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What Is Emotional Control and Why Is It So Dangerous?


Emotional Control

Emotional control is a strategy often used by certain people and groups to shame and manipulate. This type of control often focuses on the following;

  • Narrows the range of feelings
  • Elevates feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness
  • Threatens to withhold certain feelings like love and praise
  • Creates thoughts of danger to yourself, your family, and/or your friends

Emotional control is a manipulative tactic used in all areas of life. Politicians and the news incite fear into their constituents, religions often instill a grand sense of shame and guilt into their congregations, emotionally abusive partners and parents purposefully isolate their victims, and bosses can humiliate and overly criticize employees to keep them under their thumb.

It is a danger, because it can prevent real expression, clear reflection, and even the ability to empathize with the world around us. Unfortunately, we can see this happening all around us, often right under our noses.

It is through emotional control that we lose ourselves, and once we lose ourselves, what is even the point of living? The motive for emotional control is to destruct the very core of the victim to simplify manipulation.

Characters from Disney Pixar's "Inside Out"

Characters from Disney Pixar's "Inside Out"

We Are Emotional Beings

Human beings are complicated. In a single day, it is quite common to experience emotions from all across the spectrum. One minute can be a moment of bliss and the next minute a Sarah McLachlan commercial about abandoned puppies comes on the television and tears come down like rain.

And that is completely okay. Our emotions are what make us human. They allow us to experience life on so many different levels, and it is through our own emotional experiences that we connect more deeply with others. We experience emotion, our bodies react to emotion, and we change our behavior based on the emotion.

Our emotions can motivate us to action. Our emotions help us to survive and avoid danger. And our emotions can help us make decisions.

It is incredible how important emotions serve us as humans, but that is precisely why emotions are preyed upon.


The Power of Emotional Control

In many cases of emotional control, there is a clear sense of disregard for emotion and a higher value placed on something else. People are simply seen as vehicles, and their emotions are the steering wheels which their abusers use to drive their victims any direction they so choose.

Emotional Control by Politicians and News Networks

Around the world, if there is one emotion that is sought after more than any other by politicians and news networks it is fear. Fear tactics and politics go hand-in-hand, and it is no wonder. If there is one way to control and manipulate constituents, it is through hyping up doom, despair, and economic meltdown.

All throughout the political world, leaders from all sides use these tactics to prey on the desperation of people who would be strongly affected by certain extreme changes, and then they turn the intensity up beyond maximum level.

Emotional Control by Religions

Religions tend to hone in on many different emotions, but historically, guilt, shame, and unworthiness are chords that often echo inside places of worship. It is such a common truth that modern day Catholics joke with each other about the guilt-trips they experienced at Mass. Sex, for example, is such a shameful topic inside most religious establishments, and yet it is the very reason we are all here.

It is through the constant devaluing of its congregants that religion creates a severe dependency in the hearts of its people. They label certain feelings as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong, and then shame that feeling. They guilt members and believers into attending religious meetings, events, and outings, and they passive-aggressively disapprove when those requests are not met.

Emotional Control by Abusive Parents/Partner/Boss/Etc

Often times when the term "abusive" is used, the mind naturally migrates to a physical nature. However, mental and emotional abuse is the most common form, and the psychological ramifications are horrendous.

Abusers tend to use numerous tactics to toy with the emotions of their victims. They name-call and humiliate in order to degrade. They control and shame in order to gain power. They accuse, blame, and deny in order to assert their dominance. They prioritize their own emotional needs and intercept outside support in order to create codependency. All of these tactics are used to isolate the victim and prevent them from ever receiving help.

In these types of abusive relationships, every feeling is attacked, devalued, and shamed.

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The Danger of Emotional Control

At the core, emotional control prevents us from truly expressing. We are emotional beings with so much dwelling inside, and each of us express emotion differently and beautifully.

We are also unbelievably complex. Our feelings and emotions can change on a dime, and for many people who struggle with power and control, this kind of uncertainty is frightening and unpredictable. It is why they resort to using many manipulative tactics to try and control our uncontrollable emotions.

If you find the news or some political rally stirring up your emotion to become irrationally fearful, remind yourself that this is simply a tactic and they are overselling simply to frighten as many people as possible. Do not let such people control how you feel. Reject such manipulation.

If you find your religion shaming you for feeling a certain way or guilt-tripping you for not attending a meeting, remind yourself that these religious establishments need your money and some of them will lower themselves to such a level that they will betray their own religious teachings in order to keep you in the door. Do not let such people bully you. Just say no.

If you find yourself in an emotionally abusive relationship, please seek help. There are tons of resources out there to connect you with the right people and get you the help you need. Your abuser does not deserve you, and you deserve better. It is not your fault. Please do not ever blame yourself for their evil actions.

Because again, at the core, these entities do not want us to truly express how we feel. They do not want to deal with our complexities.

