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Is It Normal to Want to Control Other People?

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From a young woman in Australia: I care little about people other than immediate family and my partner. I’m very possessive of people and get angry (internally) if they show interest in/preference to others. This applies most to “friends”; (they would call me a friend but I don’t consider them that), my family, my partner, my students.

I get conflicted over people copying the way I dress. It makes me feel that I have the power to control/influence them because they think I’m cool/charismatic/mysterious but at the same time, I hate people copying me because I hate being compared in any way to them. I hate when someone is wearing similar clothes or when someone says I look like/remind them of someone else.

I hate when my students have makeup lessons with another teacher and I will follow up by nit-picking everything that is wrong with what the other teacher said. I was irritated because the school I work for is too expensive and one of my students had 2 teachers and his mum chose the other one even though I’m better. I didn’t even like that student, in fact, I disliked him. When he confessed he hated the other teacher and wished he could stay with me, I stopped caring that he was leaving.

I used to mess with the internet when my partner was playing games online with people to make it drop out so he would stop. I didn’t want to do something with him, I just didn’t want him to be choosing others over me because it seemed like he was enjoying it more.

I like that my boss is intimidated by me and that people find me hard to approach. I like that some people get flustered around me.
Most my “friends” are short or about my height. I don’t like people who are a lot taller than me.

Despite all this, I generally really hate people and often have detailed, graphic fantasies about being able to kill a lot of people and bring the population number under control. I will spend days working out how I would do it and get away with it but I’m not confident I would 100% so I won’t because I care about my freedom too much to go to jail.
I sometimes think that maybe when I’m about to die of old age, I’ll be able to take a few with me.

Is It Normal to Want to Control Other People?

Answered by on -


Oh my. My first reaction after reading your letter was, “This poor, poor person. Her self-esteem is so low she has become a bully.”¬† Only people with very low self-esteem constantly measure themselves against others in a way that makes them feel superior. Only those with terrible self-esteem carry this much need to pull attention to themselves in any way, even very negative ways.

Overt bullies act up and act out. Your nit-picking or messing with your partner’s games are good examples. A covert bully is someone who does this secretly in ways that others aren’t aware of. An example of this is when you stopped caring about a student once he chose you over another teacher. Feeling small, you manipulate others and pump up your ego to feel big. As you are finding out every day, these tactics don’t really work. You still feel empty and without positive relationships.

You need far more help than I can give you in an advice column. If you really want to get better and feel better, I urge you to see a mental health counselor. Take your letter and this response with you to jump start your sessions. Really. Please give yourself the gift of some treatment to set your life on a different and much, much happier path.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie


Is It Normal to Want to Control Other People?

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Dr. Marie is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2019). Is It Normal to Want to Control Other People?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 6, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Sep 2019 (Originally: 8 Sep 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 6 Sep 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.