Who Is Really In Control Around Here?

by Jonathan

Who Is Really In Control Around Here?

Is there someone that makes you feel intimidated or insecure? Do they seem to be in control of your feelings? It really doesn’t matter who that person is, if at all possible, we will naturally look for ways to limit our exposure intimidation and insecurity.

Does someone you know bring out these feelings in you? Think about it for a moment, how hard do you work at avoiding that person? Now ask yourself this simple question:

What is it about them that feels like intimidation?

There is always some core reason for such strong feelings. Do they belittle you, or embarrass you in front of others. Do they treat you like a child, or constantly try to put you in your place? Any of these situations can seem intimidating, and no sane person seeks out intimidation.

Have you ever wondered what gives that scary person the emotional leverage to manipulate your feelings? Why does it feel like they are in control? Perhaps they are your employer or supervisor and it feels like they hold your career in the palm of their hand. That can certainly be a source of intimidation.  Maybe they are just plain mean and confrontational and you are one of their favorite targets.

Where does their power to be in control come from?

In a moment I am going to answer that question for you, but there is a good chance you won’t like what I am about to say. That’s because human nature being what it is, we have a tendency to make excuses. When we don’t like something that’s happening to us, we want it to be someone else’s fault. It’s a built in avoidance technique that I am about to take issue with, but trust me, it’s not personal.

OK, here it is. That scary person gets their power to jerk you around from one source and one source only.

You put them in control over you!

That’s right, you are the source. If you didn’t give it to them, they would be powerless. They simply cannot intimidate you or make you feel insecure without your permission. Now, I don’t expect you to just accept that without some explanation, so let’s drill down a bit and see if I can convince you.

The first thing we need to accept is this, we have the power to decide how we are going to feel about any situation. Feelings are an internal emotional response, that means they come from us not some external source. Nothing has any emotional value or meaning in our life except that which we assign it. We control what things mean to us.

We always get to decide whose in control

We decide if something has emotional significance or not. We chose whether to take it personally or just blow it off. It’s imperative that we realize, the moment we take something personally we become emotionally involved. That means that our ego, with all its issues, has been pulled into the equation and we are now vulnerable to external manipulation.

Emotional triggers can be used to control people in just about any area you can think of. Advertisers use them to stimulate impulse buying. Politicians use them to get your support. Movie makers use them to pull us into their story. And people who want to gain an emotional edge use them to get their own way.

But only if we play along and grant them control

If you decide not to play the game, then you don’t ever need to feel intimidated again. As soon as you choose not to grant permission to the would be source of  intimidation, you render them powerless. It’s like letting all the air out of their tires. They can still rev up their engine, but they really can’t go anywhere.

Accepting full responsibility for your feelings is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself. It puts you in control and simplifies life enormously. No more blaming others for your feelings, or being manipulated or intimidated by some control freak. It eliminates a huge energy leak because we no longer waste time trying to formulate excuses or looking for somewhere to point the finger. We are liberated from all that nonsense.

Take control out for a trial spin

Try this little exercise for the next ten days and see how it makes you feel. Eliminate phrases from your vocabulary like “they made me feel so…” Instead, try saying “I chose to feel…” Allow yourself to get accustomed to the idea of being in control. Remind yourself that you can choose not to participate in someone else’s emotional game, and then stay out of it.

If you reserve your emotional involvement for worthwhile endeavors, your life will be a much more rewarding experience. Ten days from now you will have a new sense of freedom and control. You’ll be empowered and that scary, intimidating person look completely different to you.

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Rocket Bunny

This is pretty powerful stuff here.
I choose to admit ;) at one time, my mom could throw me to the curb at family gatherings. I took her continual accusations of her motherly concerns to be – a never ending battle for her acceptance/approval to my choices in life.
Mother/daughter relationships can be tough at certain points.I adore her but many times felt the pressure was on. More so after college when I was out on my own.
I think only people that are closely involved in your live can make you feel insecure – a boss can do both.
Thumper can manipulate me at times but I am on to him:)
Great read – I enjoyed it very much.
Thank you

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Bunny, it’s interesting how certain ones have that power over us at different times in our life. For many parents it can be hard to adjust when they start to lose it. There is often a few years of tension before they can finally accept that their child is not a child any longer. Thanks for sharing.

