Robert Alter On Relationship Problems

Why Fear Is Important To Bullies And Controllers

All bullies seek to increase a target's FEAR and anxiety.

What do they want a target to be afraid of?

>Doing things they enjoy, doing things they like or love.
(Such as caring for animals, wood crafting, creative projects, music, acting, writing, restoring antiques, gourmet cooking, inventing, starting a business, studying our favorite interests, etc, etc.)
When we do what we enjoy, when we do what we love, we feel good inside. When we feel good inside, we are happier. When we are happier, we feel and also exude more confidence. When we feel more confident, we are more independent, and are more able to do more things, and accomplish more. When we exude confidence, we are less socially anxious, and more likely to draw allies.
The bully tries to prevent the first step in this process from happening, thereby preventing the entire process.

>Feeling like they "belong", like they're a full, regular, accepted member of the family or community, classroom, or work place. When one feels accepted and comfortable in "belonging", then one is not self-conscious, and does not suffer self-doubt. When one does not suffer self-doubt and anxiety, then one is much more able to meet goals, make progress, feel happy, and accomplish wonderful things.
Bullies often try to convince a target that they should be worried about what others are thinking about them, and that they should not feel comfortable in the company of others because they are not welcome or wanted.

>Being seen or heard by others.
In groups where bullies are present, targets get singled out, and the things they do and say are magnified and cast in a negative light, no matter what they are. A target's dance lessons will be magnified and cast in a negative light. A target's good grades will be cast in a negative light. The bicycle or car that a target has will be put under a microscope; the target's relationships with others will be scrutinized and twisted; the target's accomplishments, aspirations, and plans will be "faulted". Even the target's hair, clothing, face, body, weight, height, and voice, even facial expressions, will be magnified, scrutinized, and faulted to a ridiculous degree, and the target will be verbally criticized, assaulted, ridiculed, sometimes even threatened. (A person who is NOT a target, who does exactly the same things as the target, or who even does illegal or immoral things, will NOT be scrutinized or criticized.)
It's not about the actual things the target is doing or not doing; it's all about trying to get the target (and those around the target) to believe there's something WRONG with the target, and that this person should be singled out and criticized, and shut down.
(The motives for shutting down a target, for bullies, are always the same; envy, intimidation, fear of exposure, fear of loss of control over others. Sometimes there are other elements: insecurity and fear of abandonment, fear of GETTING bullied and singled out, but that is almost always the result of some kind of trauma in the person's past that they have not healed from or gotten "closure" from).

>Feeling confidence; conducting themselves in a confident manner.
Not OVER-confidence, just normal, healthy confidence; the kind all humans need to have a healthy functioning life. If I feel confident, I show it. When I show it, more people will believe I'm capable and intelligent. More people will like me and listen to what I have to say.
This is human behavior 101; humans gravitate toward those who display confidence and away from those who don't (regardless of whether the person actually knows what they're doing or not.). Humans usually align themselves with those who APPEAR confident, and eschew those who do not appear confident. Humans tend to BELIEVE those who appear confident (regardless of the person's actual knowledge), and tend to DISBELIEVE those who do not (regardless of the person's actual knowledge).
So if a bully can get me to FEAR DISPLAYING CONFIDENCE, or FEAR behaving in a confident manner, then I will have far fewer ALLIES. Not because I don't DESERVE allies, but because of the human tendency to follow those who have an appearance of confidence.
This serves the bully in lots of ways, including knocking me out of what they perceive as a "competition" for allies and admirers. It also serves the bully in their goal for control over me; the fewer allies I have, the fewer people I will have standing up for me against the bully. The fewer allies I have, the fewer eyes there will be who see what's going on, or who will care. It also gets the bully MORE allies, because the bully then appears to be the one who is the most confident, and therefore the one who appears knowledgeable and capable, and innocent of wrongdoing.

>Learning new things.
When we learn new things, and we know that we learned them, our self-confidence increases. We feel stronger, more intelligent, and more independent. When our confidence increases, we feel less dependent on others, and are therefore not as controllable. We also are more likely to believe our own eyes and ears regarding what others are doing.

>Learning how to do certain tasks.
If I know how to cook my own meals, or work on my own car, or repair my own clothes, grow my own vegetables, cut my own hair, repair or build my own house, then no one has LEVERAGE over me who does know how to do these things (or pretends to know). I am not beholden to someone else to do these things FOR me. I will not be fooled by someone who is trying to con me, or who doesn't really know what they're doing. I don't have to wait around for someone else, or pay someone else, or accept a shoddy job. If I know how to cook my own meals, I can feed myself, and I don't NEED anyone else to cook for me, therefore I will be less likely to put up with any untoward behavior from a person who is cooking my meals for me.

