Control and Manipulation

This is the seventh and likely last reflection on the influence of my control nature on unconscious and conscious behaviours. As I have observed according to eminent Jungian analyst James Hollis, control is an outcome of the power complex that can develop when a child comes face to face with its own sense of powerless when confronted with the powerful other.

My tendency to unconsciously manipulate others and ensure they do what I want was first pointed out by my second wife who took great offense after an evening at a pub when I began to point out the reasons she may want to head home. It was en route to our place that she realized that it was me who wanted to go home not her. She engaged in some fairly primitive therapy to jam home her point by flushing the toilet whenever I had a shower.

I developed a greater understanding of this pattern during my time in therapy where I learned that manipulation is an attempt to get one’s needs met without having to state them. Something that appears patently absurd to an adult but the unconscious pattern is established during childhood when one’s needs seem to be ignored. This is likely not uncommon among children with younger siblings. The problem is when we continue it into our adult lives without realizing it.

It was much more recently that I became aware that this is yet another facet of control. I was writing a blog in my zenmen series, where I tell stories of my advertising career then review them through the eyes of a Spiritual Coach.

This particular story concerned a client who drove me crazy. He always wanted to be in control and would never approve anything before he had his say. In my blog I identified his controlling personality and found a way around it by ensuring he always thought it was his idea when it invariably was not. (see I was recounting this to some friends over a beer and one exclaimed, “you were so outrageously manipulative.”

It was the next day at the gym while listening to James Hollis lecture from his book What Matters Most that I felt a little smug as he seemed to confirm my hypothesis of my client’s issue, “Those with a power complex have to overcompensate and prove how valuable they are.”

Then I began to smile as he continued, “flattery, guile, trickery and manipulation are all surreptitious strategies to overcome the powerful other.”

We were two sides of the same coin. It was my power complex versus his.

This brings me to my final point on control and its derivative behaviours. They are not necessarily bad. My ability to manage successfully is a positive consequence of learning control. In fact sometimes we need to consciously orchestrate a result using unconventional means and that could be deemed manipulative.

What is important is to become conscious of our behaviours and not be a slave to old patterns. At a seminar in November James Hollis offering some pointers to an examined life suggested, “It is time to finally grow up, to take responsibility for our lives.” I believe that understanding the power that control has unconsciously wielded in my life will help me do exactly that.




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