Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? -Tina TurnerThe trouble with falling in love is that the fall can terminate against the cold concrete of betrayal. Pain replaces promise, cynicism flowers in place of confidence and hope flees on wings of misled desire.
If both of you gave it your honest best, and it failed to work out, then it's the kind of pain that can heal in time. The experience can even increase the chances for future relationship success. But there are times when the object of your lost affection intensifies the pain-times when someone who looks like the perfect choice turns out to be the perfect heel. And the damage may not be easily undone.
Unlike men that can honestly struggle with their own uncertainties and confusions about a relationship, and recognize the part they play in creating problems and conflicts, there are other kinds of men that see love as a game and you as their pawn. In this cruelly covert contest, cunning is their watchword, deception is their fix, and control is their high.
Just as addicts are unrelenting in pursuit of making the next score, these kind of men are unyielding in their hunt for women that they can deceive and manipulate. Unlike emotionally sound men and women, who respect others as much as they do themselves, controlling-men respect no one. To them, people are things. And things can be used.
These "Controllers" use words as deceptive tools. Applying charm's anesthetic to deaden the pain, they perform emotional-heart-surgery with crude precision. And young women can make the most vulnerable targets for a Controller's manipulative scalpel.
While the harm most of these men inflict is emotional and psychological, there are those among them with a more dangerous twist, who feed off their victims' souls the way a leech drains the blood of its prey: drop by drop. These are the captivating vampires, whose devious masks conceal every woman's worst nightmare-the terrifying face of a future batterer or stalker.
To these violent men, control is like oxygen. Every sign of submission from others is like the breath of life, falsely confirming their delusion that only brute force affirms their worth. Failing to dominate a woman triggers loose a choking fear in these men, which they cannot face. That hidden fear is the truth that threatens their common delusion of godlike invincibility and exposes them as frightened little men, terrified of everyone and everything, including their own guilt. But guilt, for them, is intolerable.
They twist responsibility for their cruel actions away from themselves and lay it onto their victims. Their domineering maneuvers are magically excused in their minds. They project their own selfish, manipulative and deceptive defects of character onto the very people they harm, while persistently and vigorously proclaiming themselves as blameless.
Almost every woman will encounter at least one of these control-obsessed men in her lifetime, whether his method of control is limited to emotional manipulation or extends into physical intimidation. But there are ways to identify each type of Controller before it's too late. There are methods for dealing with them, avoiding them or escaping them. There are ways to protect and keep an honest heart. And this series of articles is designed to help you protect yourself from harm, by providing you with a basic Controller detection system, which begins in grasping the fundamental nature of control.
Control, itself, is not inherently negative. Everyone wants some form of it. It would be sheer folly to want none in a relationship, especially if you have experienced previous betrayal. But there is a critical difference between healthy and unhealthy control.
A healthy desire for control originates in a need to protect-either someone else or your self. Until a toddler learns the limits of safety and danger in the home, its only source of protection is its parents' limit-setting controls. Movement control is harm control. Love is the motive. Protection is the goal.
Unhealthy control originates in a desire to dominate another, either through words or actions designed to both charm and harm--to captivate while simultaneously damaging the emotionally captured. It is this pairing of charm with harm that is the hallmark of Controller manipulations. Preaching sugar while practicing poison, they are experts at concealing their true natures. Hiding bad intentions beneath polished appearances, they have perfected the art of "looking good." It is this uncanny ability of Controllers to alternate looking good with manipulative behavior that perpetuates tormenting emotional snares for those they target as victims.
Regret is not in their psychological vocabulary. They harm others because they feel entitled to hurt people. It is not a matter of moral right or wrong to them when they inflict harm. It's only a matter of believing that they "have the right." And if they always believe that right is on their side, which they always do, then any harmful act is always justified.
In over twenty year's work as a therapist, one of the eeriest experiences has been in listening to clients describing control-obsessed parents or partners. It is as if many of the people I have counseled had the same mother, father or relationship partner, stamped out of a small collection of similar molds. Or that all control-obsessed individuals took the same set of courses at Controller College - some with a specialty in narcissistic personality, others in being sociopathic and still others in sadistic or borderline psychopathology. The behaviors and attitudes of each type are so astonishingly similar, it seems as if they must all belong to the same bowling team.
These similarities in so many clients' descriptions of their control-obsessed parents or partners gradually brought me to suspect a common link between Controllers and their mental states. In 1993 that link was clarified by a team of researchers, headed by Donald G. Dutton, at the University of British Columbia, who were studying the personality characteristics of battering men.
Dutton's team discovered that 90-100% of men who physically assault their spouses exhibited symptoms of what are clinically known as "personality disorders." Many studies done to test their research project have confirmed their conclusions, which provides stunning evidence that men who batter women have sets of distinct, unique, identifiable personality characteristics. And a potential victim can recognize these characteristics before falling for someone who is skilled at appearing to be "Mr. Right."
The Canadian's exclusively focused upon men who are physically assaultive, but there is an entire range of control-obsessed men who do not batter with their fists. Their weapons are words, charm and your vulnerability. And their personality profiles are as distinct as those of their more brutal counterparts.
Part 2 - The Malice Artists
Remember us-if at all-not as lostPreaching sugar while practicing poison, Controllers are experts at concealing their true natures. Hiding bad intentions beneath polished appearances, they have perfected the art of "looking good." Subtle and devious in the way he conceals his manipulative nature, he may look like a rose, but ends up feeling like poison ivy.
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men . . . T.S. Eliot
Imagine-or remember-the following scenario:
You're at a friend's party, and you're single again. You have sworn to yourself, and a dozen friends and acquaintances, that you're never going to pick another loser. The next guy you get involved with is going to be sweet, smart, kind, successful and interested in you. All your friends seem to be telling you the same thing: "Don't worry. You'll spot the jerks. You've been through it enough times. Now you really know how to tell the losers from the good guys."
Confident that pure experience alone has mysteriously given you the ability to protect yourself from ending-up with another self-centered manipulator, you confidently scan the crowd, trying to sort out the unmarried men from those trying to look single.
