Chapter 44-Devera (“Bee”)
Devera is a single female in her mid to late 20’s. She has never been married and does not have any children. Devera works as an exotic entertainer. If the legal age for working such a job is 18 or 21 years old, she then has been entertaining for around 6 or 7 years. From observing her, it is difficult to tell if she developed her expertise over time, whether she is just a natural at it, or a combination of both. One might take a moment to consider all of the hard work and good timing it takes to do a job like this and be successful at it, as well. For example, she has to make herself look desirable and she has to have the ability to draw men (and women) in. She not only has to hold their attention for a sustained amount of time to keep them in the club long enough to buy drinks, but also to entice them into giving her money. While this may be considered a relatively easy task, one has to remember that Devera is not the only entertainer in the room while she is performing. Often there are several stages with other women competing for the same amount of attention and monetary reward. Beyond this, if she is not able to pull in enough money, the owner of the club will receive less money and, as a result, she may find herself unemployed.
Just like any other service industry, Devera does provide a service and just like most people, she works very hard for her pay. I am not justifying or placing any judgment on what she does for a living. I am not condoning or condemning this type of living. I am merely trying to explain how difficult a job like this can be. Like most jobs, there is probably a fair amount of stress involved. Beyond this, many of the entertainers are very competitive. Because of the pressure to bring paying customers in and keep them, if you are not on top of your game you may fall short. That is not to mention how the clientele must be. Many customers--male or female--are rude, disrespectful, abusive, and tight-fisted. Trying to get a measly dollar or two out of their hands may not be an easy thing to do.
Because this type of entertainment is so prevalent and because many people are out to exploit the entertainers, one might wonder why there isn’t a union to provide insurance benefits and a pension program. After all, these entertainers incur risk just like people in other fields. However, this is not the reality. The reality is that many people who frequent these places or operate them are looking for two things--sex and money. The chances of an entertainer actually meeting another person who is sincere and can be trusted is probably extremely rare.
Devera is competitive. She is aggressive. She is a great entertainer. On stage she appears very natural. Despite some of the disrespectful clientele, Devera enjoys entertaining. Perhaps she dances because she wants to or because she hasn’t had many other opportunities. Perhaps she is searching for some sense of direction in her life, which can be difficult. Even though she is a great entertainer and enjoys entertaining people, she is no fool. She is street wise and savvy. Devera is complicated. On the one hand she is very worldly, but maybe at the same time she is also very innocent. It might be interesting to ask where she sees herself in five years. Perhaps she will own her own club.
As far as making money, she is one of the best. She probably makes more money than most of the other entertainers. She is bold and ambitious. On stage and at the club she is not shy. One might say that she is not ashamed or easily embarrassed. A more astute observer might say that she has sociopathic tendencies. Devera appears like she’s always moving forward. Perhaps like many exotic entertainers, Devera has become desensitized to the world around her. On stage she appears to take what she wants and does not have a strong need for remorse. On the surface, Devera is very confident and sure of herself. While on the surface Devera is very arrogant and self-centered, underneath she can be quite insecure. Some of her insecurities may rise from comparing herself to some of the other entertainers out there, as she does not have the most physically perfect body. But she tries to make the most of what she has. While some dancers are truly blessed with what would appear to be perfect bodies, perfect hair, and beauty, some others might be considered less than blessed, like Devera.
Regardless of physical characteristics, they still have to put up with clients who are rude, degrading, cruel, and insensitive. Devera is tough, though. One would have to be to do what they do night after night just to earn a living. Perhaps she is looking for acceptance. Beyond all this, most of them probably understand that their time is limited. There are always younger, prettier, or more handsome entertainers coming into the field.
Outside of her world of dance, Devera has a far more interesting and private side that not a lot of people know about. Devera is a dominatrix. Apparently, she is very successful at this as well. She is very careful about who she invites into her secret world. She has many layers to her personality. She can act like a kitten. If she feels that she has been crossed or taken advantage of, she will roar like a lioness. Her need for control and to appear independent of other people is extreme. Devera loves to take walks in the woods. She loves a thunderstorm. She loves to pamper herself. She also, more than anything else in the world, loves to dominate and control people--both males and females. Before she invites them into her secret world, she generally tries to learn a little about the person first. If she feels confident enough with that person, she will next attempt to enlist him or her to join this secret world. Her means of recruiting men and women into her world of domination is extremely subtle and shrewd. Most of the recruits to be clients, servants, or slaves come from the club. At the end of her shift, Devera begins walking the room. She may have a seat at the bar or if the room is full go on the hunt. She is very skillful at sizing people up to see if they will be one of her “lucky ones.” While she has probably never had any formal training in psychology, she is a master at finding and luring in people who are generally very passive in nature. When she picks someone, she will test him or her so carefully and skillfully that it is difficult for the person to tell that he or she is being tested.
