Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cruise control

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Poor Tom is having a rough time of it of late, culminating in his dumping this week from Paramount for 'inappropriate behaviour.' Whether it's jumping on sofas on Oprah, lambasting Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants, his Scientology beliefs or his Tomkat antics, the guy just can't seem to catch a break.

Although he did win an "Ernie" this week.

The "Ernie" is an Australian award handed out annually for the worst derogatory public statements. Cruise was given the 2006 Celebrity Ernie for a comment he made about his then pregnant partner Katie Holmes.


"I've got Katie tucked away so no one will get to us until my child is born."

We can chuckle at the idea of the "Ernie" and simply dismiss such a comment as another "Tom" incident. After all, there's been a lot of public scrutiny both of the Tomkat relationship and the lack of a public sighting of their baby, Suri. You only have to go online, open a magazine or watch television to read or hear about how Tom is forcing Katie to lose weight fast, imprisoning her in their home, forcing her to abandon her Catholic faith for Scientology....yada yada yada. The variations are endless and the truthfulness of them? Well, who knows with any degree of certainty?

So, Tom Cruise. Katie Holmes. Has Health Psych morphed into Entertainment Weekly?

No. Celebrity factor aside, there's a serious issue here. Controlling behaviour is one of the most common problems in relationships. While this behaviour has been more frequently associated with men, women are also capable of being controlling (just ask Mr. Health Psych).

Controlling behaviour can be nasty, and therefore obvious, but it can also be far more subtle. What about the over-caring person who does everything for you? We all like to be taken care of but what about when the end goal of that nurturing is to drain you of your self-confidence and foster your dependence?

So, what should you be on the look out for?*

Is the person jealous and possessive of you? Are you being isolated from family and friends? Have you had to make sacrifices for this person e.g. give up a hobby or activity?

Does he/she encourage you to become dependent on him/her? Are you told how to act and what to wear?

Is he/she two-faced - critical and abusive in private but charming in public? Does this person make you feel more insecure than you used to be?

Does the person have extreme mood swings? Do you constantly try to work out how he/she is feeling and your best strategy for keeping him/her happy? Do you feel you have to "fix" his/her moods? Are you made to feel to blame when you argue? Do you often feel you have to apologise for this person's behaviour? When you challenge him/her about his/her behaviour, does he/she ridicule your challenge?

Does he/she make you feel intimated or afraid, without you even being able to articulate why?

Strategies for dealing with a control freak*

Don't collude with him/her. Most relationships aren't extreme, just frustrating and claustrophobic. Most people will try and work around controlling behaviour but by taking on responsibility to "fix" the situation, the controlling behaviour is reinforced.

Be honest about yourself. Is there a part of you that encourages the control?

Don't go for confrontation. Fighting back often aggravate the situation, so that as one party tries harder to "win", the other tries to resist. However, giving in encourages the other person that their strategy works. Work out a compromise that doesn't threaten the other person but doesn't give-in either.

Set boundaries. This is crucial for self-protection and in defusing the situation. Decide what you will and won't allow but don't be aggressive in verbalising that.

Help him/her. In less extreme cases, people are often unaware of the issue and most want to stop their controlling behaviour.

Most importantly, start early. Be aware of the warning signs. If you think this may be you and the behaviour is extreme or abusive, seek professional help.


* Please note these warning signs and coping strategies are taken from "Are you living with a control freak?" by Maureen Rice, Good Medicine, June 2002.


Resources

Tom wins Australian award

18 comments:

Sarebear said...

Oh . . my . . . gosh, he said that?

Given the publicity circus around them, I'd assume and hope that Katie was a full partner with him in deciding when, where, why, and how to be secluded (tucked away, ugh!),

The part that most burns ME up about that statement is the "my child". From one point of view, if he wasn't the father, they wouldn't have had nearly so much press. But "my child?" Does he think she has nothing to do with it? (It, as in the pregnancy).

Urk!!! The guys is full of himself, THAT's for sure. Part of me has wondered recently if he went for such a young girlfriend because he wanted someone impressionable, moldable, and controllable . . .

Hope not, but . . .

My husband and I have a "word" we use when we feel patronized/bossed/controlled or socially coerced or manipulated by the other. I can't say that the conversations are pleasant after one of us uses the word, but at least we're communicating, anyway.

Dr. A said...

Good stuff! I need to take these tips to work. I think they're applicable there.

No, step one is not me looking in the mirror first. Sheesh! I did jump on a sofa once (not Oprah's). Does that count?

fjl said...

Very good. This is exactly the issue. I wondered how long the world would take to say, yup this man is a control freak. He can't laugh at himself atall, and no one else is allowed to. He quickly gets irate, shh.. scary in fact. Remember his ex's exultation when they split, I believe her now. And look how she's blossomed ever since. He sat on her talent. But he had to control the divorce proceedings didn't he. Scary!
But come on there's no way you get that far without being a controller.
I think, also, Katie is a brood mare, and he's trying to make out he's enraptured- but he's not in love atall.

ladybug said...

wow.
i wish my dad coulda read this 20 years ago before his second wife ever got her claws into him. just plain wow.
i wish *i* had read this 20 yrs ago and coulda helped my DAD see how she was.
wow.
thank you for sharing :)

healthpsych said...