In an ambiguous effort to be taken seriously while still being attractive, your outfit falls somewhere between glamour and medieval armor. Pleated slacks, a tailored toreador-jacket, conservative but v-necked blouse, hoop-earrings and heels somewhere between low pumps and stilts. Assertive, but available.
You notice a pretty good-looking guy: little over six-foot, trimmed beard, tasty dresser. He looks at you and you smile slightly. He looks surprised, nervous and glances away. Shy? You notice he's shooting the breeze with one of the computer-geeks from the office, and you lose interest.
At intervals between talking with women friends, you randomly scan the room, sweeping the crowd, pausing to appraise various men. After an hour, you're starting to get bored when someone arrives late. He steps right in to the middle of the crowd, doesn't seem to really know anyone, but acts like everyone knows him. He isn't particularly good-looking, but you recognize that other women are noticing him. And suddenly he notices you. He not only notices, but immediately steps out of the crowd and strides directly toward you, as if he already knows you. His eyes fix directly into yours, and his smile shines with all the sincerity modern dentistry can afford. In the back of your mind, the voice of experience is trying to warn you, but there is something louder about this man's manner than the wobbling wisdom of your experience. He is so immediately attentive. You feel targeted at the center of his attention. His persistently complimentary manner is exciting, because it is he that is making the compliments. Even though he is talking about you, what really feels good is listening to him. And he is so charming.
By the end of the evening, you've given him your phone number and made a dinner date for the following night. Two weeks later you are already "involved." At the end of the month, you're sleeping with him. But, once that happens, you notice a change in him. Suddenly, you are no longer at the center of his attention--he is. And the sole topic of every conversation has become only him.
All the while, common sense's voice of experience and your instinct keep trying to tell you something, but you can't understand what they're saying. That's the problem when the voices of instinct and experience remain disconnected. You knew you were being steered in a direction that past experience tried telling you to avoid. And your fear was sounding its alarm, because you could feel it. But one more manipulative man has succeeded in overriding your instinct and common sense and took control of the way you thought about him. And the outcome is always the same, whether you give up on him today, or throw in the towel twenty years from now: frustration, aggravation, depression and, ultimately, despair. But you do not have to be fooled again, if you can get a handle on what you're dealing with.
Every controlling-type man wants power, but he must feel it to know he has it. Inflicting control, and witnessing someone being controlled, is how he succeeds at sensing power. Loss of control equals powerlessness. And powerlessness, to a Controller, feels like death.
What Donald G. Dutton's research team at the University of British Columbia and other recent researchers have finally demonstrated is that control-obsessed men can be recognized by certain very unusual personality profiles, known as personality disorders. But before looking at our first Controller profile in the next installment of this article series, it is important to first understand the differences between a normal, non-disordered personality and an abnormally disordered one. It will make Controller recognition easier.
'Normal' is not a good term to describe a mentally sound person, because it seems to imply that there must be a set of obvious, precisely definable characteristics that describe sanity. But, that is not easily the case. There is such an astounding range of differences between the vast majority of healthy individuals in the world that it is impossible to pin 'normal' down to an exact and narrow set of behaviors, attitudes or mannerisms. Ironically, one of the things that helps in spotting Controllers is the opposite-their behaviors, attitudes and mannerisms can be defined in predictable, narrow sets of characteristics.
There are certain general characteristics that define a mentally healthy individual. A hallmark of mental health is the ability to tolerate uncertainty, which is demonstrated in our capacity to carefully weigh choices before deciding a course of action. Because we can tolerate the tension that occurs while going through the process of choosing, we can more accurately make a final decision. Mentally unsound individuals cannot tolerate much tension, which is why their actions tend to be irrational and impulsive.
Flexibility grows out of the ability to tolerate uncertainty. A flexible mind is one that can change. To some degree, change is uncomfortable for everyone, but normal individuals find it tolerable and manageable. In contrast, personality-disordered individuals are rigidly intolerant of change, inflicting their will against anything new or different in their lives-or in the lives of those around them. Externally imposed change is threatening, because it reminds them that the world is not under their total control.
Adaptability grows out of flexibility. Normal people are capable of adapting themselves to new situations. Change may make them feel uncomfortable, but they can accommodate themselves to it and adjust.
Personality-disordered individuals find it extremely difficult or completely impossible to shift gears when a new situation develops.
Mentally healthy people have the capacity to take appropriate responsibility. Such individuals know how to see the part they may have played in creating a problem, can admit their part in it, can take corrective action to solve the problem and have the capacity to admit they were wrong. They also know how to realistically recognize when they have not played a part in creating a problem. Personality-disordered individuals cannot make those kinds of discriminations around the issue of responsibility. They always blame everything that goes wrong in their life on everyone else, or they do the exact opposite and always blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. Controllers are blamers - self-abusive individuals are blame-takers.
Personality-disordered people can be roughly divided into two groups - blamers and self-blamers - but this series of articles will focus on the blamers: Controllers that psychotherapists have classified as "narcissistic," "borderline," "sociopathic" and "sadistic." Approximately twenty personality disorders have been identified, but these four predominate in the kinds of Controllers who tend to manipulate and deceive women-the kinds of men that have given Romeo an extremely bad name.
Part 3 - The Mirror Men
Egotist, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me. --Ambrose Bierce
At his core, every Controller is monumentally self-centered. He is not just on an ego trip. He is on an expedition.
In his mind, everyone orbits around him, as if people are his planets and he is their shining sun. What he wants he should have, simply because he wants it. He needs no other justification. Seeing himself as the center of everyone else's universe, he is blind to the fact that anyone else's wants or needs are more important than his own. Doggedly locked into this self-image of grand, "godlike" proportions, he may literally feel entitled to other's worship.
It is as if these kind of men view reality from inside a strange, transparent fortress, whose walls are both shield and golden mirror. Hardened against the truth of the world outside himself, this psychological citadel resists seeing things as they really are. Like mental bulletproof-glass, these opaque fortress walls deflect any words or actions from others that might threaten his perfect "godlike" image of himself. Everything is perceived through this armored, shining shell, and the world must always treat him as if he were golden. And failure to worship at his shrine can be devastating.
