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The Subtle art of Control

I talk a lot about boundaries, and staying true to your inner authentic voice. I am fascinated by subtle power plays, probably because most of my life I have fallen unconsciously into these manipulations many many times. I notice how my body is a perfect lie detector - contracting at lies someone tells me, or I tell myself. By lies I don't mean the obvious ones, though those count too, but the untruths within your authentic self.

Over the years I have begun to pay more and more attention to this, coinciding with my desire for more and more alignment with my authentic self. What I have found is my authentic voice is infinitely kind, loving, compassionate, and accepting. My egoic or insecure voice is often louder, meaner, contracted, judgey, and moody.

I have also noticed how brainwashed and suggestible I am. It's actually shocking. I have taken to journaling conversations with people I know to be manipulative and controlling. Let's face it, when it comes to life, some controlling relationships just cannot be avoided. Writing down the statements, sentences or questions that contract my body, allows me to stabilise them, and helps me understand why my body sent out a red flag.

1. Outright Rudeness - this may seem like the easiest thing in the world to see, but often the rudeness hits a nerve, so we miss it entirely. If someone points out something you are already self-conscious about, it will trigger a cascade of your own thinking and very quickly obliviate the cause. For example if you are sensitive about your weight and someone points out you have gained (or lost) a few pounds, your body will contract and your insecure voice will have a field day. You will immediately loose sight of the fact that the source of your contraction was actually the Outright Rudeness, not you or your weight. People may be rude to you unconsciously, parroting what they themselves have been through, or they may be trying to undermine your confidence deliberately. Either way, don't loose sight of the originating cause of the contraction. People who feel the need to point out any perceived flaws in others are not operating from their authentic selves.

2. Questions in the form of directions - a subtle form of control. The questioner asks a questions but it is really an opinion they have of what you should do. A genuine question is open ended - "what are you thinking you might do next?". A controlling question would be "You will go back there, won't you?", or "You will take that job, surely?" Watch for your reactions when people ask you questions - do they expand your energy, or contract you? Remember other peoples' opinions have nothing to do with you or your life path. Someone operating out of authenticity is much more interested in you, not what you do. Check in on your own quality of questions too, are you unconsciously voicing opinions instead of genuine questions?

3. Taking sides - your authentic self is whole, it doesn't have strong opinions, it is compassionate. When you are whole you see that life is weaved into a huge and complex web of inter-connectness. Sitting on one "side" and seeing the other "side" as wrong takes you away from yourself. It is contracting, not expanding. Watch your body and you will see this whenever you have strong opinions about anything, your body will contract. When you discuss your opinions with others watch how your body responds, and then let it go - I find when I nod or shrug and say "I really don't know", everything relaxes. I am dropping the tension and so also the power play, there is nothing for the wunnabe controller to grasp at. By relaxing your opinion, you disperse the energy completely.

4. Pretend urgency - a classic control tactic. Bombarding pressure to answer NOW. Apart from the obvious emergency situations, nothing cannot wait a few hours, or a few days. If you feel pressure, panic, anxiety, stress - these are pretty obvious red flags. Technology and immediacy of communications doesn't help. I have a tendency of leaving manipulative people on red, I don't engage in phone conversations around difficult topics, I write emails over several edits, I never text under stress. I have yet to master the objectivity required to have a live conversation with a controlling personality apart from the golden rule sentence "let me have a think and get back to you". I was in a confidence/assertiveness class training recently and this statement was seen as an avoidance tactic. Haha. OK, not sure I agree with that! It has saved my sanity on many many occasions. If you feel pressure, trust yourself. If the decision is up to you, you have the right to take your time and make it under your terms.

5. Having your guard up/Walking on egg shells - these are often terms that come to mind when your body knows it is about to be bombarded with subtle or not so subtle control tactics. Believe in your body's messages and trust yourself. I have gone to such extreme measures as asking to record conversations (it's amazing how well people behave when they know they are being recorded!), writing down statements and asking for confirmation that this sentence is what was meant (this also has the benefit of slowing everything down as you transcribe), or repeating statements that have been said so the person saying them can hear what they said.

Calling out control tactics usually ends in conflict, and rarely ends in any change of behaviour. Often when you start calling out someone's behaviour they will go into Big Defence Mode. Depending on the relationship and how much conflict you can deal with, pointing out the control tactics may or may not be in your best interest. Personally I prefer inner peace. These red flags are not for you to change the other (that's just you becoming the control freak!). When you see what is happening, and you centre yourself and clean up your own control tactics, you become more authentic. Other peoples' actions and words will become more and more their business, you become less and less affected.

When you operate out of your authenticity; manipulation and control tactics no longer work. Ultimately they are fake powers. No one has ever, or will ever exert more control over you than you allow (as an independent functioning adult - what you learned in childhood was borne out of necessity and is different). Of course the allowing is often deeply unconscious, and the tactics used are masterful and subtle. But remembering your body is the perfect barometer, and trusting it to alert you to such shenanigans, is the beginning of your journey back to yourself.

It's your ultimate super-power!

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