Why controlling others doesn’t work

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Last week we talked about types of controlling people. That was talked about so that we could set up today’s topic of why controlling a person is a path to suffering simply because it doesn’t work. No matter what you try, and how many tools you put in your arsenal you simply can’t control other people. Some people will allow them to be controlled for a while but they will not stay under your control for long.

Why It Creates Suffering

So why does trying to control people cause suffering? The reason is that we as humans have free will. We will follow people if they are inspiring. When that inspiration becomes control that is where the suffering begins not only for the person who is being controlled but for the person who is trying to control others. That free will starts to make its voice heard the more you try to suppress it. The more you fight against that free will the more you have other problems crop up. Those problems could be an addiction to alcohol, food, or some other illicit drug. People use addition as a tool to buffer from the suffering they are experiencing. Controlling people at times will also use these addictive substances as a means to make controlling easier.

Suffering is the resistance you have against what you deep down know is the path you need to go. If that is to walk away from a controlling relationship or that, you are resisting the want to quit smoking. The resistance is the friction that wears you down. You fight with not only yourself and what you don’t want to do but against the person who is manipulating you.

man hugging his knee statue

Take this example. Maybe your son is wanting to spend the next 6 months and go hike the Appalachian Trail. You know you are doing everything you can to have him go back to school and finish college. You have discussions, arguments, fights, spent time with no communication at all, and you have even gone as far as making threats idle and otherwise. He simply will not listen to reason. He has his mind made up and he wants to hike all 2200 miles of the trail. That frustration you both feel is suffering. The Anger that he won’t do what you want him to will cause you suffering. The fact that your son doesn’t have a stable adult to turn to is causing him suffering. He wants advice and guidance not because “I’m your dad”.

We claim that we suffer out of love, yet love isn’t supposed to be unpleasant. So you are going against what love is really about. You may care for your son but when he is an adult, your job isn’t to control him. It is to mentor him and give him guidance. Then stand back and let him use that advice as he see fit. He may take your advice and not take an ounce of it. If that is the case, you need to be OK with that. It isn’t your life it is your sons. You did just as much crazy advents as he wanting.

Then again it could it be that you did what you were told and you never got to on those bold and life-altering adventures. Are you holding him back simply because you never have to go? More often, than not those times we want to control our son is because we have a touch of jealousy in our act of refusing to accept his desire to travel. Is he going to need money for food? Possibly, so instead of resisting that desire maybe you can show him that you love him by letting him go and send a care package to the halfway point.

Often we as parents like to claim that our love is unconditional. That is true we feel love for our sons at all times. Yet we don’t express that love unless he does good. Therefore, though we can’t make a person feel the love we have for them we can show them love through the different actions we express.


So many times when we are trying to force our sons, or anybody else for that matter, to do something they don’t want to do we can create animosity. We can make others feel that animosity but our actions do create the thought that does generate the feeling of animosity. Now animosity is defined as strong hostility. That can manifest as rebellion. It also can mean that you can’t even talk to your son because he will see your actions as us trying to control him. When a young man is in the teens, this is when his dad can have some of the most important influences. If we often let pride and what we think the neighbors, will think influence how we raise our sons? This often means that we resort to controlling what he does. When in reality our responsibility is to just make sure they don’t die.

woman standing on on field

Your power over your son is influence, but only if you have enough capital in your relationship. If you are willing to take the time and give your son space to learn and be the man he wants to be you will see that there is very little animosity if you listen to what your son is saying. Not try to head him off at the pass but actually listen. This is tough. I am still working on it. I try to allow my son to fully voice his thoughts before I jump in with my own thoughts. I often fail but I am getting better at it each time I talk to him. I have noticed through this time that when I allow him to be in his space the level of animosity he feels and displays decreases.

So if you have a son that is rebelling and you can’t seem to reach him it’s not too late. Just give him his needed space and allow him to fail. When he does be there to just talk and let him work the solution, you can throw a piece of the puzzle in at different times but let him play with all the clues. You can be the mentor he needs. It isn’t an overnight transformation but the lines of communication are restored and hostilities fad as trust is renewed.

Disconnects you from others

When you are trying to control someone most controlling people disregard what the controlled person has to say. When you don’t acknowledge or implement another person’s suggestion they get the feeling of, why should they even bother trying to communicate if the other person isn’t receiving the communication. Therefore, you lose the communication element which is important if you want to feel connected to another person.

One of our biggest needs is to feel connected to someone. Now the controlling person may say they feel connected to the person they are controlling, yet if that controlled person is fed up with being controlled that is showing that the feeling of connection was fake. So often, the controller will want to feel a loss of control and betrayal because the controlled person is using their free will.

person crying beside bed

It is an Unbalancing of Power

We all have power over our lives and of things around us. Yet when we control people, we are working hard to make other people give up their power. That abdicating of power is seen all around you in today’s society. You have people who are screaming I’m a victim. There is no example greater than the Toxic Masculinity people. I have often stated that misandrists who cry toxic masculinity are the victim mindset type of people they want to take the power that they don’t feel they have and take it for themselves. They want to be looked at as natural leaders and they believe that if they guilt trip men into giving up their power that they can lead others without actually earning that power.  

