Abusive power and control (also controlling behavior, coercive control and sharp power) is the way that an abusive person gains and maintains power and control over another person, as a victim, in order to subject that person to psychological, physical, sexual, or financial abuse. The motivations of the abuser are varied, such as personal gain, personal gratification, psychological projection, devaluation, envy or just for the sake of it as the abuser may simply enjoy exercising power and control.
Controlling abusers use tactics to exert power and control over their victims. The tactics themselves are psychologically and sometimes physically abusive. Control may be helped through economic abuse thus limiting the victim's actions as they may then lack the necessary resources to resist the abuse. The goal of the abuser is to control and intimidate the victim or to influence them to feel that they do not have an equal voice in the relationship.
Manipulators and abusers control their victims with a range of tactics, including positive reinforcement (such as praise, superficial charm, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing, smiling, gifts, attention), negative reinforcement, intermittent or partial reinforcement, psychological punishment (such as nagging, silent treatment, swearing, threats, intimidation, emotional blackmail, guilt trips, inattention) and traumatic tactics (such as verbal abuse or explosive anger).
The vulnerabilities of the victim are exploited with those who are particularly vulnerable being most often selected as targets. Traumatic bonding can occur between the abuser and victim as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change and a climate of fear. An attempt may be made to normalise, legitimise, rationalise, deny, or minimise the abusive behaviour, or blame the victim for it.
Isolation, gaslighting, mind games, lying, disinformation, propaganda, destabilisation, brainwashing and divide and rule are other strategies that are often used. The victim may be plied with alcohol or drugs or deprived of sleep to help disorientate them.
Certain personality types feel particularly compelled to control other people.
Control freaks are often perfectionists defending themselves against their own inner vulnerabilities in the belief that if they are not in total control they risk exposing themselves once more to childhood angst. Such persons manipulate and pressure others to change so as to avoid having to change themselves, and use power over others to escape an inner emptiness. When a control freak's pattern is broken, the controller is left with a terrible feeling of powerlessness but feeling their pain and fear brings them back to themselves.
In terms of personality-type theory, control freaks are very much the Type A personality, driven by the need to dominate and control. An obsessive need to control others is also associated with antisocial personality disorder.
Braiker identified the following ways that manipulators control their victims:
Manipulators may have:
Emotional blackmail is a term coined by psychotherapist Susan Forward, about controlling people in relationships and the theory that fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) are the transactional dynamics at play between the controller and the person being controlled. Understanding these dynamics are useful to anyone trying to extricate from the controlling behavior of another person, and deal with their own compulsions to do things that are uncomfortable, undesirable, burdensome, or self-sacrificing for others.
Forward and Frazier identify four blackmail types each with their own mental manipulation style:
|Punisher's threat||Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt you.|
|Self-punisher's threat||Eat the food I cooked for you or I'll hurt myself.|
|Sufferer's threat||Eat the food I cooked for you. I was saving it for myself. I wonder what will happen now?|
|Tantalizer's threat||Eat the food I cooked for you and you just may get a really yummy dessert.|
There are different levels of demands - demands that are of little consequence, demands that involve important issues or personal integrity, demands that affect major life decisions, and/or demands that are dangerous or illegal.
The silent treatment is sometimes used as a control mechanism. When so used, it constitutes a passive-aggressive action characterized by the coupling of nonverbal but nonetheless unambiguous indications of the presence of negative emotion with the refusal to discuss the scenario triggering those emotions and, when those emotions' source is unclear to the other party, occasionally the refusal to clarify it or even to identify that source at all. As a result, the perpetrator of the silent treatment denies the victim both the opportunity to negotiate an after-the-fact settlement of the grievance in question and the ability to modify his/her future behavior to avoid giving further offense. In especially severe cases, even if the victim gives in and accedes to the perpetrator's initial demands, the perpetrator may continue the silent treatment so as to deny the victim feedback indicating that those demands have been satisfied. The silent treatment thereby enables its perpetrator to cause hurt, obtain ongoing attention in the form of repeated attempts by the victim to restore dialogue, maintain a position of power through creating uncertainty over how long the verbal silence and associated impossibility of resolution will last, and derive the satisfaction that the perpetrator associates with each of these consequences.