At one end of this egotistical continuum are publicly notorious "charismatic leaders" - the Caesars, Hitlers, Saddam Hussein and George Bushes of the world - that represent the severe end of self-centeredness gone violently berserk. They see themselves as "entitled" to dominate or destroy millions, simply because they can. But Controllers that most women encounter rarely look as obvious as an Adolph or Saddam, or become as lethal as George Bush. Instead of striving to conquer nations, these narcissistic "little dictators" must limit themselves to conquering you.
But what exactly is "narcissism," in terms of being a Controller? And what is the surest way to spot this self-adoring manipulator?
In a Narcissistic Controller's mind, everyone and everything orbits around him, as if people are his planets and he is their shining sun. What he wants, he should have, simply because he wants it. Greed is at the core of his being, but it is greed based more on attention than ownership. He may own a few things, or many, but his primary reason for "owning" anything--including you--is to display his sense of self-induced superiority.
Although such an individual is usually not physically or sexually abusive, he is a master at inflicting psychological, emotional and spiritual damage on others. This type of Controller is incapable of needing anyone but himself, and it is that rigidly fixated belief which lies behind the lordly attitude that dwells in him. It is as if these kinds of men see reality from inside a strange, transparent fortress, whose walls are both shield and mirror. Like mental bulletproof glass, these opaque psychological walls deflect any words or actions from outside him that might threaten his perfectly idealized, "godlike" self-image. And his mannerisms and behaviors reflect his own shining image.
He seems to stand out in a crowd, as if under a spotlight. He acts as if people aren't just watching him - they're adoring him. If you are within earshot, or he engages you in a conversation - which he will, if you can draw other's attention to him - pay close attention to his facial expressions when he mentions those whom he like and dislikes. Listen to how he talks about himself and others. Possessive arrogance characterizes him when he likes someone, as if he personally owns him or her. When he says something good about someone, he tends to say only good things about those whom he perceives as admiring him. Look for intense expressions of disdain toward those whom he dislikes, who will have failed to pander to his sense of self-centered specialness.
When talking about himself, everything he thinks, feels and does, sounds as if it must be important. Nothing is insignificant about a Narcissist, to a Narcissist. Regardless of what position he holds at his job, he is always better at it than anyone else. Whether a company's janitor or chief executive officer, he always conveys a sense of himself as superior to his peers.
When speaking of his family or friends, it sounds like he could be describing expensive cars, clothes, stereos or jewelry. People are possessions to a Narcissistic Controller, useful unto the degree that they make him look good to others and himself. They can be ignored, demeaned or discarded whenever they fail to make him shine.
The quickest and crudest way to confirm that someone is a Narcissistic Controller is simply to marry him. Unfortunately, this actually is the first moment when the narcissistic spell is broken and a woman realizes that Mr. Right is actually Mr. Wrong. If it were simply a manner of recognizing signs of self-centered arrogance, it would be a piece of cake to avoid this kind of man's clutches. But many Narcissistic Controllers possess a subtle weapon: charm.
Most people strive to be socially charming, but this is not the kind of charm displayed by a Narcissistic Controller. The manipulative impact of narcissistic charm is not intended to ease social connectedness. It is designed to establish social dominance. Instead of stimulating thought and interaction, it tends to lull or paralyze the mind. The Random House Dictionary defines charm's essence as, " . . . A power of pleasing or attracting, as through personality or beauty; to act upon (someone or something) with or as with a compelling or magical force . . .." It is this feeling of being acted upon - or controlled - which can initially hint that you are dealing with narcissistic control. It feels intensely charming. You feel gripped by it, instead of eased by it. Other signs can indicate the presence of narcissistic control, as well.
Displaying disdain and contempt for those whom he believes have betrayed him can confirm signs of narcissistic control. But betrayal, to a Narcissist, differs from what normal people experience.
For most people, betrayal usually means a deep violation of trust inflicted by someone with whom a close, personal relationship exists. But, to a Narcissistic Controller, betrayal simply means that someone stopped pandering to his every want and need. In other words, when someone breaks away from his control, he feels betrayed. Since Narcissists do not have the capacity to develop close, trusting personal relationships, there can be no deep violation of real trust.
When a Narcissistic Controller feels betrayed, contempt dominates his facial and verbal expressions. The insolent, aloof sneer commonly accompanies expressions such as, "He didn't know who he was dealing with!" Or, "Doesn't he know who I am?" His real complaint - if he had the ability to see it - should be, "Don't you know who I think I am?"
This is not an exhaustive description of Narcissistic Controllers. It is the basics - the essentials. If you believe that you are already locked into a business or personal relationship with this kind of man, a later part of this series will explain suggested ways to deal with him. But if you have recognized the features of someone like this man, and you are feeling caught inside his spell, ask yourself a question: What part of me needs this man, so that I can feel good about myself?
All types of Controllers capitalize on manipulating that part in anyone which lacks self-esteem. Essentially, they feed off our uncertainties about our selves. Find that shy, heart-broken or traumatized part of yourself and make friends with it. Get close to it, and it will help protect you from his deceptions, deceits, and ultimately, his inevitably egotistical scorn.
Before continuing on with this series, a word of caution about labeling people.
The severely self-centered type of Controller just described is known to professional clinicians as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), which is the official "clinical diagnostic category" for such an individual. Other personality - disordered Controllers-Anti-Social, Borderline, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive - will be covered in latter parts of this series. But explaining a personality profile in a purely clinical manner can be like bodysurfing down a glacier. Professional clinicians might reach the foot of the glacier in one piece, but it's not something to officially try, unless you're licensed to the teeth.
Part 4 - When Love is a Four-letter Word
They love without measure those whomLove is a two-way street when two people know how to give it and receive it. But to Controllers, it's a dead-end freeway.
they will soon hate without reason. --Thomas Sydenham
Love, to them, is simply a means to an end. It is a vulnerability to be exploited. Obedience equals love in their minds, and each type of Controller seeks to achieve his version of "love" in a way tailored to his style of control. The Sadist's version of "loving" control is as distinct as a tarantula crawling across an angel-food cake. Love, to him, is the terror in his victim's eyes.
