Emotional Dictators

Thursday, December 13th 2012

Ever found yourself wondering how someone else would behave (or make you feel) if you did X or Y. Or decided to say Z?

How often do you think about that person's reactions? How much effect does that person reactions have on you? Do they make you feel happy, sad, afraid? Are your emotions partially contingent on that person's emotional state? And if so, to moderate your own emotional state do you find yourself having to do things to moderate that person's emotional state?

If so, it's likely you're interacting with an Emotional Dictator!

Everybody behaves a bit like an Emotional Dictator at times. And everybody reacts as if other people are Emotional Dictators at times, too. But it is how large a person's emotional states looms in your mind that determines if that person is an Emotional Dictator or not.

Do you find when you're around that person you find it hard to express yourself? That you end up trying to please that person? That you end up trying to mollify that person's (usually) unpredictable moods?

If a lot of your thinking in a certain context (say, in a workplace or at home) involves contemplating the likely emotions of another you in the thrall of an Emotional Dictator. If it only occurs occasionally, or there is some give and take, then perhaps not!

Emotional Dictators - both conscious and unconsciously - use emotion to control others. So a simple way to test if a person is an Emotional Dictator is to see if that person uses emotion to:

  • impose his or her will,
  • maintain his or her view of a situation (or his or her personality) ... and censor other views,
  • get others to do things out of fear or a desire to please,
  • talk about using emotions in an instrumental fashion: "if we make him feel X then we will get N", "I'll get angry and that will ..."
  • tend to want to set the emotional tenor of situations and avoid emotions generated by others.
  • to the Emotional Dictator, emotions often feel like facts - concrete, certain, inescapable. Facts often feel like inventions - malleable, open to interpretation, a matter of interpersonal determination.
  • show paranoia about the emotional manipulativeness of others;
  • have a history of people he or she has shut out due to some emotional confrontation;
  • often have great emotional insight about others but lack personal emotional insight;

Then you may be dealing with an Emotional Dictator.

Oddly, Emotional Dictators usually try to avoid the very trauma that gives their emotions strength. So they tend to need to control situations; to avoid exposing real, repressed emotion. It is safer psychologically to channel that emotion into known patterns that are relatively contained. The need to control and create routine and pattern is a defining characteristic. How does an Emotional Dictator control a situation?

  • Power of Emotion: Of course, the Power of the Emotional Dictator is how strong the emotions that he or she can wield. To do this, the emotions need to have genuine force. So most Emotional Dictators are strongly emotional, sometimes quite charismatic people who have suffered some sort of trauma.
  • Unpredictable Emotions: By having strong, unpredictable emotional reactions, it allows the Emotional Dictator to feel in control - the emotional tenor of a situation is for him or her to determine; he or she has the initiative.
  • Delegitimise other peoples' emotions or opinions through emotional argument or displays or raw emotional power (angry, happy or others), whilst denying that their own emotions are anything but logical or at least perfectly reasonable reactions to circumstances. Keeping the facts on the Emotional Dictator's side, so to speak.

A great deal of this is unconscious, just the like the trauma that gives rise to the behaviour. The more the Emotional Dictator is aware of the process, the more he or she fakes emotion or mimicks it, the more he or she moves into the territory of the psychopath. And those in the thrall of the Emotional Dictator tend to be stuck in something akin to the psychopathic bond.

However, Emotional Dictators are not psychopaths. Indeed, they can often successful negotiate the world of psychopaths using similar tools, but they possess an empathy and emotional intelligence ebyond the ken of psychopath.

Another strange characteristic is that logn term planning and deep self understanding are beyond Emotional Dictators. They lack insight due to their attempts to repress and control. So they lack an ability to think clearly, they tend to react to emotions, to people and so on, and struggle in the abstract realm.

So they tend to fall into the sway of other Emotional Dictators: parental figures, loved ones, children, and so on - who are similarly disposed. The nature of the control process is often about context: the Emotional Dictator might be dominant at home but under the thrall of another Emotional Dictator at work, for instance. But it can also vary by topic, by domain, and so on. So, oddly, the biggest victims of Emotional Dictators are usually Emotional Dictators themselves.

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