Chapter 34-Dating Services
According to an article in Accountancy (2003), major expansion in the dating service industry is anticipated in the United Kingdom in the 21st century. An article in Fortune magazine (1997) reported that there are more than 200 websites that offer personal ads online. Over 300 million dollars are spent on personal ads according to their estimations. The report goes on to say that printed personal ads are now offered in an online format on the websites of over 50 newspapers in the U.S. and that some are beginning to develop their own databases. The Financial Times (2003) reports that competition among online dating services is fierce and that many new and existing services are doing everything they can to cash in on this phenomenon. According to the article, in the U.K. alone there are more than 10 million single people, so one of the most recognized dating services in the U.S. is now going international to compete against other dating services there and in Germany and France. In an article in New London Age (2006), it was reported that new dating services are emerging every day in an attempt to get their slice of the pie. Forbes (2006) reports that one dating service is receiving 1700 phone calls daily from consumers who are looking for advice on how to improve their personal online advertisements and relationship skills. The article states that matchmaking on the Web has become a $500 million dollar industry. According to an article in New Media Age (2006), a dating service’s capacity to collect data on single people is critical to the company’s ability to achieve financial success.
There’s no doubt all these dating services court the consumers’ dollars, but is there also an attempt to control these consumers? Many online dating services get people to join by offering the opportunity to create a free profile. Most of them make it very easy to subscribe--all one has to do is simply look at the boxes and point and click. Some services attempt to hook the consumer by offering free trial periods, and if within that trial period the subscriber is not completely satisfied, they offer an additional six months of service for free. Some dating services in their attempts to control a subscriber offer electronic services like the ability to send and receive emails and instant messages. Many claim that subscribing will be safe, fun, exciting, romantic, and exhilarating. Some in their attempts to control the consumer offer the promise of meeting people who are “authentic.” The definition of authentic? Many services display pictures of happy looking couples in passionate embraces to project the feeling of satisfaction. Some services claim to match people together based upon personality profiles. At least one service that is specifically geared toward offering the promise of sexual gratification allows subscribers to show explicit photos of themselves that leave little or nothing to the imagination. They encourage subscribers to use names designed to arouse other potential subscribers all in an attempt to get their consumers to spend. According to an article in Woman and Earth (1998), some companies under the guise of a dating service encourage the promotion of global trafficking of women from all parts of the world. At least one service offers completely free dating services with no charge whatsoever. There is not much that dating services do not appear to offer. On many of the services subscribers are allowed to rate themselves. One might consider for a moment whether that process might be considered somewhat subjective. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see how a person’s former boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse might rate the person and then compare it with the original rating? How many would actually rate their own shortcomings, assuming that they believe they have any in the first place?
To gain as much control of the financial pie as possible, many dating services claim that they can match single people on many different levels. One might want to consider whether this form of arranged matching of personal factors might not take the fun out of gradually getting to know someone anyway. Perhaps some consumers, in their hurried attempt to create a sense of control in their lives, don’t feel that they should have to take the time that might be needed to find the perfect mate. When one sees all of these ads in local newspapers, magazines, and online, it makes you wonder why someone decides to go the personal ad route in the first place. People may attempt to gain control in their lives by looking for things like financial security, sex, or good looks. In an article in Management Today (2005), desperation was also reported to be a factor. The article described having to place a personal ad as embarrassing. Dating services are being used by approximately six million people under the age of 55 in the U.K., the article says.
Many services also tout the promise of a long-term, meaningful relationship. In one advertisement, it was noted that those only interested in casual dating need not apply. One has to wonder if the service is looking for people who are serious about a relationship or serious about spending money. Some services warn their potential subscribers not to be anxious and invite them to be imaginative. At least one online service uses one of television’s top-rated television psychologists in its ads. Many ads claim that finding the perfect mate will be easy and will require little or no effort. Consumers are led to believe that marriage in and of itself will somehow solve all of their predicaments. Many services claim that they are solely responsible for putting together hundreds or thousands of people. With all this success, you’d think they’d be put out of business.
To the public, dating services may seem like perfect, innocent, and wonderful opportunities to find true love or that special person of your dreams. This is certainly what they purport to do--find any individual the perfect mate. Their advertisements are very sleek, sexy, alluring, and give hundreds of thousands of single people the hope or belief that if they pay a certain amount of money, they will find the ideal mate. While there may be a few success stories, in general the services are much like the gambling casinos that only report the winnings, not the thousands and thousands of losses. In these cases, individuals often find nothing but disappointment and frustration. If finding true love or happiness were as easy as simply paying a fee, everyone would be happy. Dating services bank on this falsehood just like drug companies try to convince people that losing weight and keeping it off permanently is as easy as taking a pill.
Chapter 30-Malika (“Industrious” or “striving”)
The next two chapters are about Malika (a woman who for some time has allowed herself to be controlled) and her very controlling boyfriend Mojog. While their stories are in many ways very connected, they are at the same time two very different people. Mojag’s methods of control are so sophisticated and refined, I have decided to give Mojag his own chapter. This first chapter is Malika’s story.
Malika is an only child in her mid 20’s who works as a clothing designer in a fairly large metropolitan city. She is originally from Europe and her parents still live abroad. Malika has been living in the US for approximately the last six years. She is attractive, dependable, capable, intelligent, and very mature for her age. She is the type of person who tries to take care of herself. Malika loves food and music. When she is at the beach, she is almost always dressed nicely. Her clothes appear very neat and well cared for. She is the type of person who enjoys socializing with others. Malika is trustworthy. She is honest about just about everything except for her feelings. As a clothing designer she is very creative, talented, and a hard worker. She often puts in 12 hour days providing fittings for women of every kind of fashion that you can possibly think of. Malika is very good in a field with few qualified colleagues. Her skills are very much in demand even though the pay itself is relatively poor compared to most jobs. She earns enough to afford a very modest one bedroom apartment and little else. There are actually two people living off her salary, as she supports her boyfriend Mojag as well. He recently turned 30 years old, but has no job and has not worked for at least three years since he met Malika. During the summer, when he is not sleeping from an over-indulgence of self-medication, he is content to do nothing but sit at the local beach and drink, smoke, and partake in as many recreational drugs that he, or Malika, can afford. During the winter months, he stays at home and does the same while Malika works.