The expression has been used to describe the tactics used by pimps and gang members to control their victims, as well as to describe the behavior of an abusive narcissist who tries to win the confidence of a victim.
One sense of mind games is a largely conscious struggle for psychological one-upmanship, often employing passive–aggressive behavior to specifically demoralize or dis-empower the thinking subject, making the aggressor look superior; also referred to as "power games".
In intimate relationships, mind games can be used to undermine one partner's belief in the validity of their own perceptions. Personal experience may be denied and driven from memory; and such abusive mind games may extend to denial of the victim's reality, social undermining, and the trivializing of what is felt to be important. Both sexes have equal opportunities for such verbal coercion, which may be carried out unconsciously as a result of the need to maintain one's own self-deception.
A primary strategy the narcissist uses to assert control, particularly within their family, is to create divisions among individuals. This weakens and isolates them, making it easier for the narcissist to manipulate and dominate. Some are favoured, others are scapegoated. Such dynamics can play out in a workplace setting.
The power and control "wheel" was developed in 1982 by the Domestic Abuse Program in Minneapolis to explain the nature of abuse, to delineate the forms of abuse used to control another person, and to educate people with the goal of stopping violence and abuse. The model is used in many batterer intervention programs, and is known as the Duluth model. Power and control is generally present with violent physical and sexual abuse.
Often the abusers are initially attentive, charming and loving, gaining the trust of the individual that will ultimately become the victim, also known as the survivor. When there is a connection and a degree of trust, the abusers become unusually involved in their partner's feelings, thoughts and actions. Next, they set petty rules and exhibit "pathological jealousy". A conditioning process begins with alternation of loving followed by abusive behavior. According to Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse, "These serve to confuse the survivor leading to potent conditioning processes that impact on the survivor's self-structure and cognitive schemas." The abuser projects responsibility for the abuse on to the victim, or survivor, and the denigration and negative projections become incorporated into the survivor's self-image.
|Gain trust||Overinvolvement||Petty rules and jealousy||Manipulation, power and control||Traumatic bonding|
|The potential abuser is attentive, loving, charming||The abuser becomes overly involved in the daily life and use of time||Rules begin to be inserted to begin control of the relationship. Jealousy is considered by the abuser to be "an act of love"||The victim is blamed for the abuser's behavior and becomes coerced and manipulated||Ongoing cycles of abuse can lead to traumatic bonding|
Controlling abusers use multiple tactics to exert power and control over their partners. According to Jill Cory and Karen McAndless-Davis, authors of When Love Hurts: A Woman's Guide to Understanding Abuse in Relationships: Each of the tactics within the power and control wheel are used to "maintain power and control in the relationship. No matter what tactics your partner uses, the effect is to control and intimidate you or to influence you to feel that you do not have an equal voice in the relationship."
A tool for exerting control and power is the use of threats and coercion. The victim may be subject to threats that they will be left, hurt, or reported to welfare. The abuser may threaten that they will commit suicide. They may also coerce them to perform illegal actions or to drop charges that they may have against their abuser. Strangulation, a particularly pernicious abusive behavior in which the abuser literally has the victim’s life in his hands, is an extreme form of abusive control. Sorenson and colleagues have called strangulation the domestic violence equivalent of waterboarding, which is widely considered to be a form of torture.
At its most effective, the abuser creates intimidation and fear through unpredictable and inconsistent behavior. Absolute control may be sought by any of four types of sadists: explosive, enforcing, tyrannical, or spineless sadists. The victims are at risk of anxiety, dissociation, depression, shame, low self-esteem and suicidal ideation.
Abused individuals may be intimidated by the brandishing of weapons, destruction of their property or other things, or use of gestures or looks to create fear. For example, threatening to use a gun or simply displaying the weapon is a form of intimidation and coercive control.
An effective means of ensuring control and power over another is to control their access to money. One method is to prevent the abusee from getting or retaining a job. Controlling their access to money can also be done by withholding information and access to family income, taking their money, requiring the person to ask for money, giving them an allowance, or filing a power of attorney or conservatorship, particularly in the case of economic abuse of the elderly.