To the Sociopath, love is the thrill he gets when you've finally taken his bait, he's yanked on the line and the hook is buried deep in your heart. Love, to him, is the look of stunned bewilderment and dread your eyes reveal when you realize it's too late to run.
To the Borderline, love walks between the blades of an emotionally double-edged razor, which swings and slices between emotion-soaked heavens and hells. "Love," to the Borderline male, often ends in the cemetery. Almost half of all batterers and stalkers are Borderline.
If someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder attempts to draw you into a relationship, there is a very simple, concrete way to know it. Pay attention to your stomach. Even though he may initially seem sweet, attentive and empathic, you will likely perceive a subtle tightening in the pit of your abdomen, like a small rock you've suddenly noticed in your shoe-barely noticeable, but there.
Listen to that rock, because it is the voice of instinct, and it's trying to tell you something. Listen to your fear and start scanning for an incoming missile. The Borderline is often a tough target to initially confirm, but close attention to his attitudes and behaviors and an emotional position of calm neutrality can help you confirm his threat-potential. And if Borderline is confirmed, get out of there before it's too late.
But if too late has happened, and you are already involved with a Borderline Controller, you have experienced far more than the pinch of a small stone in your gut. You've been engulfed in an insane, hyper-emotional ride where spewing sheets of scalding lava alternate with warm, soothing baths of emotional saccharine. Life itself will have become a series of whipsawing emotional extremes, between his clinging adoration and hateful spite. The hallmark of this pattern is that "just when things seem to be going well," and he is treating you best, he suddenly turns into a perverse version of Air Jordan and you're the ball. Slam-dunked would be a mild way of describing the receiving end of this intensely emotional pounding.
He was just treating you like a goddess. He was being so sweet and attentive. Maybe he was even telling you how wonderful you are. Then, in the sudden twinkling of a diabolical eye, he's treating you like you've become a "bitch-on-wheels." And you don't know why.
He accuses you of everything from insincerity to infidelity, and your mind scrambles to discover what you just said or did that's setting him off. He keeps saying it's you, and is so intensely convinced that it is you that it's hard not to believe him. Later, after his firestorm of vindictiveness has died down, you might realize what triggered him. You did not respond "right" to his compliments, or scratched your nose in the midst of his adoration, or maybe you just burnt the toast that morning or were two-minutes late coming home from the office. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. There will always be something - apparently innocuous to you - which will abruptly stoke his raging fire again. And again and again, round and around, until your spirit and soul are finally ground into fine, despondent grains of charred debris, and your mind eventually looks like a Tokyo china-shop after a 9.0 earthquake.
Maybe he never physically beats you. Or maybe he does. Or maybe he never will. But you never know. He is stunningly impulsive and unpredictable. But he always assaults you emotionally, ripping into every fiber of your being with verbal vindictive, threats and accusations. Being keel-hauled over a coral reef is a cake-walk, compared to a Borderline's torment.
The only thing predictable about such a Controller is his extreme unpredictability. It is only after you become intimately snared into him that you discover the soul-grinder that lies waiting to strike. Until then, you may even find him amazingly attentive, sensitive and empathic to your every need. He can initially appear to be completely non-threatening. That is why it is critical to learn how to identify this type of individual, because there is a high probability that brutally sociopathic or sadistic-type personality disorders may hide behind his appealing camouflage of muted sensitivity.
When borderline, sociopathic and sadistic disorders combine with a narcissistic disorder, a particularly deceptive and dangerous Molotov cocktail of character pathology results. George Bush's USA appears to totally manifest just such a combination. And there are many minor George Bushes already prowling the streets, workplaces, bedrooms and boardrooms of America.
A Borderline Personality Disorder is a master at transforming other's sympathy into pity. In terms of being vulnerable to borderline-manipulation, anyone that is capable of compassion, protectiveness or love can be easily deceived by a Borderline. If one of these extraordinarily deceptive individuals attaches himself to you, and you are particularly prone to confuse pity with love, then you might as well go skin-diving with ether in your scuba-tanks instead of oxygen. A relationship with a Borderline can be like swimming along a stunningly gorgeous coral reef, surrounded by a school of smiling piranha. The scenery may look divine, but you may be dinner.
Early detection of borderline characteristics can be very difficult. Clinical experts on this personality disorder commonly advise interns and colleagues to avoid treating more than one or two of these types, because treatment can become intensely confusing, persistently crisis-oriented and volatile. I know of several former clinicians that left successful practices because they could not learn to identify and deal with borderline patients. It was not that individuals who solely possess this type of personality disorder are necessarily physically violent, but they are geniuses at generating emotional and psychological chaos in people who get too close to them. The frenzied emotional-madness that characteristically runs riot inside of these individuals has an uncanny way of getting inside of those nearest to them.
Over a century ago, psychiatrists discovered this phenomenon and labeled it a folie a deux, or "folly of two." It was observed that spouses often took on the symptoms of their psychotic partners. When the psychotic partner was removed from the home and hospitalized, his spouse's symptoms vanished within two weeks. The same phenomenon often occurs today when someone is in a relationship with a Borderline Personality Disorder. It is like becoming infected with emotional-malaria. One moment you're burning with fever. In the next instant your teeth chatter like chilled jackhammers. But if you learn the subtle, early clues to recognizing a potential Borderline, you can avoid your own trip to the sanitarium.
Particularly sensitive and adept therapists often describe a typically paradoxical reaction, commonly experienced by most people when first meeting someone who is Borderline. While feeling gently or tenderly drawn toward him, there is simultaneously an almost inconspicuous sensation of a vague knot in the pit of the stomach, as mentioned earlier. A more general description might be that a person feels that he or she too quickly likes someone and feels a faint sense of unease or dread toward him at the same time.
If you experience such mixed sensations when first meeting anyone, ask yourself why you simultaneously liked him so quickly and felt uncomfortable. If it's difficult to answer either question, put your radar system on high alert and scan closely the next time you meet him. If he is Borderline and has locked onto your sympathetic nature, that next encounter may not be too far away.