This has been a great source of frustration and unhappiness for Malika. Mojag is also extremely emotionally abusive. Despite the fact that she provides his daily food (whenever he wants it) and a place to live, he is unappreciative, degrading, and manipulative. He insults and berates her whenever she is in his presence, and even more when she is not. When she is not around, he very casually refers to her as “Hitler.” At times, Mojag’s verbal abuse in public is so severe that Malika is reduced to tears or she often pretends that she has not heard his rude and hurtful comments. When Mojag’s criticism is too intense or unbearable, rather than get into a full scale argument in public, Malika will usually withdraw from the encounter, sit by herself, take a walk, or join in conversation with other people who happen to be sitting around. When these methods do not work, Malika will usually begin to drink or partake in recreational drugs. For the most part, Malika appears to be very much in denial about her relationship with Mojag. In public, she presents herself as a very tough woman. Her ability to pretend that nothing is wrong is at times profound. Sadly, on the inside, she is allowing herself to be torn to pieces.
When they are together, they appear unhappy and often argue. The likely reason that he has not abused Malika physically is that she would probably call the police or stop supporting him. If Malika were to break up with him, he would be forced to get a job, pay his own bills, and grow up.
In a healthy, non-controlling relationship, when one person decides to support the other, it is usually because the latter is either going to school or in some other way trying to better himself or herself. The support that one person gives is usually only temporary so that the couple will in turn do better together. In a healthy, non-controlling relationship, the goal would be to be supportive of each other and at the same time be happy with what each one is doing. At this point in his life, Mojag has no desire to do anything but party with friends. He not only has little direction, but he is very verbally abusive towards Malika.
Malika has made several attempts at getting him to change. She has tried talking to his mother. She has tried talking to him. She has tried yelling at him. Malika knows that she has a great deal of difficulty saying “no” when it comes to Mojag. She feels incapable (at least at this point in her life) of saying the magic word. Despite allowing herself to be publicly and privately abused verbally and emotionally, Malika is not an unintelligent woman. She is very bright and in many ways a very strong person--just not with Mojag.
Chapter 16-Cosmetic/Plastic Surgery and Other Body Issues
Cosmetic/plastic surgery has without a doubt become very prevalent in today’s society. There are commercials, discovery programs, and even weekly television dramas on the subject. A few questions the reader may want to consider are: 1) How necessary is the cosmetic/plastic surgery? and 2) How much is sufficient? Much of that depends upon what kind of surgery is being done and the reasons for having it. Certainly, not all forms of cosmetic or plastic surgery are unnecessary. An individual may have at one time been badly blistered or injured in an accident. An individual may have been born with or developed a physical abnormality and in some cases cosmetic or corrective surgery can be extremely beneficial, almost a miracle.
The problem is that in many cases the individual who may actually need it the most often does not have the means to afford it. At the same time, there are many individuals who can afford it, but may require it the least. One could argue that if an individual has the money to pay for it, that this is a free country and that if he or she so desires, he or she can have it done. My goal here is not to be judgmental of people who can afford it or who have it done, but to make the reader think about the instances in which surgery might not be necessary. My goal is to help the reader think about whether the decision to have cosmetic/plastic surgery is really done to help a situation or merely because a television commercial or infomercial, magazine ad, or television drama convinces someone that they need something that they don’t really. Certainly, anyone who was born with or develops a physical abnormality (either through natural causes or an accident) may experience feelings of insecurity or low self-esteem. In this example those feelings are completely justified. In many cases a physical abnormality may be very painful. One would think that in these kinds of situations, cosmetic or plastic surgery would not only be appropriate, but necessary. However, what about the hundreds of thousands of operations that are done for primarily cosmetic reasons? Again, the main question to consider is whether the surgery is necessary at all?
Prior to cosmetic surgery (even when it could be considered unnecessary or inappropriate), individuals may report that they are experiencing feelings of insecurity, dissatisfaction, or unhappiness with their bodies. A question to consider is how genuine these feelings are. Are they real or have they been perpetuated by television or magazine ads? Another question to consider is, what other methods or opportunities are there out there that may actually have a much more powerful and lasting effect? What other options might a person have besides cosmetic surgery? It has been said that true change comes from within. What kinds of opportunities might a teenager or adult engage in to change those feelings in a more realistic, genuine, and lasting way?
