The desire to control others

Frustrated and anxious, we try to control others. Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

Control is the art of making other people do something which they would not otherwise do.  It is the opposite of just letting people and things be.

To be mentally healthy, we need a good dose of ability to just let things be.  It is the antidote to frustration and anxiety.  If we are content in the present, then we cannot really be upset by anything.  We have peace.

On the other hand, if we find ourselves always wishing that others will do what we want, then we will tend to find ourselves getting frustrated and angry.  We have taken on a job as general manager of the universe, and it is an impossible job.

People who habitually control others don’t see themselves as controlling.   Very few controlling people admit to it.  They prefer to disguise this desire to control others as something else.

Here are 5 common ways people hide their controlling nature:

  1. ‘I only want what’s best for you.’  This is a nice way of saying ‘I have decided what you should do.’
  2. ‘I have to defend myself.’  This is reframing attack as defence, and makes the speaker seem, in their own mind, a victim.
  3. ‘I’m forced to act this way.’  This is removing personal agency, in order to avoid responsibility.
  4. ‘I’m just passionate.’  This is glorifying extremeness of feeling and motivation, regardless of the effect on other people.
  5. ‘I’m getting upset.’  This is effectively emotional blackmail. It’s often done, not  in words, but in escalating behaviour.


Today I will give up my desire to control others.  Instead, I will observe myself, and notice when I seem to be getting frustrated.  I will then remind myself to be peaceful and let things be.

People will always be making mistakes and doing foolish things.  It’s not my job to coerce them into behaving differently.  Instead, I will set an example, and live well and quietly.