There’s a common phrase which has been said to me many times — often enough, in fact, that I sometimes now find it amusing when I hear it. You’ve probably heard it, also, or perhaps have said it to other people, yourself: “You have control issues.”
I sometimes wonder why anyone would feel the need to point this out to me. It’s something that is so blindingly obvious, to myself, and to all who know me well, that it really doesn’t even need to be said. My usual response, the last few years, has been the following: “Control issues? I don’t merely have control issues. I’ve got a lifetime subscription.”
The painting at the top of this post was a self-portrait I painted many years ago, while still struggling with (metaphorical) inner “demons” that bother me much less now, compared to how I was even a few years ago, at a time when my mental health was far more precarious.
Am I, to use an informal term for it, a “control freak?” Well, yes, I am — but not of the common variety. I’ve discerned that there are two very different types of control freak in existence, and have labeled them, simply, as type I and type II control freaks. I’m of the second type, but the first type is far more common.
Type I control freaks, as I define them, put a lot of time and energy into controlling other people, or at least trying to do so. I see such people as insecure, on an unconscious level, and suspect they have a strong drive to force their will on others, simply as a way to help them feel more secure about themselves. Such people are extremely unpleasant for me to be around, and I avoid them whenever I can. When forced to be around them, conflict is common.
Type II control freaks are very different from those of the first type. They — or, rather, we — have no particular urge to control other people. We do, however, still have very strong issues related to control, and, yes, this can cause problems at times.
(As an aside, I should explain my use of the word “freak,” since some people find that word offensive. It’s a word I’ve applied to myself since childhood. I don’t ever use this word as an insult. If I call someone “normal,” though, that’s another matter. “Normal” is a word I do use, when I use it, as an insult — a synonym for such terms as “boring,” “ordinary,” or “typical.” The idea of being normal is, to me, horrifying in the extreme — and to be a “freak” is, of course, the exact opposite.)
So what’s up with these people I call type II control freaks? In short, what’s our problem, and how do we differ from control freaks of the more common variety? Well, in my case (and that of others like me, I suspect), we were subjected, when very young, to extreme amounts of manipulative, controlling behavior by others — to such an extreme degree that we are now hypersensitive to any real (or perceived) efforts to control us. In my case, this overly-controlling person — the overwhelming monster of my childhood — was my father, deceased since mid-2010, and, at least by me, completely unmourned. When I painted the painting above, he was still alive. Now that he is gone, and can, therefore, never harm another person, the chains depicted in this painting have, after many decades, finally been broken, even though I still have to deal with lingering PTSD, and likely always will, because of the trauma he inflicted on me in childhood. (The difference is that, now, I simply have to deal with the fact that I used to be “chained up,” and cope with the resulting memories, whereas, before he died, the chains were still “on,” even though we were estranged for many years.) Hearing the news of his death was, quite possibly, the most liberating moment of my life.
Type II control freaks have no need to control others — we simply have an overwhelming need to keep others from controlling us. We are lovers of freedom and liberty, and need it almost as intensely as all humans need oxygen. At least in my case, I can’t even stand to see the first type of control freak in action, against another, without feeling an overwhelming urge to do almost anything in my power to stop them.
I have no qualms about being, and openly admitting to being, a control freak of the second type. It’s simply a part of who I am. There are certainly less healthy ways to react to childhood trauma, after all — such as when someone turns into the same type of monster that terrorized him or her in the first place, thus perpetuating a multi-generational cycle which is unhealthy in the extreme.
As for the type I control freaks, I am unable to feel any sympathy for them. They victimize others whenever they can. They’re bullies. They need to be opposed, and they need to be stopped. They are, in a word, evil — and that’s not a word I use often, nor one I use lightly.
I’m a permanent part of the resistance to such people, and have no reservations about this. If it were in my power to change this part of who I am — and it isn’t, anyway — I certainly would not choose to do so.