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Frank J

Great article and it brings up some childhood memories. I remember one kid would scare the heck out of me to the point I would get sick over it. But one day I said to myself, this is my day to stand up no matter what and I did just that.

I went up to the bully and said “No more pushing me around”. The fight began and I couldn’t believe that in the end I won and made the kid cry. The odd thing that happened later was that we became friends.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hey Frank, good story. Interestingly, those who try to dominate and intimidate others often do so because they are extremely insecure themselves. It’s an overcompensation thing. We humans a a complex bunch. Thanks for joining the conversation.

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Kikolani

Changing your thoughts to “I chose to feel” is a great idea. I’m going to have to try this one out, because I find myself in situations where I feel like others are intimidating me.

I did a similar practice of this theory once recently. There was this foul kid that started taunting my husband and I while we were playing tennis. We couldn’t say anything edgewise (boy I wish his parents would have come around). I told my husband the best way to deal with him, since he had zero respect for adults, was to not allow him to bother us and just do what we were doing and not pay attention. Sure enough, when he no longer got any response from us, he gave up and left.

I guess that is how it is with anyone who feels they can control you – once they realize they can’t, they lose interest and move on.

~ Kristi

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Kristi, It’s like I was saying to Frank, with people like that it’s not usually about you, it’s about their own massive insecurity looking to be propped up. If they can’t get it from you they need to find it somewhere else. Your husband showed good restraint.

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Stephen - Rat Race Trap

Great stuff Jonathan! You specifically mention intimidation and control, which is spot on. But the same thing can be extended to any reaction to anything. For example, some people seem to live to be offended. They are always running around be offended by something someone is doing. I guess in their own way that is them trying to control. To my mind, being offended is a problem with the offendee and not the offender. Certainly people can be offensive in some sort of objective manner, but just like the intimidator, the offender only has power that you give them.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Stephen, interesting application to being offended. I must admit, I hadn’t really thought about that aspect before. I think there is considerable crossover here, especially in the case of those who seem to be looking for reasons to feel offended. A similar situation would be those who are always looking to have their feelings hurt.

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Vin

Great article Jonathan! Intimidation and other forms of negative influence can be such a significant problem. As you mentioned, this is one of the many situations that we can control our perception of.

One thing that I’ve found to help tremendously in this regard is to be extremely clear and confident in my values and, what I’m about. The stronger this sense is, the less people can manipulate me.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

That’s an excellent point Vin, I completely agree. As I read your comment I was reminded of what a huge role values play in these kind of situations. In my book TRUE SELF, part of the first step is to identify your values and write down a list of guiding principles. When we are clear on our personal values and follow our guiding principles, we create a state of internal harmony. Harmony nurtures control whereas internal conflict creates insecurity.

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MGL

This is a great article and I signed up for the newsletter.

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Dragos Roua

Jonathan,

this is so clear that I can almost hear you :-). You know, those feelings are ours when we experience something nice too, so why avoid them only because we’re experiencing something bad? Feelings are feelings, are ours. We have power over them, as you said it.

I did this exercise you’re talking about, the one with “I chose to…”, several years ago and I had results within days. It really works.

One thing that I would add is you’ll find out things about yourself that you don’t like if you chose to take responsibility for you feelings. Maybe you’ll find out you’re too shy (I’m not using the word coward, but this is what I’m pointing to) or too bold (as in aggressive). This is coming from within and you’re not having excuses now. You have to deal with it.

Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan, it was a refreshing reading :-)

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Some good points Dragos. The one about discovering things about ourself that make us uncomfortable is a real challenge for some. I figure we can’t fix it until we know it’s broke, so I welcome the awareness even if I don’t especially like what I learn.

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Robin Easton

Many years ago I learned that there way a type of person that intimidated me. I would lose all sense of self around them. I remember the first time I stood up to someone like this and they just crumbled in front of my eyes. I was stunned. What I learned from them (we talked about it) was that they we so afraid of people and life that they went through the world intimidating everyone in appearingly subtle ways, not over bullying, but through body language, tone and energy. Often people who do this don’t even know they do it. It’s been a defense that has worked very well since childhood to keep people at a distance. And people who do this can be, inside, very good people, just frightened.