The sad part is that these thoughts of dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or inferiority are often quickly and mercilessly preyed upon by those entities that perform cosmetic/plastic surgery. Whether or not the plastic surgeon can be blamed is sometimes questionable because often it is the client who solicits the surgeon. Nowadays a doctor can get sued for anything. Ideally, one would think that it is up to the surgeon to help the client decide whether the surgery is necessary or being done for frivolous reasons. There are probably many cases in which a doctor tries to talk a patient out of having surgery that is not needed. In the film “Singles,” Bridget Fonda’s character contemplates whether to have breast implants and if the decision to do so will make her more attractive to men. Ultimately, the plastic surgeon talks her out of it and convinces her that she is really a whole and complete woman without the implants. One has to wonder how often this happens in real life. After all, if the surgeon is getting paid for the operation (particularly when there is a substantial amount of money involved), could you expect him or her to be totally objective? Yet, for whatever reason, the individual may be so adamant about having it done that he or she finds someone else to perform the surgery. Still, there are thousands of entities that perform cosmetic/plastic surgery throughout the country and the world. Many of them advertise with the dream of a better and happier you. This is a prime example of how entities that perform cosmetic surgery often prey on a client’s anxieties and insecurities.
Many of these entities try to convince people that all of their problems, worries, and negative thoughts about themselves, their bodies, and their self-image will be gone after the surgery. In reality, as many individuals have found out the hard way, once cosmetic/plastic surgery is performed (particularly when it is unnecessary), many of their problems actually begin. ABC’s news program “20/20” recently aired a program about women who had gone to Europe to save money on breast implants. According to the program, many of the women felt as if they had been terribly butchered and abused by the surgery. The Discovery Channel also regularly has programs about cosmetic/plastic surgery. After watching some of the programs, it appears that the surgery itself can be some of the most costly, intrusive, painful, and risky procedures ever performed. According to patient interviews six to 12 months after the surgery, the amount of internal change that was attained after the body had been intruded upon by collagen injections, liposuction, excessive breast augmentation, or thigh or tummy tucks appears to be minuscule and temporary at best. In many cases, the patient still appeared to be alone and not very happy with his or her personal life. In many cases, rather than having opted for cosmetic surgery, an individual might have considered or been provided with other opportunities for change, be it therapy, direction, emotional support, nutritional information, or a combination of each.
Chapter 15-Reed (“Red-haired” or “ruddy-skinned”)
Reed’s story might be considered both happy and sad. If one knew Reed, even just slightly, one might not help but smile. However, that might depend upon how one knew Reed. For other people, the thought of Reed might make them begin cursing or screaming out loud. Reed has an uncanny ability to make some people happy and at the same time be the cause of extreme frustration for others. There certainly appears to be at least two sides to him. Reed would be the first to tell you that he is the way he is (that there is a kind of “duality” to his personality) because he was born under the sign of Gemini. Then again, Reed believes that just about everything that happens to him can be explained in terms of astrology.
Some people take horoscopes very seriously and some do not. For many people like Reed, the study of astrology is a very serious thing. Reed reads his horoscopes on a daily basis in an attempt to predict what will happen to him. Horoscopes often say things like “this (or that) will happen to you soon,” or “you will soon meet someone who is going to affect your life” “you are about to do something that will change your life.” If you take the time to think about these statements, they are very general types of sentences that could apply to almost anyone at anytime. For some people, the need for control is so strong that he or she will make every effort to find out exactly what will happen next in life. Some people pay an awful lot of money to have their charts read on a daily or monthly basis so that they can figure out their future. PBS recently aired a program called “Secrets of the Psychics.” The famous psychologist James Randy tried to disprove people who claim to be psychics, faith healers, or others who say that they can predict the future. Skeptics like Randy argue that horoscopes are written in such a generalized manner that they can apply to almost anyone, at any time, and for almost any situation. In the beginning of the program, he had a group of college students read what they thought were their horoscopes. The students were led to believe that they were each reading a horoscope specifically designed for them. He then asked how many believed that the horoscope really represented them. All of the students raised their hands. After this, he asked the students to hand their horoscope to some one else in the room. As it turned out, each had been reading the same horoscope. It is not my goal to tell people whether to believe horoscopes, as everyone can make up his or her own mind. Some people feel that horoscopes do a very good job of describing them. The concern is when the need for control becomes so strong that people are willing to risk everything based upon what a horoscope says. Even if horoscopes do have the ability to predict certain things from time to time, doesn’t that take some of the mystery out of life? If you think about it, one of the most exciting things is that we do not know who we are going to meet, who we are going to marry, what we will become, or what will happen in life. Think about how boring and mundane life would be if we really could predict everything. Yet, Reed’s need for control is so strong that he will make every effort to find out what is going to happen to him next based upon what his horoscope says that day. Since he cannot afford to have expensive monthly charts developed (because he spends almost every penny he has on buying lottery tickets), Reed uses the horoscopes in the local paper to help him predict which numbers to pick and whether or not he will win the lotto.
Like many people if you take the time to look under the surface, Reed is complicated. Some consider him one of the kindest and most gentle souls that you could ever meet. Others think he is one of the most annoying, abrasive, or irritating individuals that you could ever meet. Reed is in his late 50’s and is a U.S. veteran. After graduating high school, he attended college for one year to learn how to make blueprints and then dropped out. He was then drafted into the Vietnam War.