Emotional abuse include name-calling, playing mind games, putting the victim down, or humiliating the individual. The goals are to make the person feel bad about themselves, feel guilty or think that they are crazy.
Another element of psychological control is the isolation of the victim from the outside world. Isolation includes controlling a person's social activity: who they see, who they talk to, where they go, and any other method to limit their access to others. It may also include limiting what material is read. It can include insisting on knowing where they are and requiring permission for medical care. The abuser exhibits hypersensitive and reactive jealousy.
The abuser may deny the abuse occurred to attempt to place the responsibility for their behavior on the victim. Minimizing concerns or the degree of the abuse is another aspect of this control.
Children may be used to exert control by the abuser threatening to take the children or making them feel guilty about the children. It could include harassing them during visitation or using the children to relay messages. Another controlling tactic is abusing pets.
Using "privilege" means that the abuser defines the roles in the relationship, makes the important decisions, treats the individual like a servant and acts like the "master of the castle".
A power and control model has been developed for the workplace, divided into the following categories:
According to anti-bullying author and activist Tim Field, bullies are attracted to the caring professions, such as medicine, by the opportunities to exercise power over vulnerable clients, and over vulnerable employees and students.
Institutional abuse is the maltreatment of a person (often children or older adults) from a system of power. This can range from acts similar to home-based child abuse, such as neglect, physical and sexual abuse, and hunger, to the effects of assistance programs working below acceptable service standards, or relying on harsh or unfair ways to modify behavior.
The use of coercion by perpetrators and traffickers involves the use of extreme control. Perpetrators expose the victim to high amounts of psychological stress induced by threats, fear, and physical and emotional violence. Tactics of coercion are reportedly used in three phases of trafficking: recruitment, initiation, and indoctrination. During the initiation phase, traffickers use foot-in-the-door techniques of persuasion to lead their victims into various trafficking industries. This manipulation creates an environment where the victim becomes completely dependent upon the authority of the trafficker. Traffickers take advantage of family dysfunction, homelessness, and history of childhood abuse to psychologically manipulate women and children into the trafficking industry.
The goal of a trafficker is to turn a human being into a slave. To do this, perpetrators employ tactics that can lead to the psychological consequence of learned helplessness for the victims, where they sense that they no longer have any autonomy or control over their lives. Traffickers may hold their victims captive, expose them to large amounts of alcohol or use drugs, keep them in isolation, or withhold food or sleep. During this time the victim often begins to feel the onset of depression, guilt and self-blame, anger and rage, and sleep disturbances, PTSD, numbing, and extreme stress. Under these pressures, the victim can fall into the hopeless mental state of learned helplessness.
Children are especially vulnerable to these developmental and psychological consequences of trafficking because they are so young. In order to gain complete control of the child, traffickers often destroy physical and mental health of the children through persistent physical and emotional abuse. Stockholm syndrome is also a common problem for girls while they are trafficked, which can hinder them from both trying to escape, and moving forward in psychological recovery programs.
Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.
The practice of repression in Zersetzung comprised extensive and secret methods of control and psychological manipulation, including personal relationships of the target, for which the Stasi relied on its network of informal collaborators, (in German inoffizielle Mitarbeiter or IM), the State's power over institutions, and on operational psychology. Using targeted psychological attacks the Stasi tried to deprive a dissident of any chance of a "hostile action".
The main objective for one type of serial killer is to gain and exert power over their victim. Such killers are sometimes abused as children, leaving them with feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy as adults. Many power or control-motivated killers sexually abuse their victims, but they differ from hedonistic killers in that rape is not motivated by lust (as it would be with a lust murder) but as simply another form of dominating the victim. (See article causes of sexual violence for the differences regarding anger rape, power rape, and sadistic rape.) Ted Bundy is an example of a power/control-oriented serial killer.
In December 2015, controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship was made illegal in England and Wales. In 2018, Jordan Worth became the first woman to be convicted under this new law.
