Controlling People Give Away Their Secrets

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Article by Wendy McCance

My kids have had a rough time dealing with a controlling person.  This person is someone the kids have regular contact with and it has been hard on them to deal with the chaos that goes on in the mind of this person.  It took me until I was in my 30’s and dealing with someone like this to realize an incredible secret.

Did you know that controlling people tend to tell you all of their insecurities and shortcomings?  I was having a talk with the kids about a person who would accuse these kids of lying.  The kids are truly wonderful, honest children who are very good at articulating their feelings.  They will willingly tell you what’s on their mind and don’t lie.  There have been many moments when they have admitted things that they know would not please me or cause me to get upset, but they will honestly and bravely admit to mistakes and moments when they haven’t been proud of the way they handled something.

To know that they are constantly accused of lying is painful to hear.  They try so much to be good kids.  It is an incredibly insulting accusation because they try so hard to be true to themselves and face things head on, honestly and with integrity.

So, when I was talking with the kids about their dread of seeing this person who spends all of their time looking for problems that don’t exist, I gave them this advice:  When someone is insecure, has an intense need to feel in control of all situations and doesn’t have the utmost in moral character, they tend to accuse others of the very things they do themselves.  It is a crazy concept, but it is incredibly true.  It rang true with the kids as well.  Immediately they were discussing events (many of them) where this person was caught lying.  They said that this individual was always stirring up trouble and would drag down the innocent to cover up their own failings.

When I was in my 30’s, I experienced the same thing.  I’m sure I have had experiences like this when I was even younger, it’s just that it finally dawned on me what was really going on.  I was going through a horrible divorce and my ex-husband would accuse me of ridiculous and outlandish things.  I would be stunned each time and couldn’t figure out where he was coming up with some of the things he was accusing me of.  All I could think was how could he not know me at all?  Well, the joke was on me.  Apparently I didn’t know him at all.  Each time an accusation was thrown my way, within a short period of time it would be found out that he had done the very thing he was accusing me of doing.

I’ll give you the example I gave the kids.  Let’s say you have a friend that you have plans with.  For whatever reason you have to cancel those plans.  You aren’t the type to cancel and feel horrible about having to do so.  Your friend accuses you of always cancelling plans.  Worse yet, you have heard this for years.  Even before you had ever cancelled plans with this friend you were told you do this all the time. You can’t understand why they have always said you do this and really feel uncomfortable when you finally do have to cancel.  Your friend says something along the lines of, “see, I told you you were always cancelling plans with me and now you’re doing it again.”

You feel trapped and bullied about the whole situation.  When you really start to think about it, it dawns on you that your friend cancels plans all the time.  Surely they can’t be mad because you cancelled once and for a good reason.  You feel better and confront your friend with this information.  Your friend says that of course she has cancelled plans with you because you do it all the time to her.

It’s an infuriating situation.  Even though your right, your friend is so used to cancelling plans that they are under the impression that is what everyone does.  They can’t see past their own way of doing things.  They don’t understand that everyone isn’t that way.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to help them see the light.  An extreme amount of insecurity and feelings of always being the victim drive these people to react in this fashion.  It’s sad that there is no way to reassure someone that what they are perceiving isn’t what is happening.

When the kids were talking about the person who always accuses them of lying, they worked so hard to prove it wasn’t true.  When this person asked the kids about any particular situation and what was talked about, if the kids gave a summary instead of stating an exact word by word account, that would be enough proof to this individual that they weren’t telling the truth.  If the kids said that they couldn’t remember exact words, but said what basically happened, it would be construed as a lie, even though they had stated they didn’t remember word for word what was said.

The bottom line is this.  You can’t change people.  Some people are so set on control that they have to manipulate every situation to play out exactly in the fashion they would prefer.  If you get into a situation with someone where accusations seem to come out of the blue and are blown way out of proportion, stop and really listen to what the person is saying.  Many times that person is telling you what is going on deep in their mind.  They will basically tell you through their complaint what they would do in that situation.

This is the advice I gave the kids.  I wish I had learned the same thing years ago.  I hope that if you have been in a situation like this that what I have said is of some comfort to you.

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Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: mccance.wendy@gmail.com

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27 thoughts on “Controlling People Give Away Their Secrets

  1. I started to suspect this was what was going on, but not until I had married this person. I am constantly accused of not caring enough about his needs, of how I “should know” what he wants, needs, has told me before he needs, but won’t be specific and just remind me of. I have to guess. He actually tells me that I want to control everything, when I only want to set my own boundaries and stick to them, not control what he chooses. that’s for him to do. And if I do something displeasing (unintentionally, of course, but in his mind – unforgivable) I get “punished” by him purposely hurting me so I can see how he felt. I am constantly told what my MOTIVES are for what I do, which is what got me thinking, “Maybe those are YOUR motives, but they sure aren’t MINE!” Attempting to reason with him is absolutely impossible. A simple misunderstanding or a mistake on my part is unforgivable and lands us in a massive argument that can last hours….(It can’t be over until it’s settled on his terms, and any of my attempts to end it are labled….yup….”controlling”). I have been kept up til 2 and 3 am to finish these discussions, sprayed with water, had light shined in my face… He will refuse to help out around the house to teach me or my daughter a lesson, because we let the trash get too full. He says he will get help when these situations cause me to entertain divorce, but once things have calmed down, it’s all my fault again.