If you were to offer him a ride home, drop him off near his warehouse, take him to the Veterans’ Hospital, or to the nearest casino, and he happened to have an extra buck or two, he would very likely offer to buy you a beer or an inexpensive lunch. While Reed is absolutely convinced that his condition of hoarding things is the result of his experience in Vietnam, it appears instead to be the result of an anxiety disorder that may have developed when Reed was younger. Just exactly when he started collecting and storing useless objects is difficult to tell—all Reed knows is that it happened sometime after he came back. Prior to being drafted, he really had no opportunity to do it. Reed believes that if he sold every piece of junk for 25 cents per item, he could walk away from the whole thing with approximately $25,000.00 cash in his pocket. If you needed help moving, he would very likely help you provided his back was not bothering him too much that day; Reed experiences chronic back pain. However, that is most likely because he is always trying to carry very heavy objects, like old televisions, refrigerators, stoves, other large appliances, or anything he finds on the street that he thinks can be repaired and possibly resold. If it was a Wednesday or Saturday night and you were to ask Reed for one of his last dollars, he would very likely refuse you in favor of a lotto ticket.
Reed is a junk dealer by trade. Because he is a veteran, he does receive a small monetary benefit (in the form of disability) from the government. Beyond this, his only source of income is what money he generates from his junk shop. From time to time he may make a sale. On rare occasions, he may actually make a profit on a sale even though it is almost always a very small one. In many cases, he will reluctantly wind up giving an item away or sell it at a loss. When Reed is able to make a sale, he usually uses the money to buy a lotto scratch off ticket. Reed loves to play the lotto. His biggest dream in life is that someday he will buy the winning ticket.
Chapter 12-Kali (“Black goddess” or “time, the destroyer”)
As most people would agree, beauty, for all of the attention that it receives in society, is only skin deep. As most people have learned in life, beauty, true beauty, comes from within. If you were to look only on the surface, the average person might consider Kali an attractive person. If you were to define beauty in terms of trust, empathy, and compassion for other people, one might find her beauty more difficult to detect. If you were to define intelligence in terms of being able to understand other people and things, one could argue that Kali is a fairly intelligent person too. However, if you were to define intelligence in terms of self-awareness--the ability to understand one’s self or be able to relate to others--one might think that Kali is somewhat challenged.
Kali is in her early to mid 30’s. She was born into an affluent family and has always been financially very well off. For approximately eight years, Kali held a professional position in a large metropolitan educational system. After approximately seven years Kali was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol twice within a month and lost her driver’s license. About seven months later she lost her job. Why she went to school or why she decided to pursue a career in an educational system is somewhat unclear. Her position has status and could have been considered somewhat upper level. In general, Kali was assigned the duties of helping or supporting educationally handicapped individuals. In her eight years of service, she put forth very little effort towards the duties that she was assigned. It appears that Kali went to school and took the job for two main reasons: 1) as a means of attaining rank or standing, and 2) to avoid responsibility versus really having an intrinsic desire to work with children or adults. Kali’s motivations to pursue the social sciences and psychology or to study behavior in general appear much more to be an attempt to outwit, manipulate, or attain control over people (at least from a social or psychological perspective). One could argue that her interests in such topics were or are entirely self-serving.
As is usually the case with people like Kali, when put in charge of other people, they attempt to manipulate, control, and micro-manage everyone and everything. Their worlds are so chaotic internally that they become destructive and a source of great discomfort for those who question their ethics or procedures. Fortunately, at least for now, Kali has not expressed much of a desire to become a supervisor or administrator. In many cases, people who seek supervisory or administrative positions often do not do so because of an inherent desire to lead or provide support for others, but merely to control them. She has however (on several occasions) expressed a desire to attain a higher degree than she currently holds. Sadly, this is not based on an intrinsic desire to help others or to learn about herself, but merely to attain more social or political status.
As mentioned, on the surface most people might consider Kali physically attractive, intelligent, at times fun, and somewhat creative. Under the surface, a majority of her life is controlled by insecurity. How or when Kali originally developed these feelings of lack of confidence is unclear. In order to suppress these extreme feelings, Kali frequently consumes alcohol and other substances to excess. When individuals use a substance to control their feelings (be it anxiety, anger, frustration, depression), they often report that while under the influence they feel invincible and could accomplish anything. The feelings of insecurity or inferiority seem to disappear as long as they are under the influence.
Insecurity or inferiority can be so deep-seated and so powerful that many individuals when they are not under the influence often report feeling completely incompetent or useless despite the fact that they are very talented, creative, and highly effective in a variety of settings. If they are eventually able to take the time to examine their lives, feelings, and perceptions thoroughly, they may remember that they do have talents and skills and that in many ways they are exceptional. The feelings of insecurity or inferiority may come from any number of sources (family members, friends, colleagues). These feelings may be learned or may come from within. Recognizing forgotten truths about oneself which can ultimately lead one to freedom or the ability to “let go” can take some time and effort.
Learning to understand oneself may depend upon motivation. Kali, at least at this point in her life, does not appear very motivated to look inside herself. Mentally it could be argued that internally she experiences a significant amount of chaos and this is reflected in her excessive need to control other people and things. With regard to finances and material possessions, Kali is very well off. Many people who are well off still take the time to invest in self-examination. Some are very good at controlling their fortunes rather than letting their fortunes control them. Kali often appears jovial and happy-go-lucky. Under the surface, however, she is one of the most unhappy, anxious, and controlling individuals you could ever meet. Perhaps some of her feelings are learned, while some might be internal.