>Doing/performing certain tasks.
If a bully sees me changing my own tire, they are very likely to come up to me and do something like criticize me, try to point out "mistakes", or try to take over. They may even try to physically take the tire iron out of my hand without my permission (space invader, controller).
They will NOT simply help me if I request it like they would for someone else who they weren't trying to dominate. In other words, if I ask them to hold the tire iron, they won't do that, they'll just take it and do whatever they want. Bullies want to be "ABOVE" certain others, ALL THE TIME, and they frequently use tasks and jobs as a method to meet this goal. YOU can't know how to change your own tire, only I AND THOSE WHO ARE LIKE ME can do that. It's TOO HARD for YOU, WE'RE the only ones smart enough and strong enough to be able to do that. (Sounds like adolescence because that's the developmental stage it's from.)
So every time a target goes to perform certain tasks or activities (they can be anything at all, from changing a tire to playing guitar to digging a ditch), a bully swoops in and criticizes, micromanages, bosses, sabotages, blocks, puts themselves IN IT somehow and causes the task to become very stressful for the target. Bullies will go to far lengths to block targets from performing certain jobs, tasks, and activities, including physically blocking them from doing it in whatever way they can.
(It's important to note that bullies will also redirect to others, so if a bully who does NOT know how to change a tire were to see me changing mine, they would STILL try to get me to stop by criticizing, trying to point out "mistakes", trying to convince me that I "can't" do it, that I'm not capable. They are even likely to get someone else to help them with their bullying, such as someone who does know how to change a tire~ send the person over to finish the bully-job and get me away from what I'm doing, any way they can. They MUST stop me from completing my task and proving that I am actually capable of it, which might result in increasing my own confidence, and increasing the confidence OTHERS have in my capability.)

>Expressing emotions, thoughts, observations, and opinions out loud, especially where others can see or hear. In groups where controllers are present, a kind of "hierarchy" is created by them. This can be seen in humans and other primates. Freely expressing one's self is actually a PRIVILEGE that only those with high status are "allowed" in such groups. So, even laughing loudly is often "stamped out" by those who are vying for control positions within the group. ALSO~ freely expressing one's self is a DISPLAY of confidence, which, as previously mentioned, draws attention and allies.
Thoughts, observations, and opinions are kept under careful watch and scrutiny, lest someone else hears them and starts thinking for themselves, or seeing that the Controllers are not the only knowledgeable or skilled ones in the group. When several in the group become more aware, any Controllers are more likely to be noticed, and lose their "edge" they have over others.

>Feeling RELAXED.
When a bully notices that a target seems relaxed, they will often immediately do something to disturb the target, trying to cause some form of anxiety or fear either directly, or in the surrounding atmosphere.

A target is often disturbed somehow by nearby Controllers any time they appear to be doing something that requires their full attention, or when they are concentrating intently on something, or when they are trying to accomplish something large or small. Anything from studying, to creative projects, to scientific observation, to business, to conversations with others, to personal accounting (paying bills), or just going out to do something.
It's common for students who are trying to study to be frequently disturbed by either family members or classmates, which can and does cause them to lose their concentration, and costs them on exams and in their education in general.
Controllers will disturb, interrupt, cause crises, sabotage, or bully a target any time they are trying to get something done. Some will even physically damage, ruin, or move, hide, or take something the target is working on or using.
This habitual interruption can also cause health problems for the target, even mental and emotional problems such as stress and memory issues, never mind time, scheduling, and social interaction problems, all of which can result in serious problems at school and work for the target. Therefore the bully's goals are met.

>Autonomy, and behaving like a free adult who does not need permission from others to act or do.
One of the most common Controller tactics is to try to make a target arrange their schedule around others' schedules, often changing plans at the last minute on the target, or not showing up, or saying there were plans when there wasn't, or leaving them out purposely to "teach them a lesson". Controllers also will often try to delay or wreck plans of a target, whether they are included in those plans or not. The Controller's goal is not to DO an activity, but to control the target. The actual activity or plan is secondary; it's a tool, an opportunity to assert control, it's not the goal. Controllers seem to enjoy having a target wait for them, having a target come TO THEM, they will rarely go TO a target; getting a target to do something other than what the target wanted to do; standing a target up completely, and then justifying their behavior. This is all training. We all show others how to treat us, and Controllers are no exception; they are intent on establishing dominance and "higher status" over a target, in the target's mind, and in anyone else's mind who will buy into it~ that is the only way they can stay in control.

Controllers are not interested in equally balanced, give and take, reciprocal, respectful friendships or acquaintances. They may not know how to be in one, they may never had had the opportunity to experience this in their childhoods. They see others as either below them or above them, not as equals who have learned different things and have different and varied abilities. They mostly see others as either a threat to their imagined "status" (which is real if others are playing along), or as someone they can dominate. When we know where they're coming from, we can be more prepared to deal with their behavior, or avoid them.