

From Parents

Chaotic, confusing. Parents are a source of stress rather than a reliever of stress. May be dangerous: abuse, neglect, violence, drugs, and alcohol. No experience of connection being safe or predictable.

Controller Adult Intimacy

Safe, emotional intimacy is unknown. Controller’s anger prevents emotional intimacy. Addictions used to numb pain, bring relief. People are viewed as unsafe and untrustworthy.


“My way, I’m right.” and “Control or be controlled.”


To be in charge and maintain control. No control in childhood brought unbearable pain. Retaining control as an adult keeps childhood pain (humiliation, terror, shame) submerged and out of awareness.

Prominent Feeling

Anger. All vulnerable feelings (especially shame or anxiety) are quickly converted to anger.


Criticism, challenge of authority.

Response to Stress

Expresses rage, intimidates and bullies to regain control.

The Controller – Awareness and Reflection Skills

What is Self-Awareness?

The ability to internally reflect, understand and evaluate inner responses and outward behaviors. Can communicate this awareness to others.

Controller’s Self Awareness
Faced humiliation as a child. Anger covers awareness of vulnerable emotions. Self-reflection would mean facing historical pain, so it is avoided.

What is Others-Awareness?

The ability to reflect on, ask about and describe internal feelings, thoughts, and reactions of others. Able to put self in another’s shoes and see from their perspective.

Controller’s Others-Awareness
Never listened to as a kid. All about keeping control so insecurities do not arise. Little to no ability to explore or understand the feelings of others.

Comfort Level in Dealing with Negative/ Painful Emotions

The ability to control reactivity when recognizing and responding to negative emotions in self and others.

How Controller Deals with Negative Emotions
Responds to negative emotions in self with a heightened need to control others and medicate self with addictions. Negative emotions in others cause anger, so they discount and stop others from expressing negative emotions.

Still Have Some Questions?

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