The 4 Control Dramas in a Relationship

The 4 Control Dramas in a Relationship

The sixth insight states that childhood dramas block our ability to fully experience the mystical. All humans, because of their upbringing, tend toward one of the four “control dramas”: intimidators steal energy from others by threat. Interrogators steal it by judging and questioning. Aloof people attract attention (and energy) to themselves by acting reserved or withdrawing. And poor me’s make us feel guilty and responsible for them.

The above description from James Redfield’s book, The Celestine Prophecy, defines four ways that people are in relationship with one another. All are attempts to control another’s behavior. What is this need we have to control? Why do we feel it is necessary?

We attempt to control and manipulate others because we believe that if they would change their behavior we would be happy and so would they. When people do things we don’t like, or when we’re not getting our way, we think they are wrong. Then, believing we are right and they are wrong, we think that we have the right to impose our beliefs on them. What we are attempting to do is protect our beliefs. How does this play out in a relationship?

Marilyn: Control dramas are a fascinating phenomena within a relationship. It is usually easy to pick out our partner’s drama, but rarely do we recognize how we play into it. For example, my former husband was a classic interrogator. I am convinced that James Redfield coined the term after meeting him! A critical man, my ex continually poked and prodded and found fault in everything I said or did. Sometimes I wondered what kind of perverse pleasure he got out of finding me so inadequate. Nothing was ever good enough for him. He could question me at length about anything, even something as simple as grocery shopping: “How could it take you so long to shop for food? How much did you spend this week? How could you be so extravagant? Were all those purchases really necessary? Did we need two kinds of lettuce AND tomatoes? etc. I once bought a deli sandwich to split with my son. Seeing the sandwich on the receipt, my ex blew a gasket: “How dare you waste my money on a store-bought sandwich? You could have made one when you got home!” (This man earned a handsome salary; $3.00 was definitely not a hardship.) I often felt like I was on trial. It was so infuriating; I couldn’t win. During each interrogation I would ask myself: “Why do you bother trying to talk to him?; you know what the end result is going to be.” Eventually I quit trying. It was then that my control drama became clear. In case I need to name it for anyone, I am aloof.

After many years of being interrogated, I learned to protect myself by ignoring my ex as much as possible, remaining busy with children, work, school, or friends. I would refrain from telling him what was happening in my life and when I had to talk to him, I would be as vague as possible. He hated this behavior. What I didn’t recognize then are the wounds Dramacool  my detachment reopened for him, having grown up with a father that traveled extensively for his job; a father whose attention he wanted, but had to share with three other siblings; an aloof father.

This re-wounding pattern is what happens over and over again in relationship. We trigger our partner’s wounds and unknowingly re-wound them. They, in turn, trigger our wounds and we each continue to play out old patterns. The reason this happens is because as our relationships deepen, our partner unconsciously touches those parts of us which need to be healed. In the case of my relationship with my former husband, he needed help healing the wound that triggered his interrogation drama. He needed to learn a new, more appropriate way to get attention. I, on the other hand, needed help healing the wound that caused me to withdraw and act secretive, a wound that originated with a critical mother. Instead, we continued to re-wound one another. We were so caught up with fighting each other’s control dramas and proving ourselves to be right that there was no room for experiencing the joy of relationship, let alone catching a glimpse of the mystical.

The opposite of needing to control a relationship is trusting in it. In a conscious relationship there is no need or desire to control. It is not necessary to change our partner’s behavior or to protect our beliefs. Instead, we choose to trust ourselves, our partner, and the relationship. Depending on where we are in our growth, we can then can use the relationship to do our personal work: to recognize our wounds and control dramas; to work with our partner to heal ourselves; and, to move toward becoming more spiritual and finding higher meaning in our lives.

Chuck: Marilyn and I are both aloof. I know that when I go into a room I will wait for others to say hello to me. I once thought I was just shy, but now realize this behavior was developed over time so that I would not have to risk being vulnerable. It was a way I could control how people interacted with me.


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