Once I saw this I was able to recognize the pattern. The next time I encountered it I was able to be very brave, maintain myself and my confidence, and even reach beyond their defenses and into the real person trapped inside (in a loving way). Today people like this no longer intimidate me. I see through the defense and realize they are very scared. Oddly people that are overtly bullying never scared me.

With time I learned something else. I learned that I am a complete empath and feel other people’s feelings as if they were my own, even over distance. As I’ve grown older I now can discern the difference and separate their feelings from my own. Thank you Jonathan! :)

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

You are so right Robin. Many people cover their insecurity with a veil of aggression. They feel better about themselves if they can intimidate others. As you brought out, understanding this changes how we feel toward them. It removes their ability to intimidate and it allows us to feel empathy for the real problem, and perhaps even offer some help. Thanks you for sharing your insight.

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Celes

Great article again, Jon! As you rightly said, intimidation only occurs when we choose to give the power away to someone else. I find that the mirror theory works great in this aspect – reflect back onto ourselves as to why the intimidation occurs, and we will find a deficit or perception somewhere about ourselves. And if we work within ourselves on that, the intimidation disappears soon after.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Celes, so true. It really comes down to our perception and how we choose to view the world around us. Great to see you here.

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Beat Schindler

Love your article. Admire your ability to provide a fresh and personal perspective of a familiar object. :-) Beat

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hey Beat, thanks for joining the conversation.

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Zeynel

I try to stay away from such people but it doesn’t always work.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Zeynel, we can’t completely control who enters our world. That’s why it is so empowering to develop the ability to control how we respond to those encounters.

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Lori

I work with someone who is very subtle, but very demeaning. I have a charge position, she is a secretary, she is very intelligent, yet very insecure. She does not like being asked or told anything, she covertly does what she wants, she will not verbally respond most of the time when I tell her or ask her something, she rolls her eyes or shakes her head (I have caught this more than once) and we have an ongoing power struggle over workflow, which I have finally chosen to completely avoid. My new manager is her friend. Intellectually, I understand it is my choice to be bothered or offended or belittled, but it is really difficult on an ongoing basis, and I have just completely withdrawn, I do not engage and find it easier, as I fear losing my temper (I have only done that once so far). I am recognizing in my life I have come across this type of bullying behavior, and in the past, I have fled. In this current market, I do not want to look for another job, nor do I want to risk getting a new job that has a different schedule from my husband, it has taken us 8 yrs to finally have the same schedule and we enjoy our life right now. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Lori, these types of situations can be especially challenging because circumstances dictate that we find a way to deal with them rather than eliminate then from our life. Maybe that’s a good thing! The best opportunities for personal growth often involve a degree of discomfort. The two things you can have control over in this situation is your perception of and response to what transpires. This might represent a daily struggle for awhile, but could you manage to view it as a growing experience?

Shifting your point of reference may be helpful. You mentioned that this person has insecurity issues. Any effort on your part to help her feel better about herself would come from a place of fellow feeling and compassion, which is the polar opposite of being hurt or offended. Even if she doesn’t respond you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you chose the high road and the tendency will be to see her as troubled rather than obnoxious. This shift in emotional perception will put you in a stronger and more tolerable state.

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Lori

I finally have given up working in that soul sucking environment-I guess you can say they won, I wasn’t strong enough to not let it affect me, all the demeaning behaviors and all the nasty “tricks” that made my day harder, all the jabs at making me look or feel insignificant or irrelevant. Then the topper, to make it all my fault.
It is really too much.Bullies of this nature are very good at what they do and very good at covering their tracks and forming alliances, no matter how you work on you and changing how you are affected, if you are human and actually give a damn, it will affect you negatively.

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Holly

Lori, that is really so true. When people start ganging up against you in this way and seek to make your every day a misery, it’s really hard to feel bad for them and their issues. Even if you do, they don’t care or like it, they just see it as kissing up and weakness. It just seems to validate and strengthen the abuse. I hope you found a better environment and are happy. Hugs!