So all of a sudden, you have emasculated men who are finding they are developing mental health issues because they are gave up their natural power and gave it to a person who can’t use it. There becomes a whole level of resentment in the Incels and MGTOW movements. These are men who are trying to take their power back, by trying to use the very same tactics as the feminists and the others are sadly pulling completely away from the world.

grayscale photo of woman right hand on glass

The lack of balance is what the controlling person is striving for. If you can take the other persons, power the controlling person believes the controlled are easier to handle. This is true in the short run but as I mentioned before the free will won’t stand for that. Then there is a struggle to regain power that they never really lost in the first place.

How do you stop trying to control others

Now if you are a controlling person and you have started seeing that you control others. Then you can change that give yourself peace and build true connections with those around you. You don’t want to have people like you because you want them to like you. Have them like you for who you really are.

If you don’t like who you are then you may need to take a few steps back and figure out how to, not just like yourself but love yourself. You can only start really accepting how others look at you when you love yourself. From there you start to see that other people are unique and wonderful in their own beautiful ways. Control comes from you not seeing yourself as likable and the only way to get a person to like you is to force them, and that is the farthest from feeling love and enjoying the realness and aliveness that you desire.

Be ok with their decisions

To stop controlling people you have to be OK with whatever decision they make. That means if you have to allow your son the discomfort of being arrested because he was drinking underage. Then you give them the space to experience that discomfort of being embarrassed. You can give consequences of their actions like if they are caught drunk driving then the car may be sold. Therefore, you aren’t letting your son run wild. You are showing him consequences for actions. These ramifications are first discussed. Yet if your son is, a hard worker and he bought his car himself. Then you really have no control over that vehicle. So you can’t force him to sell it. No more than I can force you to sell your car because you drove buzzed last Friday night while on a date with your wife.

You have to give your son or anybody you are controlling the space to learn. Yeah, they are going to do it the hard way. There are more lessons in those hard knocks than just how to act. They learn about themselves, and you can be there to mentor him when he needs help. Just don’t be a director.

smiling man sitting inside vehicle at daytime


This is difficult for me sometimes, especially when I have an agenda. Allow people to express their thought. Don’t try to fix it instantly. Just lean into the conversation and listen. God gave us two ears and one mouth. Therefore, we need to listen twice as much as we talk. I got that advice from a very wise woman. I see the truth in that. When you want to build a true connection with a person, try not to offer advice or suggestions while a person is talking. Let them work their thoughts out. More often than we want to admit our spouses and children need us to be sounding boards than they need Mr. Fixit.

When we listen, do so without judgment. This too is awfully difficult to achieve but if you clear your mind and you notice when you are making assumptions you can redirect your thoughts and attention to the most important person in the room. That person is the one speaking. When you do allow this to happen you make the other person feel much more important and if they do need help they will ask. Then they are more open to hearing what you have to say. Then if they choose to do something completely different then you have to do the hardest part of all that is to Be OK with their decisions.

silhouette of two person sitting on chair near tree

Let them failing

This is such a challenge for parents. We don’t want to see our kids get hurt. We don’t want their confidence to be weakened. Yet with us getting in the way, so much we are doing the very thing we don’t want them to do. IF you want a strong and confident young man then let him fail. Let him experience that discomfort. Be there to show him that failing is alright. Encourage him to not give up when the hot girl in the class shot him down when he asked her on a date. That is just one girl in the class. He will step back and start to see that, yeah she may be good looking but her personality shows that beauty is really skin deep.

You also have to look at where you’re coming from when you try to control a person. We often don’t want our sons to fail because of how it will reflect on you. Why do you want your son to go to college? No really WHY? Is it so that he will have a superior education and will rack up a huge amount of debt, or is it so you can have a little bit of pride in being able to say your son is a lawyer or a doctor? If you really inspect yourself, you probably see that it is the later. We don’t worry about babies when they are learning to walk. We sit back and let them land on their butts all day and they learn to walk so much faster than keeping them in a walker where they scoot around. Yeah, kiddo may land on their face from time to time but is life.

So let junior fail. Celebrate the failure by asking him what he learned from that failure. While at the supper table, try opening the conversation with, “What did you fail at today?” You may not get much at first but as you keep asking and sharing your own failures, they will open up with their own. Then when they do share a failure the follow-up question can be, “what did you learn from that?” Failures are teachable moments. If you open up the world to them in that failing is OK then you create that strong confident young man you are striving for.

