Find Freedom from Controlling Behaviors

It was August of 1997.  I was 24 years old, extremely motivated, and trying to make a living in sales. A business client had called for an appointment and gave me an address regarding where to meet. When I arrived, I said to myself, “This can’t be right.” The address is a house. I called the number again.  The client verified that was the meeting place. According to my notes, there were supposed to be multiple people in this meeting. Again, I said to myself, “Why aren’t there any cars? This doesn’t feel right.”  Convincing myself that I needed the business, I went to the door anyway.

I knocked on the door and the client answered.  I felt somewhat relieved that he answered the door.  I knew him. He had gotten married recently and was very happy when I worked with him a year ago. We had made small talk waiting on the other people to arrive.  He recognized my discomfort due to his shaven head and twitching face. He shared he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and it was very serious.

As time started to lapse, I looked at the clock.  My fiance was going to start wondering where I was.  I had grown even more uncomfortable as time passed.  I wondered how much longer it would take for the others to arrive.  After declining his offer for a glass of water, he asked if I wanted to see the blueprints for the business. Again, I ignored my instincts.  I entered the room to look at the architect table. There was nothing on the table. When I turned to look at the client, he was holding a revolver.

Rather than listening to myself, I ignored my inner voice. As he said “I am not going to kill you or rape you” I turned my head to see the revolver pointed at me. Instantly, I went into hysterics. He closed the door and moved me towards the back of the room.

“Take your clothes off.” He said.

I immediately envisioned myself taking off my clothes and that not being enough for him. I saw images of him asking me to do things I did not want to do and him eventually taking my life. I saw my dead naked body lying on the floor, and my loved ones finding out I was found lifeless and without my clothes in some strange house. I felt if he wanted all that he would have to take my clothes off after I was no longer alive. I said to myself, “My life is not ending this way. I have so many more dreams to fulfill.”

Somehow, I found the power within and decided to reason and plead with him. “Why are you doing this? What about your wife? I am not going to… You can kill me first.”

He replied, “I will cripple you.”

I said, “I don’t care if you kill me or cripple me.”

As he started to explain himself, “It is just that this tumor…” Right then, his twitches in his face and clicks of his head that I had witnessed earlier came back. I continued to plea and refuse to give in to his demands. I noticed that I was emotionally getting to him.

Suddenly, he turned the gun on himself.  While frightened he would take his own life in front of me, I saw my window of opportunity to escape.  Quickly, I went towards him as he backed himself up towards the door.  I grabbed the doorknob with my left hand and was able to wedge it open enough to get my leg in through the opening. Meanwhile, I pushed my right hand towards his face in an attempt to move the gun away from his own mouth. Somehow I was able to get out, grab my bag and keys and run out the door to my car while my whole body was shaking. He did not follow me.  I began driving and frantically called 911. They directed me towards a local fire department for safety. I repeated the story multiple times of how I ended up in that house.

In the end, after police had surrounded his house and tried to get him to come out for hours, he ended his own life that night.

I had made multiple very risky decisions that day.  I was thankful to be alive. I questioned myself. I worried about what people would think.  I thought, “Why was I so gullible? Why did he pick me?  Was there something I did that made me seem vulnerable?” I could never even face his wife to see how she handled all of it. I felt sad for her and envisioned him being sorry for what he had done to me. Truth is, I will never really know why or fully understand. Why would anyone choose to sabotage someone else’s life?

Often times, people attempt to control others when they feel powerless in their own lives.  The more we feel we have lost control, the more we want to try and control others.

After talking to my sister-in-law who is well versed in mental health, she helped me understand it was not my fault.  Being able to talk with someone helped me be able to focus on what could come from the experience. She helped me understand that some brain tumors cause irrational behavior. It was not about me. I was proud of how I had been brave enough to escape. I also learned that I need to listen to my gut instincts.

When sharing my story, some questioned why I didn’t just do what he said. You may even be questioning some of the same things and wonder why I am sharing this story.

