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Monday, June 21, 2021

Control Dramas & Codependence: Draining Your Life Energy



The topic of drama in our lives – particularly in our closest relationships – is one I touched on several years ago with The Adrenaline Rush of Relationship Drama. Now I’d like to specifically examine control dramas, their impact on our lives, as manifested in many different types of relationships, as well as the manner in which they drain us and therefore steal our energy.

Control and its role in our lives was touched on in great depth in Melody Beattie’s 1987 groundbreaking work Codependence No More. She wrote: If we weren’t trying to control whether a person likes us or his or her reaction to us, what would we do differently? If we weren’t trying to control the course of a relationship, what would we do differently? If we weren’t trying to control another person’s behavior, how would we think, feel, speak, and behave differently that we do now?

Some years later, in 1993, four specific control dramas hit the consciousness of many people after James Redfield elucidated them in his book The Celestine Prophecy. While not a psychologist, his descriptions nevertheless were spot on for so many. Subsequently countless articles and several books expanded on the topic.

Despite the enormous amount of information readily available about control dramas, I nevertheless believe that many people are simply not aware of the insidious manner in which such drama enters their lives – and indeed – may have entered their lives long ago. Without awareness – as always – solutions are nearly impossible to apply.

People who consult with me about their personal lives and issues often bring such matters to the table, without, as said earlier, realizing that drama – a need for drama by one or all people involved - may lie at the base of what is happening, and that they themselves, despite a desire to resolve the matter, may actually be contributing to the drama by the manner in which they engage with the other person.

Understanding the kind of control drama that may form part of one or more of your relationships, is the first step to solving them.

Types of Control Dramas:

  • Intimidators steal energy from others by creating fear or by threats
  • Interrogators steal energy by judging and questioning – by always being critical – their goal is to find fault, and in the process, to make you feel nervous, stressed, scared, judged, and criticized
  • Aloof people attract attention (and energy) to themselves by acting reserved or withdrawing and disengaging from a situation
  • Poor me’s create guilt and try to make you feel responsible for them, which is a kind of energy vampire – also see Emotional & Energetic Vampires

Sample Scenarios of Control Dramas:

Intimidators:

  • Example A: parent to child: “don’t ever let me see you using my mobile without permission. If you do, I will ground you.” The intimidating part is the first sentence. The other sentence is actually quite good, as it establishes a healthy boundary. If instead, the second part were “f you do, I will spank you”, then it would be an outright threat, a further intimidation, as opposed to the establishment of a healthy boundary.
  • Example B: one spouse to another: “don’t ever raise your voice to me.” The intimidation here is clear, no further sentence is required – unless the other spouse argues. An argument will convert the intimidating sentence into a continuation of the control drama and bring about greater escalation. An argument implies engagement in the control drama. The solution never is an argument.

Interrogators:

  • Example: “Did you take out the garbage last night?” Answer: “Yes”. Next question: “Did you remember to put a new bag in the bin?” Answer: “Yes”. Next question: “Did you remember the recycling?” Answer: “Yes.” Next question: “When did you take it out?” Answer: “Just before I went to bed.” Next question: “Why didn’t you take it out right after dinner, like I always tell you to? Don’t you realize that if you leave it until bedtime, you might forget?” By now the person being interrogated may feel resentful, angry, or nervous. If they complain or defend themselves, the interrogation devolves even further into a control drama, bringing about greater escalation. Complaining and defensive words imply engagement in the control drama. The solution never lies in doing that.

Aloof People:

  • Example: You may show a parent or partner or friend something you have accomplished and for which you feel justifiably proud, assuming they will acknowledge what you have done. Not only do they not acknowledge it, but they simply ignore it, or pass over it, and move on to a different and entirely unrelated subject. Deflated, you try again to engage the other in your desire to be praised, approved of, or told how proud he/she is of you, and nothing happens. A total lack of interest, and/or deflection to other topics, or simply silence ensues. The more you push for engagement, the more you enter the control drama, and the more aloof the other becomes. The solution never lies in chasing the other.

Poor Me’s:

  • Example: In the article mentioned above, I addressed the issue of poor me’s or victims: “this one can actually be putting on a very brave face, interlaced however, with much possible sighing, and a soft, suffering voice. Here there has been a great injustice done to the [emotional] vampire, perhaps it is the family that has let the person down, perhaps it was a spouse, or friends, occasionally this vampire may even blame him or herself for some events, but nevertheless, because they view themselves as victim, albeit brave and all-suffering, you are put into the untenable role of someone who is expected to help this person, generally at the expense of your own well-being. Your help may come in the guise of marathon talk sessions, ideas, something you physically do for the other to help them get stronger or better, but whatever it is, it drains you. And of course, if you stop accepting the role of helper, builder-upper of strength (the other’s), you feel guilty for being such a bad friend (or relative, or partner).” You are being controlled by the ‘suffering’ of the other. If you ever suggest solutions, you are given an endless array of excuses for why they would not work, or if you ever dare mention how much you feel drained by this continual litany of woes or drama, you are accused of being a bad spouse, friend, or family member, for wishing to curtail the other of his ‘right’ to endlessly discuss his life. Attempting to address your feelings about this situation – or even attempting to help the other with suggestions pulls you even further into the control drama. The solution never lies in doing that.

Solutions: Frequently solutions depend on you recognizing your own role in such drama. Are you seeking out drama? Do you crave the adrenaline rush? Do you have poor boundaries? Are you lacking in self-love and self-esteem, or self-confidence? All of these points are intimately connected to poor boundaries. A further question to ask yourself is how quickly (if ever), you realize you are in the middle of a control drama, and that you are actively participating in it. Are you allowing your statements concerning clear boundaries to be “derailed” by the other? Do you rush to argue, as opposed to checking your inner state before replying, asking yourself if this is the way you wish to be spoken to, or treated, and if not, what the most emotionally mature and self-regulating manner of response could be – one that respects your boundaries and clearly states your position?

Therefore solutions to control dramas in your life depend on some or all of the following:

  • Become aware of the control drama started by the other person.
  • Become aware of your contribution to it assuming you are reacting to the other person’s words, as opposed to remaining calm and stating a clear boundary violation. Notice – as you react argumentatively, defensively, or with pain in your voice – how the other person may derail your words by accusing you of doing precisely what you are saying is being done to you, or by going into past arguments, and accusing you of incidents from that time (as opposed to staying on track with the matter at hand in the present moment).
  • Examine how capable you are of maintaining or erecting healthy boundaries. If you realize that you have problems doing so, work on this aspect – either on your own, or with guidance – in order to be able to affirm your boundaries in the moment another trespasses them, as evidenced in these control dramas.
  • If you have recognized your boundaries are not yet healthy, also carefully examine your self-love and self-caring; i.e., how well you take care of yourself in difficult situations. If you don’t take good care of yourself (frequently via self-dialogue), you will need to work on self-love, self-care, self-esteem, self-respect, self-confidence, and so on, as any and all of these will be crucial in those moments when you need to clearly express your own healthy boundaries.

Codependence and control dramas can be very insidious. It is up to you to examine where you stand and work on eradicating those parts of you that fall into those categories in order to lead yourself to inner emotional freedom and self-love.