Abuse is the improper usage or treatment of an entity, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. Abuse can come in many forms, such as: physical or verbal maltreatment, injury, assault, violation, rape, unjust practices, crimes, or other types of aggression. To these descriptions, one can also add the Kantian notion of the wrongness of using another human being as means to an end rather than as ends in themselves. Some sources describe abuse as "socially constructed", which means there may be more or less recognition of the suffering of a victim at different times and societies.Abuse of power
Abuse of power, in the form of "malfeasance in office" or "official misconduct," is the commission of an unlawful act, done in an official capacity, which affects the performance of official duties. Malfeasance in office is often grounds for a for cause removal of an elected official by statute or recall election. Abuse of power can also mean a person using the power they have for their own personal gain.Coercion
Coercion () is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force. It involves a set of various types of forceful actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce a desired response, for example: a bully demanding lunch money from a student or the student gets beaten. These actions may include extortion, blackmail, torture, threats to induce favors, or even sexual assault. In law, coercion is codified as a duress crime. Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests. Coercion may involve the actual infliction of physical pain/injury or psychological harm in order to enhance the credibility of a threat. The threat of further harm may lead to the cooperation or obedience of the person being coerced.Destabilisation
The word destabilisation can be applied to a wide variety of contexts such as attempts to undermine political, military or economic power.Flattery
Flattery (also called adulation or blandishment) is the act of giving excessive compliments, generally for the purpose of ingratiating oneself with the subject. It is used in pick-up lines when attempting to initiate romantic courtship.
Historically, flattery has been used as a standard form of discourse when addressing a king or queen. In the Renaissance, it was a common practice among writers to flatter the reigning monarch, as Edmund Spenser flattered Queen Elizabeth I in The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare flattered King James I in Macbeth and Niccolò Machiavelli flattered Lorenzo II de' Medici in The Prince.
Most associations with flattery, however, are negative. Negative descriptions of flattery range at least as far back in history as The Bible. In the Divine Comedy, Dante depicts flatterers wading in human excrement, stating that their words were the equivalent of excrement, in the second bolgia of 8th Circle of Hell.
An insincere flatterer is a stock character in many literary works. Examples include Wormtongue from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Goneril and Regan from King Lear, and Iago from Othello.
Historians and philosophers have paid attention to flattery as a problem in ethics and politics. Plutarch wrote an essay on "How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend." Julius Caesar was notorious for his flattery. In his Praise of Folly, Erasmus commended flattery because it "raises downcast spirits, comforts the sad, rouses the apathetic, stirs up the stolid, cheers the sick, restrains the headstrong, brings lovers together and keeps them united.""To flatter" is also used to refer to artwork or clothing that makes the subject or wearer appear more attractive, as in:
The king was pleased with the portrait, as it was very flattering of his girth.
I think I'll wear the green dress because it flatters my legs.Guilt trip
A guilt trip is a feeling of guilt or responsibility, especially an unjustified one induced by someone else. Creating a guilt trip in another person may be considered to be psychological manipulation in the form of punishment for a perceived transgression. Guilt trips are also considered to be a form of passive aggression.The victim may be reminded of something bad they did, made to feel guilty about it and then given an option to escape that guilt. The option will depend on what the manipulator wants them to do. People often feel obliged to comply with guilt trip demands as a way of receiving others' approval.George K. Simon interprets the guilt trip as a special kind of intimidation tactic. A manipulator suggests to the conscientious victim that he or she does not care enough, is too selfish or has it easy. This usually results in the victim feeling bad, keeping them in a self-doubting, anxious and submissive position.The first known published use of the term is in 1967.There are limited studies examining guilt trips and those studies tend to focus on guilt trips
in parent-child relationships.Intimidation
Intimidation (also called cowing) is intentional behavior that "would cause a person of ordinary sensibilities" to fear injury or harm. It is not necessary to prove that the behavior was so violent as to cause mean terror or that the victim was actually frightened.Threat, criminal threatening (or threatening behavior) is the crime of intentionally or knowingly putting another person in fear of bodily injury. "Threat of harm generally involves a perception of injury...physical or mental damage...act or instance of injury, or a material and detriment or loss to a person." "A terroristic threat is a crime generally involving a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize other.""Intimidation" is the name of a criminal offense in several U.S. states.Jewish guilt
Jewish guilt is the supposed guilt felt by some Jews. Currently, Jewish guilt is often a source of Jewish humor, but sometimes leads to self-hatred among some Jews.Micromanagement
In business management, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes and/or controls the work of his/her subordinates or employees.
