Inspired by Chapter 23 of “Learning to Love – Your Guide to Personal Empowerment” by Philip Be’er and Markus Fahrner


The reason they control is to prevent something terrible from happening to them. They use control to restore either physical or emotional safety.

Our five senses are responsible for keeping us safe from physical harm like getting burnt, poisoned, attacked and crushed. Our nervous system has been wired to respond within nanoseconds to threatening sounds, smells, tactile sensations, visual inputs and tastes by immediately attempting to take control of what is happening.

The same is true for psychological or emotional threats. These threats trigger our emotions rather than our senses. The more attuned a person is to their emotions, the easier it is for them to accurately identify the nature of the emotional threat, to gain control of the situation and to restore safety.

When you encounter anyone who is controlling a situation, then it’s safe to assume that they are feeling either physically or emotionally threatened.

If a physical threat causes physical pain, does an emotional threat cause emotional pain?

That’s right! Additionally, physical threats are usually the result of something that’s outside of us and emotion threats usually come from within.

What possibly can a person or a group of people do that could trigger emotional pain within you – what are the emotional equivalents for pain resulting from a sharp object, a treacherous fall, freezing or burning, ingesting a toxic substance or being attacked?

It turns out that there’s been one experience that can cause you emotional pain. Here are several words commonly used to describe the primary source of emotional or psychological pain: isolation, separation, disconnection, rejection, exclusion or being ostracised.

If you encounter a person who is being controlling (or if you notice that you are trying to control your environment) when there is no physical threat present, they (you) are reacting to a fear of disconnection.

You can support people who are controlling (and you can support yourself when you’re controlling) by finding healthy ways to connect. Avoid criticism and judgement because these increase separation.