Until an individual decides to find help, many may in an attempt to mask their feelings experience extreme forms of consumption in the form of alcoholism or drug addiction. If an individual is unable or unwilling to change or to learn to control his or her feelings, the next easiest option is to attempt to control the things in the external world. At most meetings that deal with substance abuse, the first acknowledgment is for the individual to admit that he or she is no longer in control and that the addiction or attempt for control should be given over to a higher power--whatever that higher power may be for that individual.
In many cases when an individual is experiencing alcoholism, drug addiction, or other compulsions, there are usually varying degrees of depression or sadness mixed in. However, in Kali’s situation the problem primarily appears to involve major feelings of insecurity and inferiority. While Kali also appears to experience degrees of sadness, those feelings seem to be initially preceded by feelings of inferiority or lack of self-worth. At what point in her life did Kali become so insecure or learn to think that she is inferior to other people? What event could have taken place to make her think that she needed to excessively control other people and things? Was it because of emotional neglect or abuse on one or both of her parents’ parts? Perhaps her parents experienced some type of personal challenges themselves. Personal, social, emotional, medical, or financial challenges can occur whether the child is six years old, 16, or 26. At various points in a parent’s life, he or she may simply be unwilling or unable to provide emotional support at key times in the child’s development.
There are many examples of attempts at control--unhealthy, severe, and, at times, abusive--in the workplace, including the public sector, educational institutions, corporate settings, various company settings, restaurants, and businesses large and small. While unhealthy forms of control can exist at just about any level, there is often a tendency for particularly unhealthy forms of control to exist at the levels of upper management, supervisory positions, or at the level of administration. In particular, whenever you find a manager or administrator who micro-manages, and every little thing around them, it can often mean that the people in these higher level positions have little or no idea what they are doing. Perhaps they were never properly trained on how to be administrators or managers, have extremely poor social skills, have great difficulty relating to other people, or were very poor employees to begin with. Yet, somehow they were given upper level positions. Incompetent, micro-managing administrators and managers often like to surround themselves with people who are equally incompetent, but who will “kiss up to” them or agree with everything they say. The important thing to remember about control is that the more an individual has an excessive need to exert control over external things (other people or things), the more chaotic it is for that individual internally (mentally, psychologically). There is a big difference between excessive forms of control and structure, or even direction for that matter. My discussion on work also involves a discussion on school settings because in some ways, a work environment is similar to a classroom. For example, you have a teacher or a boss, and you have students or employees who get graded or rewarded in terms of their performance. A good boss, like a good teacher, should within a reasonable amount of time be able to tell which employees require some support and which ones perform better independently. In an ideal setting, employees or students who desire more support would be provided with a work environment or classroom where they feel comfortable enough to ask for support if they need it. In unhealthy work environments and classrooms (ones which are run by intolerant and controlling bosses or instructors), employees or students who request more support are penalized or unfairly judged as incompetent.
Some people have a high need for structure and will thrive when provided with it (perhaps because it helps them direct and sustain their attention), while others prefer an unstructured setting. What I am really referring to is that certain employers (particularly in higher level management or administrative positions) and teachers have an excessive need to control and micro-manage others because they themselves are either untrained, unskilled, uneducated, inept, or all of the above.
Many micro-managers experience elevated levels of anxiety. Their level of internal chaos becomes highly apparent when the people that they are trying to micro-manage or control are very skilled, competent, and intelligent employees who know exactly how to do their jobs. In this type of scenario, the micro-managers become a nuisance, an interference, an irritant and often turn smooth running situations into very inefficient and unproductive ones. In a sense, they create chaos where there was once order. They often have the ‘my way or no way’ approach to everything. Any deviation in their master plan becomes a great source of anxiety. Many of these bosses or administrators show little or no respect for the excellent and efficient work that they themselves could never replicate. When a problem arises, they usually point the finger, blame or fire employees rather than offer support, or take the time to understand the situation. They often make quick-handed, snap judgments and decisions. By refusing to take the time to understand the situation, which is often the result of their own inability to solve problems, the situation is often left to repeat itself.
Some people believe that success in life is really the result of luck rather than hard work. They may also believe that most of the things that happen to them are beyond their control--that they have little or no power to make any decisions that will affect or improve their life. On the other hand, some people believe that success is really the result of hard work. Most people who have an excessive need to control other people and things believe that their successes are always the result of their hard work (maybe mixed with a touch of luck), and that failure is always someone else’s fault. Controlling bosses rarely take responsibility for their mistakes. As mentioned, when things do not go their way they perceive themselves as the victims. Bosses or people who have an excessive need to control others generally lead pretty chaotic lives internally.
Chapter 5-Taurean (“Bull”)
Taurean is in his mid to late 50’s. For approximately 30 years he worked as a mental health professional and at one time taught class at a large metropolitan university. Except for an occasional evaluation or referral, he is now retired. At this point in his life, he can work as much as he decides to. He and his wife have been married for approximately 35 years. They have two grown children--a daughter in her early 20’s and a son in his late 20’s. In their own ways, both children are very successful. In terms of academic success, Taurean and his wife appear to have worked very hard raising their two children. Their daughter is attending graduate school and their son is a successful businessman. Taurean’s wife is a university instructor. On the surface the family appears to be fairly happy and successful, but underneath there appears to be something amiss. Taurean may publicly appear to be happy, but with further investigation, it appears that Taurean has at this point in his life lost a sense of control. His method of regaining control over certain parts of his life is interesting. For several years, Taurean has been having extramarital affairs.