Without the presence of other personality disorders, someone who is Borderline tends to rapidly move toward developing a dependent relationship with those who show them interest and sympathy. An early sign of this dependency can be recognized by a rapid increase in contact, initiated by the Borderline, and a sense that such an individual has an uncanny ability to read you better than a blind man reads Braille.
Even though you can develop a very sophisticated form of personality-detection radar, it will never be as subtle or fine-tuned as a Borderline's. They have what seem like high-grade, instinctually built-in personality detection systems, comparable to extremely sophisticated phased-array radar systems used in the military for detecting high-speed, small ballistic projectiles, like the cruise missiles used to attack Iraq during the Gulf War.
This system appears to be purely instinctual in Borderlines, because they do not seem conscious of its presence or the information it gives to them, even when this ability is pointed out to them. Generally, this eerily unconscious quality seems to pervade everything about them. In a very basic sense, they do not know who they are. This is one of the most unnerving aspects about them for people who get too close.
If you ask a normal person on January 1st to describe themselves, he or she can give a fairly detailed description of what they think, feel and believe about the things that are important to them in life. Ask the same question, six months or a year later, and you will get almost the same answers. But if you ask a Borderline that question at noon today, the answer may be completely different by dusk, and will possess an indistinct, blurry quality, as if someone is drawing a picture of himself in mud. Or, depending on whom they are with, they may give two completely different pictures of themselves to two different people, ten minutes apart.
In mental hospitals, these are the patients who generate intense conflicts between staff members, unless those members understand what they are dealing with. One psychiatrist diagnoses him as schizophrenic, another labels him manic-depressive and a third believes he is a hypochondriac. A family therapist thinks he just has a "boundary problem," a psychiatric nurse thinks he's only neurotic, the vocational rehabilitation counselor admires his creative potential and a psychiatric aide thinks he's full of shit. The only people who know his true identity are the other patients. To them he is the master chameleon who can change his psychological appearance on a dime. He is the fox who fools the hunters. But who'll listen to them? They're not "professionally licensed."
What can be especially disturbing to others about this chameleon-like "change-ability" is that Borderlines are oblivious to what they are doing. They are not consciously making-up these different identity versions of themselves. They just do it reflexively, as if they run on some instinctually eerie automatic-pilot.
Many psychological theories exist to explain this eerie process in a Borderline - from theories on "object relations" to "dissociation." But staying around a borderline Controller long enough to discover the cause of his strange attitudes and behaviors increases the probability of becoming his victim. Hesitation allows time for him to develop an attachment. And attachment can prove deadly, especially if a borderline disorder combines with another of the personality disorders prone to physical violence. Even if you only become involved with a solely borderline Controller, though, be prepared for a nightmare journey. You're in for an emotionally blistering E-Ticket ride in Relationship Jurassic Park.
Part 5 - When Love is a Four-letter Word... Continued: The Clinging Apocalypse
Do you want me to say it's funny, so you can contradict meRegardless of how a Controller with a Borderline Personality Disorder can alter and tailor his appearance to deceive others, he still presents with a clear and characteristic personality pattern. This pattern usually emerges in three stages or roles: Vulnerable Seducer, Clinger and Hater. These stages cycle and often swing wildly from one role to the next, but through drawing a picture of how these stages appear, a basic portrait can be loaded into your developing Controller - detection-system.
and say it's sad? Or do you want me to say it's sad so you
can turn around and say no, it's funny? -- Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
At first, a Borderline male may appear shy, vulnerable or "ambivalently in need of care." This is the first clue: beware of men who feel like lost puppies. If you experience an urge to take him home and feed him, don't - especially if you are in an emotionally needy state. But if you can't stop yourself, then avoid a future feeding frenzy on your soul by making a careful scan for the following reactions and characteristics as you enter this spirit-eater's lair.
In the beginning, you will feel a rapidly accelerating sense of compassion for whatever painful plight he has gotten himself into, because he is a master at portraying himself as the "victim of circumstance." But listen closely to how he sees himself as a victim. As his peculiar emotional invasion advances upon you, you will hear how no one understands him - except you. Other people have always left him because of their "insensitivity." He is always being betrayed, just when he starts trusting people. But there is something "special" about you, because "you really know me."
It is this intense way he has of bearing down on you emotionally that can feel very seductive. You will feel elevated, adored - almost worshiped. And you will feel that way quickly. It may seem like a great deal has happened between the two of you in a short period of time, because every conversation is so intense, and his attention is so focused on you. But if you're paying attention, you will feel his adoration by the third date, or sooner. Initially, it feels like an invisible army of sweet, chocolate ants is subtly infiltrating you. But the invasion may be hard to notice because it feels good, just as the Trojans must have felt good when they towed the Trojan Horse into their city, only to discover it filled with Greek Berserkers bent on destruction and conquest. Heed the warning that Cassandra gave to Troy's King Priam; "Fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts." But it's difficult to say no to a gift from the gods, especially if you have already tapped one too many dry relationship-wells.
Here is a man who may look like a dream come true. He not only seems to make you the center of his attention, but he even craves listening to your opinions, thoughts and ideas. If you have never experienced a man treating you like this before, it can seem like you have really found your heart's desire. But like anything that seems too good to be true, it usually is. While you may think you're about to enjoy the tasty pleasures of a Mr. Goodbar, Mr. Goodbar is about to take more than a taste out of you. And borderline men emotionally eat their women whole.
Once he has successfully candied his hook with adoration, he will weld it into place by reeling in your attention and concern. His intense interest in you subtly transforms. He still appears to be interested in you, but no longer in what you are interested in. His interest becomes your exclusive interest in him. This is when things begin to feel "uncomfortable." Your thoughts, feelings and ideas fascinate him, but only when they focus on his problems. You can tell when this happens because you can feel him "perk-up" emotionally whenever your attention focuses upon his feelings and conflicts. Those moments can emotionally hook your compassion more deeply into him, because that is when he will treat you well - even tenderly. That's why, if you confuse pity with love, you'll believe you're in love with him. Especially if your maternal instinct is strong and rescuing is at the heart of your "motherly code." Following that code results in the most common excuse I hear as a therapist, as to why many women stay with borderline men, ".... But I love him!" Adult love is built on mutual interest, care and respect - not on one-way rescues. And mothering is for kids. Not grown men.