How do you stop others from controlling you

Now, this is hard to do because we often want to say we are being controlled because that person loves us. Many times this is true but when you see you are being controlled is happening you realize that it isn’t right because you have thoughts that don’t inspire that feeling of love. Often your emotions become dread and fear. That is a huge clue. If you don’t have good thoughts when you do, your own thing then there is a good chance you are being controlled. Often it starts out as your experiencing nice feelings yet eventually, those thoughts change. You start to be glad when that controlling person is not around. If you have to really work at feeling love for someone then there is a good chance that you are being controlled.

Controlling people are smart they know how to push buttons and invoke thoughts that can make you feel guilty for going against their wishes. When that is the case, you have to find a way to stop that controlling dynamic. That may mean that you can start trying to open conversations and have a dialog with that controlling person. Yet if they won’t listen then you may have to actually start distancing yourself from them. That can be scary especially if you don’t think you have any power. You have to start working skills that are long out of shape and you have to delve into the land of discomfort.

It is tough but I know that you have the ability to step out. Just always, be aware that you may have to sever the relationship and you will need to be OK with that. That is the scary and emotionally difficult part.

What can you control?

If you are a controlling person it helps to know what you can control, and there are many elements in your world that you can control. The big one is your thoughts. You can control what and how you think. It takes effort to pay attention to what you are thinking but that comes with practice. Yet there are things you can control. Many of these are oddly in today’s world though to be out of your control. Often that is to make it easier to control you.

Your environment

From your car to your television, our environment has all sorts of controls. You can adjust the temperature in your house. You can turn the music up. You can even control the type of music. Now I hear ya saying, “Well duh! I know this” Yet we also have the ability to change our whole environment. If you live in the Poor side of town, you can change the zip code you live in. Now it isn’t an instant change you have to take control of all aspects of your life to make that move. Yet that change though hard and challenging is possible. If you don’t like the weather you can change to locations and move to where the weather is more to your liking. No, you can’t control the weather but you can choose to move.

If you want a different economic system, you can move to so many other places. You have that control. Your environment is controllable. You don’t have to force others to change when it is far easier for you to make the change.

Your finances

This is also very easy to control. Yet many people don’t want to control their financial situation because you have to look at why you throw away your money. You can be rich and not pay the idiot tax of the lottery. It may look like a quick win but how often are you winning with a scratch-off. There are ways to improve your financial standing but to do so you have to change your mindset around money. You can control what you spend. You can control the amount of debt you owe. You can find many different ways to get out of any financial hole you find yourself in. Many times, it takes a bigger shovel to dig yourself out. It takes work that many people don’t want to be bothered by.

Your mindset

You also have control over how you approach a problem and how you see the world. Your thoughts are just that, your thoughts. We often want to abdicate our responsibility for our thoughts instead of sitting down and paying attention to how we are approaching a problem. Why does everything go wrong? Well, the vast majority of that reason is because of your mindset. IF you don’t like how something is turning out. Look at it and ask what does this makes possible. If you don’t like that, you see the bad in everything start using a gratitude journal. I found an app that will help you with growing your gratitude called gthx. Then again, if you want an easy way to do this you can also just write down three things you are grateful for each day. This will help change that mindset to one of possibility.

How you act around people

You can also choose how you act around people. If you are tired of people avoiding you then start being more pleasant. How you act around people is very controllable. Yet for some reason we want to pull the whole I don’t care what people think of me then get angry when people think we are being an ass. Therefore, if you want to have a better experience around others change how you act around them. Actually, try to care why they are saying. You don’t have to say anything just ask questions and the conversations will flow.

What can you not control

We as humans also like to try to control things that are out of our control. From how other people act and what they think to try to control stuff that hasn’t even happened yet.

Emotions but you can adjust

We can’t really control our emotions but we can adjust them. When we control our emotions, we cause resistance and suffering. So trying to control our emotions doesn’t work. Yet we can allow them to happen and change how we look at those emotions. WE are also able to change the thought that creates emotions. Therefore, if you look at a problem and see either the glass is half-full or half empty. That is all based on your thoughts. The emotions from that thought will follow.

Other people’s thoughts and actions

What we have been talking about in this huge post is that we are not able to fully control anybody. WE can’t control their thoughts nor can we control what they do. Each human has free will. They can and will choose to exercise it when they want.

Things that are not happening yet

We look to the horizon and often think we see a band of raiders heading our way. We worry and try to control that situation though that situation isn’t even there yet. More often than not, that band of people running your way is your family and friends coming to see you not take from you.

Therefore, I recommend you look at what you are doing in your life and see if you are trying to control somebody and if you are, ask yourself why you are trying to control them. Then find a way to stop doing that and find peace in allowing them to live their life the way they want to live it. You will find your life to be so much better and you will allow more pleasant thoughts to form when you do. Have a great week!

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About Bryan Goodwin

I like being able to help people find their "why" and achieve the personal freedom they desire. Besides writing for Relaxed Male I also am a life coach. By helping men find the leader that is found in each and every one of us. I do this by encouraging men to get outdoors and find the balance they are missing. Realize that they need to be in contact with the outside as often as they can. It is not only good for them but for their families and relationships.

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