In a professional setting, Taurean is reserved and serious. In a social setting, he appears much more happy-go-lucky. His two children and his wife appear relatively unaffected by Taurean’s behavior or the way he has attempted to take control of his life. Perhaps they are not aware. Perhaps his wife no longer cares. In public, Taurean presents as the perfect father and husband: supportive, caring, thoughtful, and accommodating. One might think that when two people have a relationship for that long, and one (or possibly both) decides to have an extra-marital affair, there is a suspicion that the other person knows. For example, one spouse may feel ignored. He or she may feel anxious. One may somehow feel off balance. All of that may depend upon how long the partner has been having the affair and its extent. Women seem particularly sensitive to such suspicions, whether you want to call it intuition or a just gut feeling. The spouse or partner having the affair may begin to act unusually, perhaps in an attempt to compensate for the guilt or anxiety he or she is experiencing. In their attempts to compensate, the person having the affair may look anxious or disingenuous in some way. How much guilt or anxiety the person feels depends upon how much of a need for guilt or anxiety he or she has. Most marital counselors will argue that it is better to divorce rather than have an affair. But perhaps he feels justified in having the affairs. That may depend upon why he decided to have them in the first place. Was it for revenge? Did it involved abuse? Neglect? It is not my intention to argue whether Taurean is justified in his behavior, I am merely attempting to explain it.
Taurean enjoys music and on occasion will attend musical events with his children. In social settings, it does not appear that Taurean’s wife and children have any clue as to what goes on in Taurean’s private life. In public, Taurean and his wife present as a relatively happy, congenial couple. Whether to friends, close friends, or immediate or extended family members, everything with Taurean’s marriage appears relatively normal. Among his male friends, Taurean is generally thought of as easy-going person and not one who is particularly controlling. His methods of attracting women or gaining control of his sex life are, to say the least, interesting and at times almost comical. At the same time, they could be thought of as sad and desperate. One could argue that Taurean’s behavior is not necessarily affecting or hurting anyone but himself. On the other hand, his behavior is putting his marriage (or what is left of it) and his wife’s health in jeopardy. Although they have been married for over 35 years, Taurean and his wife have not been intimate with each other for a long, long time.
Taurean worked for approximately 30 years before retiring. His relationship with other employees is generally unknown. Taurean seemed to be well liked by his other male co-workers. He was generally considered to be knowledgeable and well educated. He appears to have tolerated if not enjoyed his work. For at least 25 of his 30 years of employment, Taurean practiced mental health. Readers’ immediate reaction to hearing that Taurean provided mental help to others might be “why would anyone take the advice of a mental health professional who appears to have just as many problems as myself?” That may be considered a valid point. For example, how can a mental health professional help someone if he or she is unable to solve his or her own problems? It is one thing to be able to understand others; it is quite another to understand yourself. Many people appear to have a fairly good knowledge of people and the world, but they may have great difficulty in understanding themselves. That is not to imply that understanding yourself is always an easy thing to do. It can take a lot of effort and time. Perhaps this is what scholars refer to as wisdom--understanding yourself. Think about it. How many people really take the time to understand themselves. One could argue that Taurean (like any other mental health professional) is a human being, and as a human being, he experiences the same challenges as any other individual. Mental health professionals have the same trials and tribulations that anyone else experiences. However, mental health professionals are expected to act in a certain manner and are often judged under different and much more stringent expectations. Expectations like this are intended so no one attempts to take advantage of a patient or causes some type of harm if the therapist is unable to help. Mental health professionals have their own professional set of ethics and principals that they are required to follow. In Taurean’s case, perhaps it is like a carpenter or electrician who never has time to work on repairing and improving his or her own home. Perhaps his need to help his clients, his family, and his friends took precedent over helping himself. Taurean may have forgotten to work on himself because of time, money, or denial. Even though Taurean is a mental health professional, he can at times be insensitive, arrogant, or worst of all controlling. One might think that a man whose profession depends upon how well he can communicate with people and help them understand their predicaments might not be experiencing these kinds of challenges. Taurean, like the father in “An American Beauty,” feels unwanted and unappreciated. It is hard to say at which point Taurean and his wife decided to give up on the marriage. Why did his wife stop sleeping with him? Why does any woman decide to stop sleeping with a man? While there are many different reasons, one would have to think that the main reason is unhappiness. Perhaps Taurean’s wife felt unsatisfied.
