Can ‘control’ issues cause ail­ments, dis­ease or devel­op­men­tal delays in infants, young chil­dren or adults, inhibit­ing heal­ing of many con­di­tions? I tru­ly believe it can happen.

It wasn’t until I got my moth­er-in-law total­ly out of my life that I learned what retain­ing con­trol of one’s life could do to bet­ter the phys­i­cal body. She was no longer allowed to even call our house and my hus­band couldn’t call her from our house. Imag­ine my courage pre-mobile phones.

The cat­a­lyst for such a dra­mat­ic deci­sion was com­ing home to hear my sons tell me “Grand­ma says you’re a bitch”! (They had heard their father say over the phone “Don’t call my wife a bitch”). With her out of my life my bod­i­ly sys­tem com­plete­ly changed and went back to nor­mal; sud­den­ly it was doing all the right and pre­dictable things again. My peri­ods went back to being reg­u­lar. I was, quite frankly, astonished. 

My sons hope­ful­ly don’t recall but I’m sure I became a bet­ter moth­er to them at that point. They were allowed to vis­it their grand­moth­er with their dad so they weren’t cut off from her. I even gave up my own Thanks­giv­ing one year to allow them to go to her home with their father.

I’ve now met too many peo­ple in life that I lat­er decid­ed (too late?) were very con­trol­ling, demand­ing and manip­u­lat­ing of my time. Being inex­pe­ri­enced with such peo­ple none of my usu­al polite (over­ly polite?) Eng­lish man­ners seemed to keep them at bay. A com­plete break was need­ed. In at least three of those instances an argu­ment caused the breakups. The oth­ers I just ignored for a while and the rela­tion­ships fizzled.

So I am obvi­ous­ly severe­ly defi­cient in many skills. Among them rec­og­niz­ing con­trol­ling peo­ple and also how to back off from them.

Remem­ber, most of these con­tacts were in my ear­ly days as an immi­grant and I was very depen­dent in those days, first­ly on my husband’s fam­i­ly and sec­ond­ly the peo­ple I met. I was des­per­ate for friend­ship and incred­i­bly lone­ly. I had two jobs before I had my chil­dren and I now realise that due to my husband’s emo­tion­al make­up (caused by his fam­i­ly’s con­trol issues?) I wasn’t free to ever accept invi­ta­tions from any­one in my work place – even my won­der­ful bosses!

I came from a fam­i­ly that gave us free­dom but also expect­ed us to be respon­si­ble as their chil­dren. We all com­plied with the unwrit­ten ‘rules’. It was a respect­ful yet free envi­ron­ment to grow up in. 

The con­trol my hus­band influ­enced over me was passed down from his moth­er to him. The only way he had escaped from his par­ents’ con­trol was by tak­ing to sea on sail­ing boats and becom­ing an adven­tur­er, if you will, far removed from his par­ents’ and soci­ety’s expec­ta­tions. In fact he chose not to remain in con­tact with his fam­i­ly for at least a year in that peri­od of his life. 

How­ev­er, the ‘con­trol’ his moth­er had over him resumed as soon as he came with­in her cir­cle again – by then we were mar­ried. He did­n’t know how emo­tion­al­ly dam­ag­ing she was to her chil­dren’s psy­che and thus to her grand­chil­dren’s lives. Her four won­der­ful grand­chil­dren are very fine peo­ple, her behav­iour caused her to miss out on their very affec­tion­ate natures and watch­ing them grow up.

As the years have gone by I’ve become more obser­vant of every­one I’ve met. If you’ve read the books by Alice Miller, which I rec­om­mend to those try­ing to improve the qual­i­ty of their lives and lifestyle, you will know that we are the only ones who can make a change.

Like any­one, I fall back into cer­tain habits, but I’ve real­ly strived to know instant­ly if a per­son is going to dam­age my psy­che. Those of us who are too close to the indi­vid­u­als who cause us dam­age, too con­trolled by them – often even after they’ve died! – are in a chal­leng­ing place in our lives. The ‘con­trollers’ can be par­ents, spous­es, sib­lings (who car­ry the same dam­ag­ing reac­tions), col­leagues (as I’ve more recent­ly realised) or even ‘friends’.

The first sign that you are fac­ing a con­trol­ling per­son­al­i­ty is often neg­a­tiv­i­ty. A gen­er­al neg­a­tiv­i­ty towards one’s life, one’s spouse and chil­dren, and oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers; some­times the neg­a­tiv­i­ty is aimed at polit­i­cal or cor­po­rate enti­ties — they are all signs. Con­trol­ling peo­ple usu­al­ly home in on the weak­est pawns in their lives, manip­u­late them in a pow­er­ful way and they in turn start manip­u­lat­ing every­one else in their cir­cle on behalf of ‘the con­trol­ling one’.

The con­trol can be repeat­ed gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion unless chil­dren have the strength to step away from such pow­er. Step­ping away from fam­i­ly cir­cles for one’s own health is vir­tu­al­ly impos­si­ble to do. Some­times mov­ing miles away, by acci­dent or by design, can help but it’s no guarantee.

I moved miles away from my fam­i­ly by acci­dent. I nev­er dreamed it would last 39 years and it’s not an idea I would pro­mote for a close knit, sup­port­ive fam­i­ly. But then again I was pur­pose­ful­ly able to step away from some­one who lived only 10 miles away, for my own health.

The extent to which being under the pow­er, demands and con­trol of such a per­son can be dele­te­ri­ous to our health may not have yet been studied. 

My sus­pi­cion is that many cas­es of can­cer could be linked to hav­ing such a con­trol­ling per­son in one’s life. I also believe that it’s the back­ground to many cur­rent devel­op­men­tal delays, includ­ing autism. I know of a fam­i­ly where two out of three chil­dren had more than one bout with can­cer. Their father was extreme­ly con­trol­ling of every fam­i­ly mem­ber’s actions and opin­ions while appear­ing to encour­age free­dom. Even his recent death was dra­mat­ic (staged?) and at a tra­di­tion­al time of year for fam­i­ly gath­er­ings. How can they for­get or escape him now? 

Ask your­self how tru­ly hap­py and warm fam­i­lies in such cir­cum­stances are – if you think about it you will instinc­tive­ly know that you don’t feel very hap­py, warm or total­ly trust­ing around them – it will sur­prise you. You are fre­quent­ly try­ing to con­vince your­self that ‘these peo­ple’ are real­ly good!

We can make our own deci­sions when it comes to our health and the health of our own families.

The pat­terns I have expe­ri­enced and per­son­al­ly seen in oth­er fam­i­lies are passed down gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion. To see two or three gen­er­a­tions dam­aged, either phys­i­cal­ly or emo­tion­al­ly, or both, is dra­mat­ic to observe. To expe­ri­ence it per­son­al­ly and then recog­nise it clear­ly is tru­ly an eye open­ing expe­ri­ence — talk about ‘research’!

Con­trol­ling grand­par­ents beget con­trol­ling par­ents (some with social deficits) beget devel­op­men­tal delays (def­i­nite­ly emo­tion­al deficits) in the youngest mem­bers of the family.

Let’s break the spell of con­trol for con­trol’s sake. 

Those in con­trol need to take a look inwards (or be alien­at­ed if they can­not be forced to be intro­spec­tive for the sake of their fam­i­lies) and take some respon­si­bil­i­ty for the debil­i­tat­ing ail­ments their spous­es, chil­dren and grand­chil­dren are now experiencing.