But, if like King Priam, you do fall prey to this Trojan Horse and let him inside your city gates, the first Berserker to leave the horse will be the devious Clinger. A master at strengthening his control through pity, he is brilliant at eliciting sympathy and identifying those most likely to provide it - like the steady-tempered and tenderhearted.
The world ails him. Physical complaints are common. His back hurts. His head aches. Peculiar pains of all sorts come and go like invisible, malignant companions. If you track their appearance, though, you may see a pattern of occurrence connected to the waning or waxing of your attentions. His complaints are ways of saying, "don't leave me. Save me!" And his maladies are not simply physical. His feelings ail him too.
He is depressed or anxious, detached and indifferent or vulnerable and hypersensitive. He can swing from elated agitation to mournful gloom at the blink of an eye. Watching the erratic changes in his moods is like tracking the needle on a Richter-scale chart at the site of an active volcano, and you never know which flick of the needle will predict the big explosion.
But after every emotional Vesuvius he pleads for your mercy. And if he has imbedded his guilt-hooks deep enough into your conscientious nature, you will stay around and continue tracking this volcanic earthquake, caught in the illusion that you can discover how to stop Vesuvius before he blows again. But, in reality, staying around this cauldron of emotional unpredictability is pointless. Every effort to understand or help this type of man is an excruciatingly pointless exercise in emotional rescue.
It is like you are a Coast Guard cutter and he is a drowning man. But he drowns in a peculiar way. Every time you pull him out of the turbulent sea, feed him warm tea and biscuits, wrap him in a comfy blanket and tell him everything is okay, he suddenly jumps overboard and starts pleading for help again. And no matter how many times you rush to the emotional - rescue, he still keeps jumping back into trouble. It is this repeating, endlessly frustrating pattern which should confirm to you that you are involved with a Borderline Personality Disorder. No matter how effective you are at helping him, nothing is ever enough. No physical, financial or emotional assistance ever seems to make any lasting difference. It's like pouring the best of your self into a galactic-sized Psychological Black Hole of bottomless emotional hunger. And if you keep pouring it in long enough, one-day you'll fall right down that hole yourself. There will be nothing left of you but your own shadow, just as it falls through his predatory "event horizon." But before that happens, other signs will reveal his true colors.
Sex will be like a rocket ride on the Oblivion Express. Anyone who can be so instinctually tuned in to reading your needs and manipulating them can also pinpoint your g-spot with the fine-tuned skill of a Swiss jeweler cleaving a diamond. It will seem wonderful - for a while.
The intensity of his erotic passion can sweep you away like a strange destiny on the blue sea of august, but his motive for lusting upon you is double-edged. One side of it comes from the instinctually built-in, turbulent emotionality of his disorder. Intensity is his trump-card. But the other side of him is driven by an equally concentrated need to control you. The sexual pyrotechnics, while imposing, are motivated from a desire to dominate you, not please you. And, after a while, too much of a good thing might actually be too much, to the point where you feel like buying an arc-welding kit and forging your own cast-iron chastity belt. Or perhaps his erotic intensity will be there in a more cunning way. A borderline-sociopathic patient once described this "way," as if he had just invented the light bulb. Little did he know that thousands of erotic Edisons had already preceded him.
Shortly after he had seduced and married his third wife, a Controller named "Tom" developed a calculating and classically "I hate you-I love you" borderline way of sexually controlling his woman. Since he knew that the marked conscientiousness of his wife's character made her particularly loyal, he was certain his method of erotic control would work because, no matter how much she desired sex, she would never seek it with someone else. This was the key to his method, and his way of making her feel simultaneously responsible and guilty for her own desires and his cunning manipulation of them.
Knowing that he had control of her loyalty, he would "work" her sexual longing by timing its gratification. He would do this by turning her on, then losing interest by feigning "a tough day at the office," "a sore back," or some other pretext. All the while, his borderline instinct for reading her level of sexual frustration watched and waited, until he could tell that she was in a state of carnal gridlock. Then he released the laser intensity of his loin-lions upon her now fever-pitched libido and gratified her to the nth-degree.
To increase the agonizing effect of this cycle upon her, he added two more factors of frustration. He initiated the first by catching her while she secretly masturbated. And when he caught her, he always feigned outraged and agonized sexual betrayal. This ratcheted up her sense of guilt even further. Then - just to twist that ratchet one last click - he dropped using excuses like tough days at the office and sore backs for one that was a psychological coup de trompe of controller manipulation. He started accusing her of sexually abusing him!
He had completely succeeded in deceiving her into believing that she was manipulating poor, erotically-exhausted him. And he had gotten her to cling to him! Once a Borderline Controller has succeeded in this kind of sexual "trick," or in other less genital manipulations, the Hater appears. This hateful part of him may have emerged before, but you probably will not see it in full, acidic bloom until he feels he has achieved a firm hold on your conscience and compassion. But when that part makes it's first appearance, rage is how it breaks into your life.
What gives this rage its characteristically borderline flavor is that it is very difficult for someone witnessing it to know what triggered it in reality. But that is its primary identifying clue: the actual rage-trigger is difficult for you to see. But in the Borderline's mind it always seems to be very clear. To him, there is always a cause. And the cause is always you. Whether it is the tone of your voice, how you think, how you feel, dress, move or breathe - or "the way you're looking at me," - he will always justify his rage by blaming you for "having to hurt you."
Rage reactions are also unpredictable and unexpected. They happen when you least expect it. And they can become extremely dangerous.
If a Controller is solely Borderline, his rages may remain verbal. You might be ducking a lot of dishes, glasses and other breakables, or the occasional airborne frying pan or flying cutlery set. But do not deceive yourself into believing that he is not directly aiming any of these missiles at you. Sooner or later one of them will "just happen" to hit you-or the kids, the cat or dog. And his excuse will be, "It was an accident," or "I didn't mean to hit you," or the ever-classic "Why didn't you duck?" - Not, "Why do I act so insane?"