I remember as a child playing in the park. Along the outer perimeter the park was surrounded by a slow moving and muddy river. During the summer when the river was shallow, you could practically walk across it without getting much more than the soles of your tennis shoes wet. Occasionally, I would observe a little stream perhaps only an inch or two wide that was still a part of the river (part of the world), but trying to make its own small path or way on the edge of the bank. I remember taking a tiny pebble and setting it in the center of the little stream. Not much happened. The water continued to flow over or around the pebble. Next, I’d take a little stone and set it next to the pebble as the water continued to flow. Then, another stone, and another one until it appeared as if the water had been blocked up. I’d watch as the stream slowly built into a tiny puddle and eventually a larger one. In time, if the water flowed strongly enough, a small pond would form. I would sit and watch as the water kept backing up. Eventually, the water would find a tiny space in the rocks and begin to trickle through. Watching closely, I’d get some more stones or rocks and perhaps use some mud or twigs to help dam up the tiny stream. For a time, a few minutes or perhaps 10, you could look at the little dam and think to yourself, “I did it, I did it...I stopped the water from flowing through.” I’d sit back and wonder at the tiny but almost meaningless accomplishment. Perhaps my amazement at this deed was only curiosity or experimental play. As I sat and looked around and marveled at the beauty of the summer day, my attention would eventually be drawn back to the tiny dam. Something had happened. No matter how many rocks, sticks, stones, and mud I used, no matter how hard I tried, the water kept trying to find a way and eventually did. Whether the water pressure from behind eventually built up and caused an overflow or the water found its way around either side, it continued to flow. It somehow always found a way.
Chapter 2-Suri (“Knife”)
On the surface, Suri is a friendly, generous, outgoing person. Her happy-go-lucky exterior is entirely dependent upon whether or not everything and everyone fits carefully into her own master plan of what is and what should be. Any deviation from her expectations or her agenda will create a sense of panic, instability, or chaos for Suri. Her living conditions either consciously or unconsciously have become a prison, a safe and protective environment for her as long as she is able to control everyone and everything around her. But they prevent her from having to face any sense of change or engage in any type of self-reflection. Anything or anyone that may force Suri to examine her own motivations, behavior, or excessive need for control immediately becomes a great source of distress for her. Criticism in any way, shape, or form (even if it is constructive) will cause Suri to become even more isolated and withdrawn. No matter who we are or what we do in life, we all need to accept criticism in order to grow. Suri is the type of person who interprets criticism as an attack. What it represents for her is a sense of fear or loss of control.
For individuals who have an excessive need to control other people, any change in their social agendas, plans, or expectations becomes a great source of trepidation. Suri’s need to control and manipulate people may not necessarily be malicious, at least from her perspective. This chapter is written so that the reader can “recognize” how this kind of unhealthy relationship--malicious or not--can affect you in a negative way. Having a relationship with someone like Suri may initially seem innocent, but allowing yourself to develop friendships like this can often have an avalanche effect. When you allow these kinds of relationships to multiply, your life becomes constrained. It is the culmination of several people and things all at once that will, if you allow them, destroy your life, prevent you from self-actualizing, or thwart the development of sincere relationships with other people. In some cases, just one person or one thing can have a devastating effect on your life. If these kinds of relationships are preventing you from moving forward, now is the time to let go. Now is the time to walk away. Now is the time to free yourself. While many people like Suri are considered relatively harmless in terms of what they do with their lives, if you do not unplug from these types of people, they will consume you if you allow it. By walking away, you will open yourself up to opportunities that you never knew existed. Will walking away be easy? In many cases no. It will be difficult. The road to independence can be lonely and very challenging at times, but at least you will be free. When you wake up one day to find yourself free of controlling people or controlling relationships, you will not believe the energy you will find. After reading this book, you will no longer need to waste energy trying to please controlling people or expend energy trying to keep them at arm’s length. Once you unplug from people like Suri or anyone who has an excessive need for control, you will be able to use that energy to do whatever it is you dream of doing. You will now have the opportunity to meet new people and do things you never expected you could do. Even if the road to independence is lonely or rough at times, this is where you will find out who you really are and what you are made of. You will find your true character and realize your true potential. If you catch yourself slipping into your old ways and allowing controlling people back into your life, don’t give up. Try to be aware of it. Don’t beat yourself up but instead keep moving forward.
The problem with most people who try to control others is that they often act knowingly or unknowingly in an insensitive manner. Controlling people often try to tell you what you can or cannot do. They often try to interfere with your personal goals in their attempts to keep you near them. It is only when you confront these individuals about their insensitivity that they even remotely become aware of what they are doing. In most cases they react in complete surprise. Their initial reaction to anyone who finally confronts them (and this may be anyone who has been loving, supportive, and giving their whole life) is that the person is somehow being overly-sensitive, edgy, or irritable. The cases of women and men who have had to endure controlling spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners is endless.
The first thing most people with an excessive need for control will do is turn the whole situation around and attempt to make the person they are trying to control (often the wife or the girlfriend) feel guilty or at fault in some way. Most women who have had to endure a controlling boyfriend, husband, or partner have already put up with more abuse than anyone should take. It is when the woman (or man) being controlled finally says the magic word--“NO”-- that the control freak tries to turn the entire situation around on them. One of my goals in this book is to help those women and men who are being controlled in an unhealthy, degrading way stand up and reclaim a sense of self-respect and dignity for themselves.
The movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is initially thought of as just a light-hearted comedy about high school kids skipping school. At the end of the movie however, there is a very powerful scene that involves Ferris’s best friend Cameron (played by Alan Ruck). Cameron finally decides that he is not going to be controlled by the fear which prevents him from expressing his true feelings about his life and his family. Very similarly, at the end of the movie “Night Shift” (which again is often considered a simple comedy), Henry Winkler’s character eventually finds the strength to stand up for himself and finally says the magic word “NO.” There are countless other dramatic films in which an individual is inspired to stand up and say “NO.”
Copyright Library of Congress 2/22/07. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.
The Stories are real. The names have been changed