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It seems like every person I know who was sexually assaulted—including me—struggles with control issues. Or perhaps “power issues” is the better term. We can tend to feel the need to be in charge (in control) of things or we surrender and give up any self-assertion. Some vacillate between the two extremes.
I am a controller, although many people don’t recognize it. For instance, recently I was at a dinner meeting and five of us were at one table. I started the conversation going and kept it moving. One woman was largely silent while the rest of us laughed and joked. When there was a pause, I turned to her, a woman I didn’t know well, and said, “You’ve been quiet. So tell us five things about yourself that you don’t want anyone to know.”
I was in control. She responded in a joking manner and entered the conversation. That’s what I call benevolent control. There have been other times when my assertiveness (or aggression) has been more self-centered, such as my need to protect or defend myself. In the past, if a conversation tended to go in an unwelcome or dangerous way I cracked a joke or changed the topic.
I rarely need to do that these days.
I’m learning to give up unhealthy power—the kind of control that belittles or hurts others. I respect those who still need to assert themselves—in that benevolent, not harmful way—for whatever their reason. For example, I recently spoke at a conference and the leader did a few things I didn’t personally like, but I thought about her actions and said to myself, so what? Who will remember? Who will care?
In that instance, I knowingly and consciously put myself in that middle, not needing to take the control that has been so comfortable for me in the past. And it was actually alright.
– By Cecil Murphey
Cecil Murphey is the author of When a Man You Love Was Abused. His follow-up book, Not Quite Healed will be released in February 2013. He is also the author or co-author of more than 100 books including The New York Times’ best-seller 90 Minutes in Heaven.
The mission of 1in6 is to help men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood live healthier, happier lives.
1in6′s mission also includes serving family members, friends and partners by providing information and support resources on the web and in the community.
The views expressed above are not necessarily those of the Joyful Heart Foundation or 1in6.