Hi Sarebear,
I think it was the "MY child" that got to me more than anything. However, the discussion around Cruise was just really meant to illustrate the issue of control. I like the "word" technique you and your husband use. Sometimes we don't always realise when our behaviour might make someone else uncomfortable, having a sign like that to signal discomfort seems like a good way of keeping things on an even par.

Hello Dr. A.,

Controlling behaviour can sneak into any relationship. Now, I'd like you to reinsert your iPod list on to your blog... ;)

I misread your 'jumping on a sofa' for 'jumping on Oprah.' I'm sure that would have made the headlines!

Hi FJL,
I agree that Nicole Kidman has looked a lot more relaxed and happier post-breakup with Tom. I wonder how her father, quite a famous psychologist here, viewed that relationship? Although, contollers can be quite skilful at hiding their behaviour.

Hi Ladybug,
Thanks for dropping by. I guess we mostly tend to think of men taking this role but, as you suggest, women can certainly behave in this way too. Probably comes to attention less often because men probably don't want to talk about it?

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

I am so pleased to see the fallout finally touching Mr. Cruise. It restores my hope that people who spew hatred in any way will get their comeuppance.

An Ernie?
I love it.

healthpsych said...

Hi Deborah,
Thanks for dropping by. Yes, kharma. It always catches up.

NakedTomato said...

Tom Cruise...HA! He cracks me up...not because I think what he says/does is funny, but just because I can't believe that he (or any grown adult) actually believes the things he says.

I don't know how to include a link in a comment, but check out: WWW.FREEKATIE.COM - I have the pink shirt on the far right...hehe I can't believe I admitted that...

healthpsych said...

A Semi-nakedtomato in a pink FREE KATIE t-shirt! LMAO. I like the boxers! It's a whole industry - mugs, t-shirts, underpants.

Dr. A said...

Thanks for the feedback. I thought no one saw my iPod list. Maybe I'll put that back up again...

healthpsych said...

I was just being 'controlling', Dr. A. ;)

TheTundraPA said...

Excellent post! I love the Ernie Award, and Cruise is a most deserving recipient.

I was in this type of relationship for over ten years (out of it now for two) and in looking back it amazed me at how subtley it started and how severe it became before I recognized it. As a life-long feminist and Strong Woman, I didn't believe it could happen to me! I was subjected to every controlling behavior you mention here, and I kept excusing and trying to "fix" things, be "good enough" not to cause a blow-up and ranting session--often over the most trivial things. Like the time I "allowed" the cottage cheese to get stuck behind the milk in the refridgerator where it was "hard" to find.

Bottom line: you cannot "fix" controllers. You cannot be good enough or do things right enough to keep them happy; they will keep finding something to rant about in order to maintain their controlling hand. It is not a relationship of equals. The more you try to please them, the more you lose yourself. Get out. Find the way. It is your only hope.

Sarebear said...

Yeah, HP, that's why, after ragging on Tom, I tried to think of something not about him to talk about re: controlling.

The word thing was a technique I adapted and implemented with discussion and agreement with my husband, after something I had done in therapy w/my ologist, on a different matter in a relationship w/my SIL. My ologist seemed to be pleased that I saw the value of the technique and adapted it to a different, and needful, situation. 8^D

My enthusiasms tends to run people over sometimes, although I don't intend that. So it's a good thing to have.

healthpsych said...

Hi Sarebear,

We all like to rag on Tom!! Did you check out NT's t-shirt? :)

That's when I think therapy is the most beneficial - when you gain techniques that can be applied to multiiple situations.

healthpsych said...

Hi TheTundrapa,

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I have a feeling Tom won't be flying down to collect his Ernie!

Sorry you had that experience but it's so much harder to detect when it starts out so subtle. Then, before you know it....

In the more extreme cases, I think you're right, the best option is to get out.

difficultpt said...

Thanks for writing about this. Controlling behavior is just the beginning . . . it gets worse. People laugh about Tom, but it really isn't funny at all.

healthpsych said...

Hi Difficltpt,

Thanks for visiting. You're right. A lot of us giggle about Tom (although I don't think it's just about his controlling manner) but control certainly isn't a laughing matter.

Anonymous said...

Is the person jealous and possessive of you? YES

Are you being isolated from family and friends? YES

Have you had to make sacrifices for this person e.g. give up a hobby or activity? YES

Does he/she encourage you to become dependent on him/her? YES

Are you told how to act and what to wear? YES

Is he/she two-faced - critical and abusive in private but charming in public? YES

Does this person make you feel more insecure than you used to be? YES

Does the person have extreme mood swings? YES

Do you constantly try to work out how he/she is feeling and your best strategy for keeping him/her happy? YES

Do you feel you have to "fix" his/her moods? YES

Are you made to feel to blame when you argue? YES

Do you often feel you have to apologise for this person's behaviour? YES

When you challenge him/her about his/her behaviour, does he/she ridicule your challenge? YES

Does he/she make you feel intimated or afraid, without you even being able to articulate why? YES

THANK YOU for this questionare, I have been in my relationship for almost 12 months and for the majority of that time I felt so isolated I though I must've been the only guy on the planet that is experiencing all of these things. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! It is so good to have the discretion of online support.

I'm finding it hard to separate because she has uprooted my friends and way of life to the extent that I'm not sure whether I can carry on, but reading blogs like this is a definite first step.

Mark.