Anxiety, Control, And Sanctuary

When we have Controllers in our lives, especially narcissists of varying degrees, we can forget what it's like to simply BE.

When we have another person who is watching our every move, seeking to catch any "mistake", creating drama in order to get what they want whether it's big or small, who refuse to be responsible for their own behavior, actions, and emotional health, who refuse to respect ou...r person, our resources, our possessions or our right to live in peace and freedom, who regularly invade our boundaries, make demands on us, and try to control us with shame and fear, we can forget what it's like NOT to have this in our lives.

We can end up living in constant anxiety that may at times lessen, but not actually go away. We are always on alert, always waiting for the other shoe to drop even if there was no first shoe. 

Controllers can be individuals in our personal lives, and they can also be individuals at school or work. Sometimes the atmosphere of a given group is influenced by Controllers so much that it changes the general atmosphere, like that of a company, family, school, or community.

Controllers often seek to create a constant atmosphere of tension that their targets feel all the time. This is so they are literally always on edge, even slightly, and always have the controller somewhere in their mind regarding any decision they make. Every decision they make. The controller wants to be inserted in all thought processes of the target, wants to be the person the target is thinking about at all times, on a conscious or subconscious level. All roads lead to the controller, and consideration is a one way street. Sometimes the controller's motives might simply be fear of abandonment, but the lack of peace for the target still invades their life all the same.

This constant undercurrent of anxiety can change the target's entire mental and emotional life. It can bring high level mental processing and learning to a halt. School grades can go from high honors to below passing, learning can go from interesting and exciting to difficult drudgery. Work performance can change noticeably. It can cause memory problems, forgetfulness, especially when a person has to not only remember everything they would normally remember in order to function properly, but ALSO remember everything about what the controller wants them to do, and all the consequences the controller might extol if they make a misstep that the controller notices, or call attention to themselves.

(Controllers are triggered by happy moods, positive inspiration and forward progress, not just by mistakes and negative events. An accomplishment, or an attempt at a challenge, an idea for a project, or a job being well done triggers a Controller's behavior just as quickly as any perceived flaw. )

This undercurrent of anxiety can cause a kind of mental paralysis, like a "writer's block". The target learns that anything they do at all, anything they initiate at all, will call attention to themselves and will be met with some kind of Control behavior. So many targets just STOP doing the things they would do normally. One by one, they drop their normal activities until they may find themselves a "shell of the person they used to be". For example when they can't get a haircut or even style it in the morning without hearing condescending opinions or criticisms or how they "should have" done it, or even someone trying to "re-do" it or "fix" it every day, they may simply just STOP styling their hair altogether so it doesn't draw attention and trigger the Controller. If they used to like to paint, they may just STOP painting altogether in order to avoid someone messing up their work area, or wrecking the work itself, or having their things taken or stolen or moved. They may STOP painting so they don't have to listen to constant opinions and criticism about their work, or the fact that they do it at all, or "should be spending that time" doing other things (like catering to the Controller).

It can cause a person to avoid doing anything at all that would trigger a Controller to criticize, "fix" them, take over what they are trying to do, sabotage, insert themselves, dramatize, or create more anxiety. Anything at all, like washing their car, fixing the roof, planting flowers, getting new clothes or shoes, dressing in nice clothes, practicing music, practicing sports, auditioning for a play, exercising, cooking, taking classes, getting a job, going to church, going shopping, talking to other people. Anything at all that a target does can trigger a Controller just because it calls their attention, not because the thing is "wrong" or "bad", but amazingly, Controllers (especially narcissists) can try to turn anything into something "wrong" for some reason they will be sure to find, or make up.

Controllers are triggered by anything they notice their target doing. And anything the target initiates that does not involve catering to the Controller's immediate comfort or agenda is considered "not a good thing to do". Just like a very small child who is terribly upset when Mommy needs to do something else besides pay attention to them, the Controller sees anything their target does away from their reach of control as "bad". Even if the target was going out to save a child from a burning building, the Controller would somehow try to make the target feel shame for it. (A Narcissist would do that AND try to convince everyone else that the target deserved this shame.)

Finding sanctuary, a safe place in time and space where one can simply BE, and remember what that was like. Even if they only had brief times in their childhood when they felt safe just BEING, remembering what that feels like is where one can find their sanctuary. We need to have a real place in time and space where we can just BE, and remember who we are and what we feel like when we are completely free from worry and anxiety. A place where there are neutral people who have no agenda toward us, and who have no interest in judging or criticizing us. A place that is safe and where we can hear ourselves think, without being tracked down or pulled away. A place where we can feel God's presence, in peace.

A place to remember what the love of our own soul feels like.