It is quite possible to not be a malignant narcissist and still find yourself trying to control other people. If you recognize that you can be controlling then it is time to rein yourself in. I would recommend other people to see it as a red flag in your behavior too regardless of the fact that you don't demonstrate yourself to be a malignant narcissist. Trying to control other autonomous human beings is weakness not strength. It always lends itself toward evil outcomes. It is morally wrong.
In contrast with the evil who try to control everyone (and everything) in their sphere is that of the person with self-control. When you observe how someone interacts with you do you see them exerting consistent self-control in their own lives? Or are they mostly focused on controlling their external world including you? Those with genuine self-control do not try to control others.
There are some who make some high profession of having self-control yet who are actually very controlling of others. What gives with that? How can you know if it is a red flag in that person?
I'll make my case by using my own mother as an example. We'll call this, "The Time My Mother Got it Right".
One of my mother's soundtracks which she implanted in my head at a young age, so young that I don't know exactly when I started hearing it, goes like this, "If you find yourself controlling others then you know who is controlling you." This was the opening line for her little sermonette on how it is the devil who is the one controlling you if you are a person who enjoys controlling others as it is his nature to control. Wow. She got that one right. Who better to know "the devil made me do it" than a handmistress of the devil himself! If you don't believe in a being such as the devil then all you have to do is insert the word 'evil' where you see the word 'who' and you get the same result. "If you find yourself controlling others then you know evil is controlling you."
My mother lectured on this subject very often. Not just to her own children but to anyone who happened to be under her control at the time. This leads us into the very first red flag of eight for narcissism listed by Kathy Krajco which I promised I was going to re-post here on my blog. Here we go.
Since narcissists are such expert con artists, how do you spot them? By not judging by appearances. Or reputation.
A specific behavior, such as being haughty, inconsiderate, or ignoring someone, can occur in widely varying contexts. So, it can be done for many reasons, not just narcissistic reasons. Nonetheless, there are few behaviors so unique to persons suffering from NPD that they should serve as red flags.
Here are eight red flags:
- puts on a conspicuous display of goodness and kindness
- damages the images of most others
- has a history of past upheavals
- is hated for mysterious reasons by people close to them
- exhibits unnatural and perplexing behavior -- backwards reactions to things
- is a control freak, trampling privacy/boundaries
- is extremely self-absorbed
- has a hostile reaction to attention and credit given others
I interrupt Kathy here to point out that she doesn't claim that this list of red flags is exhaustive. But a short list is quite helpful if you're trying to avoid the malignantly narcissistic people you may run into in your life. She doesn't call them "THE eight red flags". She says, "Here are eight red flags". Yes, there are others. But having this short list in the forefront of your mind will help you weed out 99.9% of narcissists.
Now, Kathy elaborates a bit on the first red flag she has listed and the one I want to call to your attention.
**************************************Shows Off Goodness and Kindness
I used to give people who made a show of religiousness, kindness, caring, or any other goodness the benefit of the doubt. I am really sorry I didn't listen to my common sense that doing things to be seen doing them is fraud, not just adultery. I don't expect you to take my word for it, but this is what my life has taught me: anyone putting on the goody-two-shoes act a little too thick I get away from, because I know they're just using it as make-up to cover a zit.
In other words, they're dis-simulating their true selves. The aim is to carve out a false image that is the antithesis -- negative -- of their true selves. It's a work of art, not the real thing.
The truly good, kind, and caring do good to do it, not to be seen doing it. And the difference between them and show-offs is obvious. "What Makes Narcissists Tick" page 75
Back to my controlling mother preaching against being controlling. Here is what I now see was going on. Preaching against being controlling was the "goodness" she was slathering onto herself to throw off suspicion about her own controlling behaviors especially since she always put this lecture in a religious context. It was part of her profession of being "above all that" by lecturing frequently on the evils of being controlling. It was very effective. She would also very often say to me, "I'm the least controlling person I know." !!! This was usually stated when there was some overt evidence of her being controlling. She reserved the right to redefine reality for everyone so when she'd say this we'd all go along because it was easier than not going along. We'd been taught to deny reality because she had established herself as the only one really able to define it. All children of narcissists understand what I just said. They've lived it.
