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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Control vs. self control

One consistent theme I've noticed throughout my life is that the less self control people have, the more control they want over other people.

The lack of self control I refer to does not necessarily refer to indulging in all the seven deadly sins all the time; it is more a lack of emotional self control. Controlling types may be extremely disciplined in some ways; but inevitably there is a complete lack of self control in some basic way.

They may be able to get themselves down to the office every day, dress neatly, and keep their houses immaculate. They may keep their own eating and drinking under control. But they tend to become enraged at things that wouldn't bother most of us. And if they are not in a position to assert power over others, they try to do so indirectly through constant, carping disapproval.

We all get angry if someone does something which harms us directly. But we tend not to get angry if people do things which don't affect us personally. A certain type of person will talk about someone else's dress, or spending habits, or taste in paramours, as if it is a direct, personal affront to him.

It's a direct correlation: the less self control a person has, the more control he wants over others.

Sociopaths are the ultimate example of this, and serial killers are the ultimate sociopaths: they kill partly for the pleasure of being able to control their victims' destiny. It is often said serial killers will sometimes slow down the killing process just so they can draw out that pleasure.

I was reminded of this last night when I watched a show about Wichita's BTK ("Bind Torture Kill") Killer, Dennis Rader, who would start to strangle his victims, and then, just when they were about to die, loosen the ligature around their necks so that he could do it all over again.

When he wasn't killing women, Rader was a dogcatcher and supervisor in the Compliance Department in Park City. He was locally famous for his extremely strict enforcement of regulations, in one case having a dog euthanized for no good reason. 

Scratch an officious busybody, find a nasty control freak. 

Your average controlling personality acts more like Rader-the-dogcatcher than Rader-the-serial-killer; but the basic psychology is not dissimilar. 

I racked my brains trying to think of a single example to the contrary: either a decent person who constantly tried to exert his dominion over others, or a nasty type who didn't. But I couldn't. 


Anonymous said...

It's not just sociopaths: garden-variety narcissists are also very controlling people, but fly into a rage at the slightest insult.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You're absolutely right; I hadn't meant it to sound as if I were talking only about sociopaths. It's sort of a sliding scale, with decent people at one end, sociopaths at the other, and garden variety narcissists in between, perhaps a little closer to the sociopathic end than the decent end.

John sMITH said...

I don't know anyone that flies into a rage at the slightest insult. Maybe folks control themselves around me?

Didn't I just see an article on a neuro researcher that found all the socoipath brain markers in himself? He was able to restrain himself over his lifetime (more or less), so there is hope for all the control freaks. I guess.

John Craig said...

John Smith --
I'm sure "flies into a rage" is a little bit of an exaggeration but I've known people myself who are filled with anger at the slightest criticism, and also takes things personally which aren't even directed at them.

Hadn't heard about that brain researcher. There do seem to be a class of people who are "organic sociopaths," meaning that they are predisposed towards sociopathy by virtue of their higher threshold of excitement (it takes more stimulation than normal to get them either nervous or fearful), but many of them don't become sociopathic by virtue of having been brought up right by at least one loving parent with whom they form a bond.

John sMITH said...

John Craig said...

John --
Just read it, it's very interesting, thank you. I'll stick to what I originally said, he's what used to be referred to as an "organic sociopath," someone who's constitution orients him that way but who because of his loving family didn't turn out to be that bad. He refers to himself as a sociopath, but I didn't get the impression from that interview that his behaviors were any worse than your normal narcissistic personality's.

Anonymous said...

You've posted something very similar before:

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Oh my goodness. I guess I've gotten to that point; call it senility or call it nothing-new-to-say, but I'm there.

Thanks for pointing that out. Hope I can count on you to continue to do that.

And congratulations for having such a good memory. (Better than mine, in any case.)