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Name withheld by request

I am working with someone in childcare who is very controlling and obsessive. I work with her alone in a room of 20 children a day and no other supervisors and this is how she plays her games of controlling me and intimidating me. We both are the same Qualifications but the thing that sets us apart is our age difference, i am 24 and she is 50 and she demotes me as a staff member even at times in front of the children. I find it very difficult to work to my full potential because nothing I do is good enough or up to her standards, things as little as objects not put away properly or in correct order (petty things) I get lectured. It makes it very hard to work with her when she is very unsupportive and dismissive of my opinions and makes me explain by intimidating and belittling me. I have gone to my boss about it and the three of us had a meeting but she got away with treating me like she does and it has continued on til this day. My boss knows exactly what she is like because of her previous years of treating the other staff like she does and still is trying to tell other staff how to run their rooms. One staff member had left because of her and she is still working til this day. When I am working with a group of children or doing discussion/group time she stands and watches me and I begin to feel intimidated and begin to lose confidence. I am demoted to my job and love it very much but cannot work to my full potential with her, before work I dread going because I know what the day will bring but I try so hard to work with her but I just get shut out and belittled. When I get home all I want to do is cry because I dread for the next day.
Thank you

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Your workmate sound like she is very insecure and feels threatened by you. her response to you is a pretty common one for people with massive insecurities. It’s not personal even though it is directed at you as we can see by her history with others.

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Chu Nam

This post really interesting, I like how if you decide not to play the game, then you don’t ever need to feel intimidated. So, let us feel courage in all situations and know that life is about choices. ~Thanks

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Amit Amin

It took me too long to internalize the message you’ve communicated with this post. Even if you can’t get rid of the insecurity or bad feeling, until you admit to yourself that you are the source, it’s difficult if not impossible to move forward.

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logotrix

Oh please, this is absurd. What about an employer who really DOES have power over you? Not everyone has the option of “quitting” an abusive parent. It’s pure fantasy to presume that other people have no influence over us. They do. At the extreme end of the spectrum is the person robbed at gun point. Power differential? Yup. Social life is about negotiating the complexity of human interaction – and vacuous claims that it’s “all up to me!” betray a kind of primal narcissism. Bad people make you feel bad because you’re human. The reaction is biological, not cognitive. Of course the best thing to do is to assert as much choice as possible in your life, and avoid negative influences, whenever possible. But this isn’t always possible.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

I didn’t say that no one influences our circumstances. We all experience situations that we would have preferred to bypass. That’s life! The whole article was about the emotional significance we assign to those situations. Whether or not you are willing to accept personal responsibility for your emotional response to external input is up to you. Claiming that our emotional response is strictly biological is a limiting belief that hugely underestimates our cognitive abilities. I know from personal experience and from coaching people from all over the world, that such limits are largely self imposed.

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sara

You pin-pointed it to a ‘T’. That’s exactly most of the stuff or solutions i came up with already a couple of days ago before reading this, this article confirms i was going about it the right way! Especially when you said don’t play the game, it’s exactly what i’ve been stopping myself from doing, i’m glad i got it right…

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Aly

Hi, I love this article it does make sense. I think what I personally need is to find out how do I deal with bullies at work. By that I mean the actual Techniques. It is easy to read an article but really hard to apply it or find proper professional ways to translate this article into real world situation.

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Neil

How do I handle this when that person is my wife? I feel like my being intimadated by her is killing our marriage. I love this woman and want her to know it and to feel that she is loved by me.

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Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Hi Neil, that certainly makes things a little more complex. It sounds like you need to communicate your concerns in a way that reaches her heart and doesn’t raise any resistence. You might find these 14 Very Effective Communication Skills helpful.

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Sharon

Thank you for this interesting article. I’ve been allowing myself to feel wretched about a bully mistreating me at work. From today I’m trying your suggestion “I choose to feel…” And will be interested to observe what happens within me. Thank you and blessings

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Deb Grant

Great piece, thank you.
I will allow it to change my feelings surrounding a work colleague who used to be one of my closest friends but she chose to disconnect from me when she and another close friend of mine split up.
Ever since she’s ignored me, is completely emotionless towards me and talks around me, as if I’m not in the room. I occasionally have to clinically hand over to her, which I’ve become really anxious and intimidated about.

I shall try this. Thank you once again x

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