With a Borderline, there is also the danger that one of these rages will precipitate or be precipitated by a temporary or long-lasting psychotic break. If this happens, a scattered state of rage may instantly become a precisely aimed attack, with you fixed in the cross-hairs.
If you sense any explosion coming, or one has already begun, leave. Do not try to "reason" him out of it. Immediately grab the kids, cats and dogs and get out now. Don't worry about what the neighbors or anyone else will think if he chases you outside. "Witness statements" to the police can help if you need to file a restraining order.
While there is never a guarantee that a solely borderline Controller will become physically violent or not, they will always become verbally, emotionally and psychologically abusive. Just keep one simple fact always in mind, regardless of whether a Controller is borderline, narcissistic, sociopathic or sadistic: Whenever any of them are criticizing characteristics in you, they are making autobiographical statements about themselves.
Blame is their way of unloading their character defects onto you. Listen closely to the hateful things they say to you about you. You are listening to verbatim descriptions of their character defects. This is extremely important to remember, especially in the midst of verbal attack. These are the only moments when you will hear the truth about the man who lies concealed behind the steel wall of his personality disorder. But never point that fact out to him. If you do, it may be the last time you see him alive. But not because you're still around to know he's not dead.
Part 6 - Conclusion: Counter-control
You can run, but you can't hide. - Joe LouisThe Key to Counter-Control
If you possess a strong sense of responsibility, Controllers will use it against you. Understanding how to prevent a Controller from manipulating your conscience is key in learning how to "counter - control." Moral integrity is one of the finest assets a person can possess, but it can attract a Controller the way a "hot target" attracts a cruise missile. When dealing with a Controller, conscientiousness can be your Achilles' Heel.
Integrity and conscientiousness remind Controllers of their most profound character flaw. They hate being reminded of what they do not have. They hate those qualities in others because Controllers cannot possess them. That is one reason that they are attracted to integrity. But their attraction is rooted in a desire to dominate or destroy. They must manipulate, rule or emotionally and psychologically annihilate anyone whose soundness of character reminds them of their own profoundly egotistical, selfish and empty natures.
All effective counter-control is rooted in understanding how a Controller manipulates someone's conscience and uses it against him or her. But the great trick to discovering how to effect practical counter-control is in knowing how to overcome a Controller's amorally motivated drive to control, without turning into a Controller yourself.
On Dangerous Ground
Blame is a dangerous thing. And it is a necessity when trying to recognize any source of harm, because harm cannot be prevented until its origin can be identified. Blame's necessity lies in the fact that it seeks to discover who is responsible when something goes wrong in the world and then put a name to the accused. Naming the accused is the first step toward righting a wrong by defining its source. But blaming alone can become a disastrously false step.
The danger in blame is that it can also be a way of avoiding a solution to harm, because it is easy to accuse. When we are frightened or angry in the face of a great wrong, it is that good thing in each of us - justice - which cries out for satisfaction. It is right to want to stop a wrong. It is one of the best instinctual qualities in sane human beings, but it is a quality that can quickly turn upon itself and become the very evil it seeks to defeat.
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel tells a wonderfully haunting story of how he almost became what he hated. He spent part of his adolescence growing up in the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. One night, he was telling an old rabbi about his greatest desire.
He was relating a series of extremely violent fantasies to the rabbi, which were elaborately detailed images of exactly what tortures he would inflict upon their Gestapo guards - if he "ever had the chance." The tortures were all those that he had seen inflicted upon his fellow inmates.
He went on talking to the rabbi for quite a long time and, the longer he talked, the more his voice filled with cold-blooded rage and hate toward the Gestapo. Finally, he was so emotionally choked with hatred that he simply could not speak.
There was a long silence.
Then the rabbi steadily looked the young boy in the eye and simply said, "Oh. I see. You've become them."
Wiesel describes this as a major turning point in his life regarding his understanding of hate. Hatred, itself, can transform one into that which is hated. It is a realization vital to remember whenever someone who has been under a Controller's "spell" decides to break that spell. Once counter-control springs into action, it must be tempered with restraint, because a desire for revenge can turn you into the very thing you most scorn.
In reading the previous parts of "Romeo's Bleeding," you have already learned the first step to counter-control: Identification. Although this series is a partial, abridged version of the still unpublished book, each section of this series has presented a basic lesson in "Controller Profiling." Before implementing direct counter-control, you first must be able to identify the type of Controller that you face.
Although this last section of "Romeo's Bleeding" is also briefe, the following constitute the core of counter-control. Once you have identified the type of Controller confronting you, the following techniques can be employed:
* Mirroring and RestraintMirroring & Restraint
* Vanishing and Camouflage
* Escape and Evasion
Mirroring involves a method of telling someone what he or she wants to hear, and it is a technique most effectively employed with pure Narcissists. However, it may require you to say things that bring you to the queasy edge of emotional nausea.
Narcissists usually initiate verbal assaults when their egos are challenged. Remember that they are driven to "look good" all of the time. Anyone who tarnishes their idealized self-image must be belittled, degraded or demeaned. So, deflecting attack involves discovering how they need their self-image polished then either polishing it (which is where the risk of nausea begins) or simply "restraining" the urge to speak at all.
Polishing does not have to involve honeyed praise or ingenuous compliments. It can simply be an agreeable nod of the head and a smile whenever a narcissistic boss or parent rants about their "superior qualities." Just keep in mind that pointing out their flaws will not only draw fire, but can begin a relentlessly punishing campaign against designed to "prove you wrong" or bring your career to a sudden halt.
Simple restraint may seem like an easier strategy to employ, but when dealing with Controller arrogance, it is rarely simple. The malicious disdain of many Narcissists can test the patience of Job himself. It is very difficult to tolerate witnessing the harm narcissistic Controllers verbally and emotionally inflict on others, particularly if it's another family member, fellow employee or friend.
The primary problem in exercising either mirroring or restraint with a Controller, is that it requires subtlety and finesse. Although you may have to remain present, as in a job with good pay, benefits and retirement plan, the trick is to avoid comment unless it is absolutely necessary. Vanishing and Camouflage are techniques for accomplishing that goal.