They care about nothing but themselves.

Emotional control is very damaging, and these controllers are willing to destroy everything about you in order to protect themselves.


There Is Hope and Healing

Although it may seem helpless having so many people attempting to take control of our emotions, there is help, hope, and healing.

Our emotions are valuable and necessary for a long and healthy life. It is wonderful to be joyful with one another, and it is sobering to mourn together. These experiences allow us to express wholly, and this kind of expression is what makes us human.

We need to learn to see clearly when emotional control is happening, and we need to recognize the difference between someone who is manipulating our emotions and someone who is helping us with our emotions. It is easy for emotional control to disguise itself, but there are ways to identify it when it is happening;

  • It instills irrational fears.
  • It labels some feelings as evil, worldly, sinful, or wrong.
  • It teaches emotion-stopping techniques to prevent anger, confusion, etc.
  • It promotes feelings of guilt, shame, and unworthiness.
  • It showers you with praise (AKA "love bombing").
  • It threatens your friends or family.
  • It shuns you if you disobey, disagree, disconnect, or disbelieve.
  • It teaches that there is no happiness or peace apart from it.

From the moment we wake up to the second we fall asleep, our emotions speak to us in a way unlike anything else. They help us to feel, they encourage us to relate, and they inspire us to take action and make tremendous changes in our lives, and there are people out there that do not want you to experience any of that.

What are you going to do about it?

© 2019 Jason Reid Capp

Comments - Bing on August 29, 2020:

Object Detection with Tensorflow API - Let your computer see! - Bing video

Jason Reid Capp (author) from Myrtle Beach, SC USA on September 10, 2019:

@Ron Hooft

Hello, Ron! And thank you for the very detailed and insightful comment, but I have to ask. How exactly is your comment connected to this topic? I see you begin by referring to emotions, although you mostly focused on the mind, but this article is about how manipulative people attempt to control victims emotions. This is not an article about emotions, how they work, or what role they play in human lives, but specifically, I am referring to people who prey on others through tactics that target, take advantage of, or twist emotions.

Once again, I appreciate your comment, but could we please focus on the topic at hand and not get so lost on a tangent, please?

Ron Hooft from Ottawa on September 10, 2019:

I would say that emotions are our subconscious telling us something is right or wrong according to it’s conditioning. But It may be right or wrong. Therefore it’s good to fact check it through conscious deliberation.

The brain has two sides, the right and left. Right is mostly subconscious, and the left is what we call consciousness. It’s the side that identifies as “I”.

A ball is flying toward your face. You move, catch it, or stand there like a dear in headlights and get hit in the face. The person who catches it has probable played ball before. It’s training. The person who gets hit was consciously confused and thinking. Thinking is too slow.

If you learn a new skill you need to think about it at first. For a guitar you have to think about finger position, timing, learn here the notes are etc. But the more you learn and practice, the less you need to think about those things. By time you’re stage ready, thinking about it can make you second guess yourself, and you make mistakes.

The skill has literally become part of who you are. It feels natural. It’s on auto response, which is how the subconscious works.

You don’t choose your emotions, you just get them. You had feelings about playing the guitar, learning to drive a car or bike etc all through the learning process, and they changed through the process.

So learning/experience educates your subconscious auto response. All animals work this way. But humans have an extra feature. We have a conscious component that can deliberate. Why? Due directly to complex language. The conscious mind deliberates in language. When you think, you think in words. Try thinking without them. You can get limited results by thinking in symbols, but that’s what words are on steroids. A single word can hold a thousand complex concepts, like the word “religion.”

So consciousness is an emergent tool, developed by the evolution of complex language. It’s there to educate and alter auto response, and consequently your emotions.

Again, we don’t choose our emotions, and worse, we don’t choose our likes and dislikes, which is mostly what emotions represent. And whatever we do, we do to appease/resolve those likes and dislikes, some of which are biological needs and genetic predispositions. Others are derived from culture/environment set against our biology and genetics.

The subconscious will throw up answers automatically, but they are often wrong. A test was done with hundreds of math and physics students. It’s a very simple problem, but 90 plus percent got it wrong. It goes like this:

“Answer the first thing that comes to mind.

You go to the store to buy a bat and ball. The total price is: 1.10. The bat by itself costs exactly one dollar more than the ball. How much is the ball.?

Not only did most of them get the wrong answer, most of them gave the same wrong answer. Try it on your friends. Most people will say: ten cents.

The point is, unless you fact check your first thought, you have a good chance of being wrong unless you’re trained in that kind of problem. And that first thought comes from the subconscious.

Also, as a point of interest, neuroscience has discovered that the subconscious actually knows what you’re going to do seconds before your conscious side is informed about it. Of course it thinks it’s the part that made the choice. When you catch the ball, don’t you congratulate yourself on how good you are? And rightly so. You’re not just your consciousness.

All that to explain my first line above in simple terms.

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