While I was not a victim of rape, I felt the extreme case of having someone try to control me by force at a relatively young age.  I felt the side effects. My purpose is not to gain pity here. My purpose is to increase awareness and help you prevent being controlled. To teach you how to stop your own ineffective habits of controlling behaviors.    There are some lessons to be learned from this story, and others I have experienced in my life as both the victim and the controller.

Through professional help and research, I have learned how to identify signs of controlling behavior,  the reasons behind it, how to overcome situations of being controlled and recognize when I am the person doing the controlling.

Identify Situations of Controlling Behavior

Understanding Control and Abuse

How to Escape Controlling Behavior

Help for The Controller

What do you do when someone doesn’t do what you want? What style do you use with your children? Your spouse? Your employees? If you notice you are controlling as defined above, seek counseling if necessary. Uncover why you feel you need to have power over people.

If you are a manager that struggles with not being able to get their employees to do what is needed, don’t fall back on using forceful, threatening or demeaning remarks. It has negative effects on the person’s morale and kills the person’s desire to want to work for you.  While it is important to hold people accountable, it is ineffective in the long run to add demeaning comments that take a strike at the person’s worth. Rather than saying “you are lazy” a more constructive way of motivating someone would be to say, “You are not showing your full potential.  You are capable of so much more.”

For those in leadership, are you keeping an eye on how your managers treat those working for you?  What about how they treat your business partner representatives?  How they treat people is a reflection of your company’s image and could be costly to your business in turnover, your reputation with customers and maybe even lawsuits.  Be sure to have your employees do anonymous surveys.  Have someone secret shop, play vendor or play undercover boss for the day if you suspect anyone who could threaten your company’s values.

Whether you are the controller or being controlled, help is available.  You are worthy of so much more.  No one deserves to be treated as beneath another person.  You deserve to be treated with respect.  Be sure to look yourself in the mirror and reassure yourself of all your incredible traits.  Make a list of all your great qualities to reframe your mind and maintain your boundaries.  You have the right to have your own value system and maintain your self-worth.  Be brave enough to address the problem.  If safety is a concern, find support. Find freedom from this controlling behavior.

Other resources:

For more help with a controlling partner, I recommend Dr. Bonier’s blog:

For more help handling Aggressive and Controlling people see Preston’s blog:

Southbrook counseling –

Boundaries By Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

If you are a victim of Sexual Violence or Trauma, please seek your local counseling services.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the best way to handle yourself in a sexual assault situation or when someone is threatening your life.  Please see or NSVRC. or

National Domestic Violence Hotline and Avon Partner with Suze Orman to Shed Light on Financial Abuse in Special Video Series “Women Breaking Free: Stories of Strength from Survivors of Domestic Violence”

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis text: 741741

If you live in the Dayton, Ohio area, schedule free counseling by email:

To share inspiring stories or be referred to a Professional Counselor email:


For the Driven Soul

If you are driven, you have dedicated yourself to your tasks lists and may have disciplined yourself to put off enjoying life’s pleasures for later.  Whether you are in your late 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50s or 60’s have you found yourself reaching a milestone in your goals and looking back and asking yourself, “now what?”

If you are approaching your late 20’s you may have made it through college and have found yourself chasing your financial, material and career goals.   You have likely shown you are capable of having a successful career and have found yourself doing everything you can to learn what you need to get ahead and work furiously to be recognized as one of the best in your roles.  Even though you are still young, you may find yourself exhausted after work.  You begin to live for the weekend or your days off.  Then you approach 30 and say, wait what happened to my 20’s.  I was supposed to have fun!

In your 30’s you may have chosen to have children and now have even less time for yourself.  You and your spouse start drifting apart because you have a high demanding career and your kids are needing you too.  You are still concerned about your finances so you put off many dates given the cost of the babysitter plus dinner and entertainment or pure exhaustion from your never-ending to-do list.  You start wishing for ways to escape your busyness but are afraid to take a break for yourself for too long because that just means more you have to do later.

If you haven’t learned to balance yet, you are then in your 40’s and your kids are growing older.  You have devoted your life to being a good parent and continuing your career growth.  If you haven’t put the necessary time into your marriage, you may also find you have distanced from your life partner and your kids now want to do things with their friends.  You are now financially better off, have your house the way you want it and if you have done a good job saving, you have plans for your kids’ college educations and your retirement nest egg.  Although according to your financial planner, it may still not be enough.