Vanishing and Camouflage
Viet Cong guerillas against American forces during the Vietnam War, Muslim rebels against Soviet forces in Afghanistan and American revolutionaries who overthrew British Redcoats in 1776 all shared one thing in common: the art of camouflage. Each of these small forces overcame much larger opponents because the "little guys" were hard to find. But while this is a necessary strategy, in terms of dealing with Controllers in everyday life, it has its limitations.
If you are stuck in a situation with one or more Controllers, as at work, learning the art of camouflage is essential. But work is not real war, except when violence suddenly appears in the workplace. You are not going to "conquer" the boss in most corporate environments, especially since unions have greatly diminished in power. Ironically, though, one of the most famous war novels of all time describes a character that was a master at using camouflage to survive the most dangerous corporate environment of all.
In 1961, a former Army Air Corps bombardier published a novel that could have been a fictionalized version of his experiences in World War II. The main character of the story was a bombardier called Yossarian, and the book was named Catch-22. But, as the author Joseph Heller once remarked when someone told him it was a great war-novel, "It's not about war. It's about how to survive working in a corporation." And that's why it provides an excellent example for learning how to deal with Controllers in a Controller-dominated workplace. An added benefit is that it is a wildly funny book. 8-million people have read it. But few have viewed it as a fictionalized textbook on counter-control.
If you decide to read it, it is particularly instructive if you compare the way the primary character, Yossarian, and Captain Or handle the same situation: staying alive. Yossarian deals with those who are against him, like his control-obsessed commanding officers, Colonel Cathcart and Major Major, by constantly butting heads with them; by always trying to convince his "controllers" that they are wrong about why they keep increasing the number of missions everyone has to fly.
Captain Or, on the other hand, never disagrees with anyone that has control over his fate. But, he ingeniously manages to beat them at their own game, and he repeatedly practices how he will succeed at doing it right in front of them. A principal part of Or's method is in how he camouflages his real intentions, which ultimately leads to his freedom from fear and the mad corporate world of war.
Yossarian spends the entire book trying to convince everyone that the predicament, which holds all of them prisoner (that it's crazy to want to go up in a plane and let people shoot at you), is absurd. You don't have to fly, if you're crazy. But, since you have to be sane to know it's crazy to let people shoot at you, then you can't get out of having to do it: Catch-22.
A key to Yossarian's dilemma, and to anyone else's who feels trapped in any kind of a "crazy" situation or relationship, is realizing that survival depends upon knowing how to not become a target. The art of not becoming a target - vanishing - is the art of camouflage. The last thing to do when trying not to draw attention to oneself is wave a red flag in front of a controlling bull. If a Controller is the bull, trying to convince him of why he should not be victimizing you is the red flag. Put the flag down. Camouflage is the art of learning how not to draw attention. Read Catch-22 and study Captain Or. Meditate on how to apply his methods the next time you feel stuck in dealing with a Controller.
Escape and Evasion
Or's success in dealing with the lethal forces pitted against him depended upon having more than survival as a goal. He wanted to remove himself from harm's way - and from having to deal with controlling, narcissistic leaders - and end up in a very nice place. Captain Or knew that evasion and, ultimately, escape are the only strategies that offer a path to complete freedom from control. But they are often difficult to employ. A persistent application of mirroring, restraint, vanishing and camouflage can require nerves of steel and a lead-lined stomach, but they are endurable if you can discover where you want to be beyond a particular zone of someone else's control.
Look inside yourself and find an image of that place beyond the zone. And keep it simple. When dealing with any Controller, a desire for freedom from control is always a simple place to start. Captain Or achieved his objective of finding freedom by simply being clear to himself about where he did not want to be, which automatically made it obvious exactly how to achieve his goal and where he could find it. Keeping the goal clearly and concretely defined in his mind at all times kept his efforts steadily focused upon achieving that goal.
In the end, my years of experience in counseling those who have survived Controller manipulations ultimately terminates against the same realization. The only effective way to deal with a Controller is to avoid him or leave him. Mirroring, restraint and camouflage can help you deal with them, if you must, but life feels infinitely better when they are out of your life -- or you, out of theirs.
There is much more to say about Controllers and how to deal with them, but it must wait for publication of a full-length version of Romeo's Bleeding. But finding a publisher has been difficult. In two years of trying, none has been found either on my own or with the help of a good agent. Romeo's Bleeding is not a work that can be easily "categorized." If a work does not readily fit into standardized corporate publishing formulas, editors have a hard time convincing their publishers to publish. Because of this, I almost threw in the towel last year, until I started receiving emails from readers of this series.
I cannot thank all of you enough for the fine things you have said to me about the powerful effect this condensed version of Romeo's Bleeding has had on all of you. I have been particularly inspired to renew efforts toward finding a publisher, by those of you who have endured exceptionally difficult struggles with Controllers and have been helped by this series. I hope this last, brief part gives you enough keys to open a door to a freer world.
© Roger Melton, 2000
Roger Melton is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer in Los Angeles, California. For over twenty years, he has been a leading authority on the psychological impact of violence, dealing with exploitive-type men or women and managing the dangers of high-stress careers and occupations. He has frequently appeared on television and radio, including appearances on 20/20 and PBS. As part of opening relations with the Soviet Union in 1989, he participated in mutual training programs at Moscow University.
He has published 24 non-fiction articles, fiction and was a feature columnist for the Wave News Syndicate and Chameleon Global Magazine. He is currently completing a book on how to deal with control-obsessed men and women.
After serving a combat tour with the 1st Infantry Division during the Vietnam War, he became a program director at three Veterans Administration community-counseling centers for veterans and their families experiencing the impact of post-traumatic stress disorders. He has also been regional employee-assistance coordinator for Amtrak/West and an instructor at California State University/Northridge, Antioch University, Ryokan College and University of California extension-campuses in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, California.
He is currently clinical-coordinator at the Valley Trauma Center/North in Santa Clarita, California and a mental health contractor with Los Angeles County Fire Department. He is an on-call critical-incident crisis debriefer and trainer to various government agencies and private corporations.