    • Unfortunately, this sounds so familiar to me. I am not a counselor, but from experience, it sounds like you are in an abusive relationship. Marriage or any relationship should never be this difficult. Please help yourself and your daughter. I know you would never want your child to experience this in her own relationships. She will look at this as a healthy relationship if you let it continue. I wish you nothing but the best. Take care.

  2. My first reaction to this post was that the woman in the “date-cancelling” story (I assume it was a story created to help your kids understand what you were trying to say) is not a friend– or at least such high maintenance that the aggravation has overshadowed the friendship. There’s a time to cut bait in friendships in which one is a manipulator. It seldom works to try to talk out the issue. I’ve tried and the response is defensiveness and a way of turning the past on its head, creating an untrue story-line, that feeds the needs of the insecure manipulator. Say adios and only see that person in groups. Don’t engage. It does no good. Of course when it’s one’s Mom, Dad or Sibling — a far more fraught situation.

    • Hi Linda, thanks for your comment. It was a made up story for the benefit of my young daughter. I agree that if someone knew someone like that, it wouldn’t be beneficial to continue a friendship that real wasn’t a friendship to begin with.

  3. I discovered this around my early thirties as well, in much the same way you did and passed it on to my children. Well, the two out three who didn’t pick up the nasty little habit themselves! And I had a mother that did this her whole life to me and my sister. The epiphany allowed me and my sister to step back from that situation as well, which has been a healing in and of itself. It’s sad and it’s frustrating, but you are completely right that you can do nothing about it but remove yourself from the situation. Thank you for sharing this, it helps to know when others have the same experiences.

    • I’m so glad the article was comforting for you. I agree that whenever I get a comment from a reader sharing their similar experiences, it gives me a sense of relief and comfort. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences.

  4. I have always said that when someone points the finger at you, there are three more pointing back at the accuser. Maybe your kids would like that mental image? Reverse psychology: whatever a person is calling you/accusing you of is a mirror to who they are and has nothing to do with you.
    Thanks for the article: I, like everyone else, had several people in my life who were like this…and the ‘backwards fingers’ always helped me to get over whatever ludicrous accusations were thrown at me.
    Namaste.
    Heather Lagan

  5. Thank you for sharing this. You sound like a wonderful mother who is raising sensitive, articulate and productive children. When they are adults they will realize what an exceptional parent you are.

  6. Dealing with a person like that is frustrating. The advice you have give your children was outstanding. You are so right. You can’t change a person, only they can do that if they so choose. It is up to us to make the decision as to whether we want to be associated with them or not. They may not always be a choice but understanding their behavior can certainly help keep their venom from affecting you. Great post my friend. 🙂

  7. I have an ex-boyfriend who was like this. It took me way too long to figure out that it was his problem, not mine. I used to care about his motivation, but I have realized that it doesn’t matter. What I got from the relationship is the ability to see this same behavior in others and either move on, or at least understand that it’s not my issue.

  8. Look up the Duluth – Power and Control wheel and you can identify the behaviors used by those who often have never been validated or have come to see themselves as victims. Such behaviors unconscious to them is an attempt to drag the other person down – so they can feel stronger – superior – or validate themselves making everyone to be like them. They often believe the golden rule is – do unto others as others have done unto you!! Often the “would want others to do unto you” has never been an option for them. Practice validation and affirmation with all and they will grow to become the great person they are meant to be!

  9. Oh I so know what you are talking about my grandfather was often like that he made me feel like shit over and over again, to be honest I don’t think he liked me very much but to be honest I don’t know……….

  10. OMG! Thank you for blogging about this! I work with someone like this AND my mother is “SO” like this! Both my boss and my mother are Aries and their birthdays are two days apart. I will do my best to remind myself of this when they attempt to drive me crazy. (Which is a short trip for me!) LOL!

    • I just had to mention that my mom is like this and she’s an Aries too (how ironic). I should also mention that my poor husband is an Aries as well, but not like this (thank g-d).

    • Sadly, my mom has some of those traits as well. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to get it. It’s hard to see something as it is when you live with it every day.

      • True but I realized early on it gets worse when you leave and start your own life too…
        We now have 3,000 miles between us and it works.. I get birthday and Christmas cards, because NY is just too far to call… so I’m told and that’s just fine and dandy with me! lol 😉

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