Micromanagement is generally considered to have a negative connotation, mainly due to the fact that it shows a lack of freedom in the workplace.Mind games
Mind games is used to define three forms of competitive human behaviors:
a largely conscious struggle for psychological one-upmanship, often employing passive–aggressive behavior to specifically demoralize or dis-empower the thinking subject, making the aggressor look superior; also referred to as power games, head games, mind fuckery or head fuckery.
the unconscious games played by people engaged in ulterior transactions of which they are not fully aware, and which transactional analysis considers to form a central element of social life all over the world.
mental exercises designed to improve the functioning of mind and/or personality; see also brain teasers or puzzles.The first known use of "mind game" is in 1963. The first known use of "head game" is in 1977.My way or the highway
My way or the highway is a predominantly American idiom that dates back to the 1970s. It suggests an ultimatum like "take it or leave it", which indicates that the listener(s) (who are typically not in a position to challenge the options, e.g. employees or those lacking money) must totally accept the speaker's decision or suffer negative consequences such as being fired, asked to leave, or receive nothing. It may sometimes be seen with other pronouns, for example, her way or the highway.
The idiom has been associated with narcissism and micromanagement.Narcissistic leadership
Narcissistic leadership is a leadership style in which the leader is only interested in him/herself. Their priority is themselves – at the expense of their people/group members. This leader exhibits the characteristics of a narcissist: arrogance, dominance and hostility. It is a sufficiently common leadership style that it has acquired its own name. Narcissism is most often described as unhealthy and destructive. It has been described as "driven by unyielding arrogance, self-absorption, and a personal egotistic need for power and admiration".Power (social and political)
In social science and politics, power is the capacity of an individual to influence the conduct (behaviour) of others. The term "authority" is often used for power that is perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust. This sort of primitive exercise of power is historically endemic to humans; however, as social beings, the same concept is seen as good and as something inherited or given for exercising humanistic objectives that will help, move, and empower others as well. In general, it is derived by the factors of interdependence between two entities and the environment. In business, the ethical instrumentality of power is achievement, and as such it is a zero-sum game. In simple terms it can be expressed as being "upward" or "downward". With downward power, a company's superior influences subordinates for attaining organizational goals. When a company exerts upward power, it is the subordinates who influence the decisions of their leader or leaders.The use of power need not involve force or the threat of force (coercion). On one side, it closely resembles what egalitarian and consensual nations (Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden) might term as "influence," contrasted with the extreme what some authors identify as "intimidation" in capitalist nations, a means by which power is used. An example of using power without oppression is the concept "soft power," as compared to hard power.
Much of the recent sociological debate about power revolves around the issue of its means to enable – in other words, power as a means to make social actions possible as much as it may constrain or prevent them. The philosopher Michel Foucault saw power as a structural expression of "a complex strategic situation in a given social setting" that requires both constraint and enablement.Social influence
Social influence occurs when a person's emotions, opinions or behaviors are affected by others intentionally or unintentionally. Social influence takes many forms and can be seen in conformity, socialization, peer pressure, obedience, leadership, persuasion, sales, and marketing. In 1958, Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three broad varieties of social influence.
Compliance is when people appear to agree with others but actually keep their dissenting opinions private.
Identification is when people are influenced by someone who is liked and respected, such as a famous celebrity.
Internalization is when people accept a belief or behavior and agree both publicly and privately.Morton Deutsch and Harold Gerard described two psychological needs that lead humans to conform to the expectations of others. These include our need to be right (informational social influence) and our need to be liked (normative social influence). Informational influence (or social proof) is an influence to accept information from another as evidence about reality. Informational influence comes into play when people are uncertain, either because stimuli are intrinsically ambiguous or because there is social disagreement. Normative influence is an influence to conform to the positive expectations of others. In terms of Kelman's typology, normative influence leads to public compliance, whereas informational influence leads to private acceptance.Traumatic bonding
Traumatic bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change.Victim playing
Victim playing (also known as playing the victim, victim card or self-victimization) is the fabrication of victimhood for a variety of reasons such as to justify abuse of others, to manipulate others, a coping strategy or attention seeking.
|Intermittent or partial|