You find yourself feeling like you have been running and chasing after your goals for twenty plus years and realize you have more than 20 more to go before you can retire.  You also are starting to feel less fulfilled by your work.  The income is now a necessity based on the lifestyle you have created for your family.  However, more money is less important and your accomplishments may become less gratifying.  You would still love to have time for your hobby you said you would do later.  You find yourself wanting a purpose and thinking about your legacy.

No matter what milestone you reach, those possessions do not keep you happy.  You may even find yourself feeling bitter at those who are able to let go of all their worries and just be. You may ask yourself, “why don’t you feel that joy inside you that you see in those who don’t have near as much as you?”

You started going through the motions of trying to get everything done.   You forgot to enjoy the journey.  You focused more on the to-do list than being grateful for everything you already had.  Guess what, you will never be able to get everything done.  Your life is about the people in it.

Wow!  All of this seems very sad for someone who works so hard, doesn’t it?  It is if you let your drive take over your life. I am not saying your drive is a bad thing, as it is not.  I am still proud of mine and have accomplished many things that have been positive for myself and others.  I am just pleading for you to listen to your soul.  Don’t blow off that inner voice or those wise around you telling you to enjoy the journey and let the to-do list go.  You may be asking, “but how?”

Here are some answers.  Pause and reflect and ask yourself these questions:

-If you find your work exhausting, take time to reexamine what it is that really fulfills you.

-What is it that makes you feel complete and energetic?

-Is the high income worth rushing through your life?

-Are you making time for family and friends over your tasks list?

-Is it that big of a deal if not all the housework is done?  Do you need to do everyone else’s laundry?

-Are you in a job where you are enjoying the people in your life at work?

-Are you going through the motions because your job has become a chore?

You have choices.

Are you going to choose to make them in your 20’s so you can enjoy the beauty of life while you are in your prime health to get active?  In your 30’s, are you going to embrace your kids and show your spouse how much you appreciate them for bringing joy and balance to your life?  Don’t wait until your halftime.  Even worse, don’t wait until retirement.  You may not get a later.

Here are some tips I have learned and found helpful when practiced:

-Check yourself for your ability to set boundaries and your abilities to say no.  Next time someone asks for your help, and you are strapped say, “I would love to help you however, I have other demands at the moment.”

-Write down the things you feel you need to do.  What can you cross off? What can wait until after you do what fulfills you?  If you have a hard time crossing things off the list, remind yourself you are no good to anyone if you become empty.

-Check your OCD qualities and then ask yourself  “what is the worst thing that can happen if I let that go?”  Is it a big deal if my spouse/roommate’s coat lays on the coach until he/she leaves tomorrow.  Remind yourself you can’t control your spouse/roommate so all you can do is control how you view the annoyance.  Stop yourself from doing it for them and taking on the martyr role.  Learn to say, “I feel unimportant when you leave your coat on the couch given you know how I prefer things neat.  Could you please help me keep the place nice?”  You will be surprised when your spouse/roommate hears how things make you feel.  (See Randy Creamers, Conflict Guide for Couples.)

-Know it is okay to ask for help if you are truly taking on more than your fair share.  Learn to delegate.  When you teach other people, you multiply what you can accomplish.

-Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and view yourself.  What are the things I do that I wouldn’t want my spouse/friend or children to do to me?  If he/she was always busy wouldn’t I wish he/she could make time for me?

My husband and girls would agree with me that I still struggle with letting myself take a break and being present along the way.  However since I have reached 45 (aka halftime), I recognize more that I can’t take the years back.   I have been working on making sure the goals I set and what I do with my time give me purpose and joy.  I stay true to my soul to how I approach my career so I can feel fulfilled and feel I am making a difference.  Also, it is the first year for me where I have plans for using all of my vacation days.

Book your vacation days. However, don’t wait until then to enjoy yourself. Stop and enjoy the beauty around you.

Other helpful tips can be found here: Shine Bright