Sourced from The Negative Trait Thesaurus
DEFINITION: Inclined to exercise a restraining or directing influence over others
SIMILAR FLAWS: Despotic, dictatorial, domineering, tyrannical
Growing up in an environment where one had no control
Being raised by a caregiver whose expectations were unrealistic
A thirst for power or the respect of others
Deriving pleasure from the domination of others
Having an intense need to be right
A fear of failure
A need for structure and predictability
Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder
ASSOCIATED BEHAVIORS AND ATTITUDES
Perfectionism and pickiness
A drive to succeed
Difficulty delegating tasks to others
Requiring others to follow one’s rules
Hypercriticism; a tendency to micromanage
Involving oneself in every possible decision
Keeping strict control of one’s finances
Overriding the suggestions or opinions of others in favor of one’s own agenda
Avoiding activities where one must be subservient to another
Intimidation and manipulation
Territoriality and defensiveness
Feeling anger, frustration, and jealousy when others succeed
Possessiveness (in personal relationships)
Becoming aggressive when one’s dominance is questioned
Giving backhanded compliments: Good game, son. But it would’ve been better if…
Being impatient with others
Rewarding loyalty with favoritism
Surprise visits and “check-ins” to make sure rules are being obeyed
Withholding resources, information, or affection until one’s demands are met
Needing to know where one’s child or spouse is at all times
Making others feel badly for not measuring up (making comments that demean or hurt)
Noticing flaws rather than assets
Helping someone, then reminding them that they are now in one’s debt
Pushing one’s interests and hobbies onto others
Making suggestions that are really demands
Separating people from their support systems in order to better control them
Employing double standards (being tardy, yet expressing impatience at being kept waiting)
Requiring things to be in a specific order and place
Rewarding subservience and compliance
Punishing rule infractions or free thinking (withholding affection or help, etc.)
This is too important for someone else to handle.
She’s inept. How many times do I have to tell her how to do this?
This is my responsibility. How dare he try and tell me how to do it?
ASSOCIATED EMOTIONS: Annoyance, confidence, determination, disappointment, frustration, impatience, smugness
POSITIVE ASPECTS: Controlling characters are relentless in their pursuit of perfection. Via this trait, they can push others to be their best. Their fear of failure spurs them on to frequent success, and their competence makes them fruitful project managers in the workplace.
NEGATIVE ASPECTS: Because of their need for perfection, controlling characters can be overly critical of others, undermining their confidence and making them feel unappreciated. This type of character has a hard time delegating work, believing that no one can do it as well as they can. Their constant supervision creates resentment, damaging morale. When their dominance is threatened, controlling characters may employ any method necessary to regain the upper hand, including threats, manipulation, verbal abuse, or physical violence.
EXAMPLE FROM FILM: Among other frightening traits, Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs) definitely has the need to control, as is evidenced through his interactions with Clarice. He keeps her off-balance by demanding personal information in exchange for his help with her case, yet is personally offended when others treat her disrespectfully. When Miggs, another prisoner, is rude to Clarice, Lecter admonishes him so severely that he commits suicide. It’s no surprise that Lecter chose a career in psychology, where he could have immense influence and control over his patients.
Other Examples from Film and Literature: Don Vito Corleone (The Godfather), Martin Burney (Sleeping with the Enemy), General Woundwort (Watership Down)
OVERCOMING THIS TRAIT AS A MAJOR FLAW: Understanding the reasoning behind one’s need to control and implementing necessary changes to alter the behavior are both important steps to letting go. It can also be helpful to throw the character into a situation where he has no control; in the result of a positive outcome, the character may see that everything can and will work out without his constant micro-managing. Controlling characters can benefit greatly from getting to know the people around them—their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes—and giving them the chance to achieve their own personal best.
TRAITS IN SUPPORTING CHARACTERS THAT MAY CAUSE CONFLICT: Compulsive, disorganized, independent, lazy, mischievous, rebellious, uncooperative