Another thing going on with my mother was her insistence on having no competition. She was reserving to herself the right to be controlling and didn't want to have to deal with her underlings getting uppity and trying to control her. Which happened anyway. Her youngest daughter became an adept at manipulating and controlling our mother. The power struggle was fierce between them. But if my mother could convince her underlings that being controlling was evil then she'd have a much more free reign to be the one in ascendency. She was trying to control us by convincing us to not use control of others for ourselves. It was not a sermon based on true conviction in her own soul that being controlling of others is wrong. It was a sermon designed to make sure she was the only one putting the screws to people! No competition allowed! Yet another example of how a narcissist tries to control other people by using their consciences.
My mother's understanding of the most basic characteristic of evil -- that of being controlling of others -- was the knowledge she acquired by practice of the same. Also, she knows enough about Bible truth to condemn herself to all to hell. How is she going to plead ignorance before the Almighty when He asks her why she didn't practice what she preached? We are especially condemned when we know to do right and refuse to. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17 NIV
Again, I want you to look at the contrast of a person who is controlling of others and the person who is self-controlled. The Bible exhortations for self-control are many. Paul listed self-control as one of the evidences of God's spirit working in your life. Peter had something to say on it too, "Knowing God leads to self-control..." 2 Peter 1:5. So, my mother was right. If someone demonstrates a pattern of consistent behavior of being controlling of others it means that a spirit altogether opposite of God's spirit is actuating them.
Christians would do well to remember this because far too often Christians can justify to themselves that controlling others for some higher cause is right and good. Being a Christian gives you no license to control others. You have enough to do in just controlling yourself. If you let yourself become distracted from the internal work of self-control you will, inevitably, try to control others. Just because you see yourself as a Christian in no way diminishes the evil that proceeds from trying to force your way onto others. Even if your intentions are good. Even if you have a Bible injunction to wave in their faces. It is one thing to instruct others in truth and another thing altogether to try to force them into doing what you want or what you think is right. Don't confuse a preacher's good work of "instruction in righteousness" with being controlling. The two are not synonymous. Instruction is a world apart from trying to force the will of another through deception, manipulation, punishment, etc.
It is fair to state that the less self-control a person exerts in their own life the more likely it is that person will try to control their world by controlling YOU. We all yearn for control. It is a natural bent of human nature to try to control our external world. This includes circumstances, people and even material things. This need to control our environment often leads to trying to control others because it is easier than controlling oneself. The hardest thing of all is self-control. Look at the narcissist for proof of that. I have asserted in another blog post that the evil course is the easy course. The path of least resistance is the downward course that our selfish desires take. Self-control is like paddling upstream against our very nature. The narcissist is determined to take the luge run to hell which means you see very little self-control exerted by them. As I've stated in yet another, and more recent, post -- they only exert enough self-control to keep from getting caught in their crimes. Though they can get careless and forget to control themselves when they should in order to keep their evil from being perceived. This limited use of self-control is unworthy of praise or commendation.
Let me point out at this juncture that my mother demonstrates a few compulsive behaviors that resemble OCD. In her case, and I will assert that in ALL cases of narcissism, this is an extension of the desire to control her world. Her external world. It is not an extreme version of self-control. It is an extreme version of trying to control the external world. Don't be fooled by the narcissist's OCD as being some manifestion of rigorous self-control. It is not. My mother actually uses her compulsive behaviors as some kind of proof of her being self-controlled. Like a grand act of self-flaggellation equals the quiet act of self-control. Austerity doesn't necessarily equate to self-control. It is usually a substitute for it. OCD in the narcissist is an outgrowth of their fear and is the attempt to convince themselves they are in control of their world.
You get a two-fer today. Two red flags of narcissism. Number one: Being controlling of others is a central hallmark of the evil and must be considered a red flag even in someone you would not necessarily think is a narcissist. Number two: Slathering on a high profession of goodness is a sign of someone hiding the opposite. In my mother's case the two behaviors coincide in a most interesting manner. She used the one to hide the other to great effect on me (and others) for many, many years. I finally had to stop believing the high profession because it was constantly clashing with her consistent behaviors.
If you can give yourself permission to always believe the actions over the words you will save yourself so much trouble. It is a piece of hard-earned advice that I give on this blog many times over which, if people only took that one piece to heart, would save themselves a world of hurt.