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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Control Freaks: Top down vs. bottom up.

My wife and I were talking about control freaks we've had in our lives.  A common refrain I've heard about controlling people is that they to try to control out of fear.  I think there is a large element of truth to that, but I don't necessarily think that all people try to control out of fear or if they do not necessarily do it all the time.  I think some people tend to be controlling because 'they can'.  That is they like the power of being able to 'control' others.  So, it occurred to me how could I differentiate the two?  What I came up with is a concept of top down vs. bottom up.  So, here is my concepts for what it is worth.

TOP DOWN Controller (Macro)
  • They may start to exhibit their controlling behavior out of fear, but ultimately when they have gained power, it is to keep or expand their power.
  • Look to control for power, to dominate others.
    • Have a greater likelihood of being a megalomaniac.
    • Often clothe their 'need' for controlling others in being interested in the welfare of others.
    • Even while expressing their concern for the welfare of others, they themselves seem to find a way to benefit nicely from their use of power.
  • Have a super-sized ego.
    • Have the sense that only they know what is best.
    • Consider themselves as great or greater than their message.  In other words, not only do I know better, but I'm also tend to be the best (or only one) to implement what I think is best for everyone.
  • The ends justify the means in many cases.  In other words, while I am not necessarily authorized to exert the power I am--and in some cases it is unethical--I am justified in exerting the power for the 'good of everyone'.  In other words, there is an element of malevolence to their attempts to control, even if they don't recognize it.
  • Control over others tends to be more global rather than situation specific.

BOTTOM UP Controller (Micro)
  • Tend to control out of fear, rather than a secret need for power.
    • If I don't do this myself it won't get done (and it may reflect poorly on me).
    • Yielding too much control can or will make me vulnerable.
  • Not necessarily addicted to generalized power.  Tend to seek control over certain people in certain circumstances. 
  • May have a certain arrogance in their area of control (I know better), but their control is as much to seek some or self-protection (or those they are charged with).
  • Would tend to have an ability to give up control in areas that they don't care too much about or where they feel reasonable secure.  

I think everyone seeks some level of control in their life.  I think it's common to see oneself as not being controlling at all, but I believe that most people exhibit a certain desire/need to control people and circumstances in their life.  In my opinion, where the need for control becomes a problem is:
  • It interferes with a healthy and respectful relationship with others around you.  That is to say there seems to be a need to step on someone's toes because a) a lack of trusting the other to do the right, proper or effective thing b) "knowing" that you can do whatever needs to be done right.
  • It results in a loss of appropriate freedom and liberty for others.

There are places in life however where control is appropriate and appropriately deferred (and placed in the hand of others):
  •  Adolescents necessarily would tend to have to earn 'control' with responsibility, ultimately deferring control or decision-making to their parents.
  • Students control to the teachers/staff in adolescences and adulthood defer a lessor degree of control to their professors.
  • Subordinates, especially as it relates to their employment, would tend to have to defer control or decision-making to their bosses.  Similar dynamic with subordinates deferring control to their leaders in the military.
But I digress, even in those cases authority is usually earned.

I don't have a big overarching conclusion to this blog.  I would say though that is important to exercise control judiciously where it is given/earned/expected, be willing to defer control where it is appropriate or helpful, and always to remember that control is as much a responsibility as a privilege.  It shouldn't be taken lightly and if if mishandled can be subject to being taken away.  That being said, I'm deferring control of the words of this blog post to my readers to be used as is beneficial in their lives.